Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Online Degrees Deserve More Respect
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The internet has helped to boost distance learning in many ways, and the number of degrees offered online is always increasing. To some people, the many advantages of doing an online degree are offset by the fact that some employers don't take these degrees seriously. One hears numerous stories of employers who will automatically not consider an application if the resume contains a school like the University of Phoenix or DeVry. Online degrees are sometimes looked down upon by the students of brick-and-mortar schools, especially if they come from a for-profit university.
However, this disrespect towards online degrees hasn't been earned. It's true that in the case of for-profit schools, the student often took courses which could have been done for much cheaper at the state university. At the same time, the students at the state university paid a lot of money to take courses which could have been done a lot cheaper through independent study and the CLEPs. This doesn't make the coursework at the state university look any less legitimate.
Another argument against online degrees is that for-profit schools allegedly have lenient grading systems. As their existence is dependent on customer satisfaction, they can't make it too difficult to pass the courses. Otherwise, their students won't come back next year. Although it's a disturbing thought that a student might have a qualification without having the knowledge that's supposed to go with it, this can happen at any type of school. The most popular professors at state schools are often the ones who require the least from students in order to pass the course. This is especially the case with the professors of the required courses which have large numbers of students who aren't really interested in the course content. There are many news reports of public universities dumbing down the curriculum to please their "paying customers," or disinterested students. Even with the lower standards, half of all college freshmen never graduate. The problems with dumbed down courses and/or students who don't study exist at most colleges and universities.
It's also worth considering that a graduate from a brick-and-mortar school is likely to have done at least some online courses. Most public colleges these days offer at least some online courses, and more and more are offering online degrees. If taking one or two online courses during college doesn't reduce the value of the of the qualification, why should it matter if the whole degree was done this way? Some of the best universities are offering some of their degrees online. Harvard offers a number of master's degrees that are mostly online, as does Columbia University. Online education is an extension of correspondence courses which have been around for many years. The University of London has been offering distance degrees since the 1800s.
There's no reason to believe that an online degree is any less legitimate than a degree gotten the old-fashioned way. In fact, online students often need more self-discipline as they have to organize their study schedule during their free time rather than just having to turn up in a classroom at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. A graduate with an online degree is also very likely to have met the challenge of getting the degree while juggling a lot of other things in life. Offering college courses over the internet brings knowledge to anybody who's interested regardless of where they're located or when they have time available. As we have the technology, it would be best to get the most benefit from it.