Online degrees are growing in popularity, particularly in America.
The idea is not new, in the UK the Open University has been engaged in distance learning for many years.
The question is, what these degrees worth are.
There is constant discussion as to whether degrees taken at the ‘new’ Universities are as valuable as those taken at ‘ancient’ Universities, but there is little discussion regarding the online options available to Students.
The kind of people that online degrees appeal to are those with parental or work commitments that prohibit them from attending University full time (the same people have used the Open University for decades).
Many Universities now offer part time courses, which would be my preferred option, allowing flexibility regarding attendance times whilst still encompassing an element of face to face contact and assessment. In the US where online degrees are more popular
Universities offering part time courses seem to distance themselves from ‘distance learning’ due to concerns regarding assessment. It is not clear to me whether this is because there are genuine issues around assessment of distance learning courses, or whether these Universities are playing on their advantage over 100% distance / online providers (that being facilities and infrastructure).
Certainly it is not in the interests of existing Universities to compete with providers of distance learning.
So where does this leave prospective part time students? Unfortunately most information is specific to the US, but here are some snippets I have found referring to the value of online degrees
Is a clicks-and-mortar degree the same as a degree from a bricks-and-mortar school? It depends on whom you ask. The American Federation of Teachers said “no” at its July 2000 convention, passing a resolution that, while acknowledging distance learning’s “great potential,” called for all undergraduate-degree programs to have some face-to-face coursework. Meanwhile, the six regional U.S. organizations that accredit American colleges and universities are developing guidelines for evaluating distance-education schools and programs that differ from traditional higher-education accrediting standards.
Another comment read:
Potential employers wanted to know I had been able to hold a full-time job in one state while going to school in another. When I explained that the courses were online, I was met with befuddlement. “I got the feeling that they did not understand the concept,”
This is not encouraging!
I think that in the UK, for the moment the only organization worthy of consideration is the Open University, though I think their courses are overpriced, at least they are a widely recognized / known organization.
The Open University they claim:
The OU is very popular with employers. They know that OU students:
- Get the most up-to-date knowledge
- Continue working while they study, and apply what they learn immediately
- Prove they have the skills and determination to succeed
Whilst I would not expect them to say anything else, I do think they are telling the truth.
I know that the Open University are working on new I.T. solutions that will allow them to put more resources online for students, so in the UK at least it is possible to take a worthwhile degree online.
Students in other countries will have to be far more careful when selecting an online degree.