Guest Author - Elizabeth Stuttard
Graduate schools can be very important to your career and they are also quite expensive. Therefore you do not want to waste your time or your money by choosing a distance learning school that does not provide an excellent education in your chosen career field. Here are some factors to consider in your choice of an online graduate degree program.
1. The school
Is the school accredited? If it is not, do not even consider it any further. Is the school well established? You do not want to be one of the test cases for a new online school. Is the school reputable? Check with employers in your career field to find out which schools they recommend for people who want to work in the field.
2. Technology used
What technology is being used by the school to deliver the online courses? Do you have the technological requirements on your computer to access all the different aspects of the courses? If not, what will you have to do to be able to participate fully in the course? Also, does the school offer technical support 7 days per week and 24 hours per day? You wonít learn anything from an online chat or videoconference if there is a technical problem and no one can fix it.
3. Class size
How many students are in the class? The fewer students there are, the more the instructor will be available to each individual student.
Have they had training in producing and facilitating online courses? What are their credentials for teaching? How many years of experience do they have? Have they published any work? Are you interested in the work that they do?
What is the time frame for completing individual courses and for completing the overall program? Is it a flexible schedule? Will it fit with your schedule? Is there any on site requirement or is the whole program completed online? Is there a comprehensive exam, a thesis, or a dissertation required?
6. Program delivery
How is the program delivered? Is it all readings and e-mails? Are there discussion forums and/or web conferencing? Are there group and individual projects to do? Are the instructors involved in facilitating the online discussions so that the students are engaged in those discussions? Is there good interaction between the students and between the students and the instructor?
7. Program content
What is the programís area of focus? Is it relevant to your career? For example in an MBA program there can be a focus on finance, human resources, leadership, etc. What electives are available in the program and are you interested in any of them? Will you get any experience in your field while taking the program? What do former students of the program think?
8. Customer service
How are you treated when you are checking out a school? If you are not happy with the help you are getting now, then it likely wonít be any better if you enrol in the school. In fact it may even be worse since they would already have your money.
Make sure you know what your educational goals are. Do you have the skills needed to study online or are you willing to learn them? Do you have the time available to study, and do you know what schedule will work for you? With the answers to these questions and your attention to the above factors, you should be able to choose an online graduate degree program that will be a rewarding experience for you.