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Frequently-Asked Questions about Earning a Degree Online

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Are you thinking about pursuing an online education, but have some questions before you log on and sign up for a degree program? Below, find a list of frequently asked questions about online learning programs. This FAQ gets down to the nitty-gritty about the skills you will likely need and the opportunities you can create by choosing to hit your computer's "on" button in order to hit the books.

Q. Who can get the most out of an online degree?

A. While just about anyone can benefit from pursuing an online education, this type of degree is an especially great choice for people who need a flexible class schedule. Online degree programs recreate a classroom setting, offering the best of both real and virtual worlds as you interact with your professor and classmates, but in a way that's tailored to your own schedule and your own pace.

Q. What are the advantages to completing an online degree?

A. If you're employed full-time, are a working parent, or are just one of those people who always has a million things going on, you might appreciate the "do-it-yourself" aspect of pursuing an online degree. Online degrees from accredited universities can help you gain further expertise in your existing career field, or to transition into a different field altogether. By using your computer as a window to the academic world, a rainbow variety of classes, concentrations, and majors are literally at your fingertips. With thousands of degree programs to choose from, you're bound to find one that's a great fit for your interests and learning style.

Q. Do I need any special skills or equipment to be successful in an online degree program?

A. Many schools have specific computer-related requirements that you may need in order to access coursework, virtual classrooms, and discussions. These can range from basic things like access to email, an Internet browser, and a printer to more specific software and hardware needs. These requirements can vary from school to school, and you should make sure to check out the must-haves before enrolling in an online degree program.

Many online degree programs are very "user friendly", offering tutorials and 24-hour technical support to help you navigate the online classroom with ease. Basic typing and Internet skills can make your online degree experience a little easier.

Q. What technology do I need to complete a degree online?

A. It depends. At the very least, you'll need a computer, of course, and access to email and an Internet browser, such as Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox. You may even need to use a specific browser; your school will let you know. Some schools require particular hardware, such as web cams, speakers, and microphones, so that you may participate in video discussions with your professor and classmates. You may need to use specific software, such as Microsoft Office (including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) or Adobe Reader. Most schools list their technology requirements on their websites, and many offer 24-hour technical support that can help you figure out what you need, how to get it, and how to use it.

Q. How does an online course work?

A. Typically, an online class is made up of a combination of teacher lectures, group projects, class discussions, exams, and individual homework. You might download a teacher lecture, log on to a discussion board to participate in debates and discussions with your classmates, complete and upload papers and assignments, and download exams that need to be completed within a certain time period. Most schools expect their online students to be actively involved in online discussions and will often weigh your participation when calculating your final grade.

Q. Will I able to interact with my professors and classmates?

A. Absolutely! Not only are you able to ask questions and initiate discussions, you are encouraged, even expected to. Online discussion boards will give you 24/7 access to lively conversations with your classmates - just post a comment on an existing conversation thread or start your own topic, and watch as passionate opinions emerge from all corners of the virtual classroom. If you have a question about an assignment or topic, you can email faculty or peers, engage them in an online chat or video chat, or even talk over the phone.

Q. Will my degree be recognized if I want to further my education later on?

A. Although individual schools have the right to accept applicants based on their own criteria, for the most part, online degrees are recognized as having equal value to an on-campus degree. The key here is making sure that the school you choose is accredited. It is crucial that, if you want your online degree to count toward future education or even future employment, you choose an accredited school. The U.S. Department of Education has a database that allows you to search for accredited schools by name.

Sara Faith Alterman

Sara Faith Alterman is a journalist, essayist, and author of two novels. She has nearly 10 years of experience writing for print, online, and broadcast mediums, writing for publications including The Boston Globe, The Bold Italic, and The Boston Phoenix. She worked for the Olympic News Service during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Sara earned her MA in Print and Multimedia Journalism from Emerson College, and her BA in Film/Media Studies from the University of Rochester.


The U.S. Department of Education: Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs • http://ope.ed.gov • http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/

The University of Phoenix: Computer Requirements • http://www.phoenix.edu • http://www.phoenix.edu/students/how-it-works/innovative_education_technology/computer_requirements.html

Get That Degree Online • Sep 24, 2007 • http://www.careerbuilder.com/ • http://www.careerbuilder.com/Article/CB-615-Salaries-Promotions-Get-That-Degree-Online/

The National Center for Education Statistics • http://nces.ed.gov ? http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=80

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