By Natalie McGill - 08/02/06 12:00 AM EDT
Earning a master’s degree or the almighty doctorate may seem elusive when you have a full-time job and maybe even a family to tend to. But with the Internet making things simpler, from paying bills to finding your soul mate, earning a post-graduate degree online is becoming not only simpler but rather routine.
Online colleges and universities are sprouting up at faster rates than ever before. National Center for Education statistics say growth in online education is 10 times that of traditional class populations at brick-and-mortar institutions.
More established online institutions such as the University of Phoenix, Strayer University and Walden University continue to distance themselves from “degree for cash” scams and diploma mills, which promise MBAs and doctorates in exchange for a hefty bit of change.
Convenience is the major plus factor for online degree-seekers. Taking courses online means you finish your degree at home, at your own pace, while keeping other commitments in check.
The University of Phoenix, for example, is one of the largest and by far more established online universities.
Schools like Phoenix let students choose the class days and times they want but generally require students to sign in three to four times a week for postings.
Many online colleges boast experienced professors with master degrees or higher, which should soothe a skeptic’s fears that some random person sitting at a PC is giving lectures on public policy. Phoenix in particular claims to have more than 8,000 professors holding master’s degrees or doctorates and offers master’s degree and doctorate degree programs in business administration, health administration and management in organizational leadership.
It is no secret that classroom interaction, student participation and other social perks you normally get through attending classes are compromised in an online-education setting. However, most online college and university professors make up the difference with increased e-mail communication with students struggling with material.
Because students and professors generally do not meet, online instructors must be diligent in answering student concerns. Additionally, students must exhibit the self-determined drive to excel if they want to earn the degree.
In addition to increased access to teachers, online student have access to online libraries, technology support, academic advising, tutoring and more.
Strayer University offers both in-person and online degree programs. Students can take classes at its satellite locations and online classes simultaneously.
Strayer’s online students get as close to a real classroom setting as possible with its “synchronous” classes, where students interact during on-line chats, regulated by an instructor.
Some online colleges require doctoral students to complete a specific number of residency hours. The University of Phoenix asks its doctoral students to travel to Phoenix for 19 days of residency within a three-year period. Walden University’s website says doctoral students need 32 units of residency.
All indications are that online degree programs will only increase in popularity and recognition. Many online law schools, such as Concord University School of Law, are lobbying the American Bar Association (ABA) for some type of formal recognition.
The ABA does not recognize any online law schools, as they are in the class of unrecognized correspondent law schools, although a number of bar associations, including California, do allow graduates of non-ABA-accredited law schools to sit for their bar exams.
For more information: University of Phoenix, www.universityofphoenix.com; Walden University, www.waldendegrees.com; Strayer University, online.strayer.edu; Concord University School of Law, www.concord.kaplan.edu.