- Step 1: Find a legitimate program Make sure the institution is legitimate by verifying that it's both accredited and recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Many online schools claim they're accredited, but the only agency accrediting them is the one they've invented! Find a list of accredited online universities at "chea.org":http://chea.org.
- Step 2: Consider a hybrid Consider a program that mixes online courses and classroom instruction, known as a "blended" or "hybrid program." "Low residency" is another option: You mainly complete coursework at home with a few visits to campus.
- TIP: Know the warning signs of a diploma mill: A post office box or suite for an address; tuition based on the degree, not the courses; and school names that are similar to well-known universities.
- Step 3: Start slowly If you're not sure you want to pursue a degree, consider starting slowly with an online course or two.
- TIP: Research suggests that employers more highly regard degrees from traditional schools that offer online programs than those earned from online-only institutions.
- Step 4: Know what's involved Know what's involved. You will have to commit between 10 and 20 hours a week – watching lectures, reading course material, writing papers, and taking part in online discussion groups. Some classes require that you work on projects with your online schoolmates.
- Step 5: Beware diploma mills Beware of schools with too-good-to-be-true tuition; that's the red flag of a "diploma mill." You'll get your degree, but it won't be worth anything coming from an institution that is not properly accredited. Tuition for reputable online programs is comparable to what you'd pay to attend school in person.
- FACT: Instructors who taught the same course three different ways – in the classroom, online only, and using a blend of both – found that the online-only students received the best grades, according to one study.
You Will Need
- A computer with an internet connection
- Due diligence