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Walden News // Mar 20, 2010

10 Steps for Choosing an Online University That’s Right for You

Pursuing an online degree requires dedication, self-discipline and commitment. It’s an important life decision that will affect family, career and the ability to make significant contributions to one’s field and community. Online universities empower adult learners by delivering insights and teaching real-world skills that are applicable to daily responsibilities and critical to career advancement.

Walden University, one of the leading providers of online education , has developed the following steps for choosing an online university:

  1. Verify regional accreditation. Regional accreditation communicates that the online university has met accepted standards and assures prospective students that courses and programs offered at the institution are of high quality and value. Employers may also check if a degree came from an accredited online university.
  2. Investigate the program’s quality and relevance. Review the curriculum and course descriptions on university Web sites and in course catalogs. Strong indicators of the relevance of the program include a student’s application in a field of expertise and within communities. Find out which employers, organizations and professional associations partner with or support the university.
  3. Consider the costs. Find out whether students can transfer credits and if financial aid is available. And remember, although tuition and fees at online universities can be more expensive than campus-based counterparts, online universities offer personalized support and a convenient and flexible format geared toward the adult learner.
  4. Determine the quality of the student experience. Get a feel for the level of interaction among students and faculty. In a quality online learning environment, students benefit from others who share a dedication to lifelong learning and professional achievement. Make sure the university has student resources available, including writing centers, research centers and online libraries.
  5. Chat with current students and alumni. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn provide great opportunities to reach out to students. Determine whether the university’s alumni contribute to personal and professional communities. Make sure the university knows how to deliver and support online courses. Online education offers distinct advantages in creating collaborative learning environments and engaging classroom experiences, especially for adult learners with years of field experience.
  6. Research the faculty. Ask about the faculty’s industry experience and the focus of their scholarly work. Online universities employ a mix of faculty members; many are professors at other universities or are practitioners within their fields. It’s important to know the academic and professional backgrounds as well as faculty research interests.
  7. Check the technology requirements. A flexible learning experience can help balance the demands of work, family and school. Determine if technical support is reliable and available. Online universities should have expert technical support representatives who respond quickly and knowledgeably 24/7.
  8. Ask about admission requirements. Most Web sites of accredited online universities post admission standards that are indicative of the quality of students you will be collaborating with in the online learning environment. Make sure to find out if students have to take a test or meet a minimum grade point average to enroll.
  9. Get real. In a quality program, students will spend a significant amount of time reading, working on assignments, taking part in discussions and conducting research projects. Without a serious time investment, students won’t be successful.
  10. Choose the online university that’s right for you. Talk to university representatives of each to ensure the program offers academic rigor, comprehensive student services and specializations that will help you make an impact in your community.
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