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Six Steps To Success: How To Choose The Best Online University

Want to improve your career? Finally get-or finish-that degree you've always wanted! With online learning, it can be easier than ever. Just consider these six factors.

Will the online program fit your life and learning style?

Chances are, with your busy schedule, you want convenience and flexibility while earning your degree. That's why you're looking into online universities. But there are differences-some schools are more structured than others. You may be the type of person who works well independently-in which case, great! But it's important to remember that success in online learning requires motivation and self-discipline, so be sure to select a program that takes your own personal learning style into account.

How much does the online program really cost?

When comparing different online degree programs, try to find the best value for your money. Sometimes campus programs may appear less expensive, yet remember, when you study online, you can continue to work-plus it eliminates the need for additional transportation or childcare. Also, when you calculate your costs, be sure to note if the school bills by cost per credit or by course, the number of credits required, and any additional fees for software, books, and anything else. Definitely check to see if you qualify for any grants or scholarships.

Does the school have strong outcomes and high student satisfaction?

Look at how many students graduate and how many go on to get good jobs. Graduation data may be unavailable, but it's worth doing your research. Student satisfaction surveys and other feedback may reveal important information about a school or program. Search the school's site and the Web for data and actual student testimonials.

Does the school transfer credits from other schools?

One big advantage to online learning is that some colleges and universities offer accelerated programs that let you to earn your degree faster than you might with on-campus programs. However, you want to be sure you understand how the program is accelerated before you enroll. You may have to take multiple courses at once. Others allow you to take one course at a time, but shorten the length of the session, making for more intensive coursework.

Consider each school's approach as well as its curriculum.

All online degree programs are not created equal. In some programs, coursework is primarily text-based and students are expected to do most of their reading, projects and homework on their own. Other programs incorporate multimedia course materials, call for group and individual projects, and provide multiple opportunities for interaction among student and with faculty members. Think about the kinds of learning experiences you might enjoy and what is most relevant to your career goals.

Evaluate the experience and credentials of each school's online faculty and accreditation.

As always, the quality of a school's teaching faculty is crucial. Some schools focus on faculty members' academic credentials; others stress relevant professional experience. Do some research regarding the external quality review of the institution. Is it accredited? What are the standards of quality?