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Online Degrees: Are They Worth It?

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Essay title: Online Degrees: Are They Worth It?


Online courses have become extremely popular in recent years. Many colleges and universities now offer distance learning, online courses, and even external degree programs in which the student never steps foot in a classroom. But, is it worth it? Are these degrees valued as much as a traditional degree from an on-ground university? I say, “Yes.” And, the purpose of this paper is to show that an online degree is as valuable as a traditional degree.

Many believe that an online education lacks the same quality or effectiveness as that of a traditional education. However, accredited colleges and universities have the same curriculum, requirements, classes and teachers as traditional programs. The approach and method are a bit different in that the lectures are not in person, the assignments are mailed (usually electronically), and one goes to class when it fits his or her schedule. “Other sources, such as Thomas L. Russell of North Carolina State University, did studies that revealed that there is little if any difference in the quality of education received through online distance learning versus traditional classrooms. John Losak at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale found similar results in his own study. He analyzed graduation rates, time to graduation, and knowledge, as well as other elements. He found the students performed as well or better in online courses. (Obringer, 2006, para. 7)”

Because online courses can be completed any time anywhere, business travelers, military men and women, and the like can take advantage of these programs and obtain their degrees when they otherwise would not be able to. “Here’s a time-management problem that would challenge any business student: You’re a contract security manager at a leading international security and consulting company with 30 plus accounts and 200 employees. You’re also a single mother of a very active high school freshman and you devote evenings and weekends to church and assisting with coaching the softball team. You’d like to get a bachelor’s degree in business management, but you don’t have time to attend regular classes, which are an hour’s drive away. What do you do (Lankford & McGrath, 2001, p. 84)?”

Working students like Debra often have no other choice than to read their lectures and complete their assignments after the work day is done and the kids are in bed. So, “if you are Debra Coffel, you enroll in the online Business Management program at the University of Phoenix (Lankford & McGrath, 2001, p. 84).”

Employers, too, are learning the value of an online education. Many are very supportive and even provide tuition reimbursement. According to an article by Anne Fisher in “Fortune” magazine, companies realize that “technology-based learning” and “computerized training” are a most effective means of training employees without ever having to leave the office (Fisher, 2000, p. 504).”

Employers also realize that working students who seek out and obtain an online education have characteristics that are highly sought after. In every article I researched for this paper, I found common characteristics of online students which include being a self-starter, tech-savvy, advanced communication skills, eager, motivated, disciplined, experienced, ambitious, innovative, and driven. This was even emphasized by Brian Meuller, CEO of University of Phoenix Online, during an interview with Susan Aaron of when he stated, “…an online student needs to be more disciplined, more structured, maybe more self-motivated to be effective in an online environment… Phoenix is very structured (Aaron, n.d., para. 15).”

Going to school online requires multi-tasking, self-motivation and discipline. There are no classes to go to at a certain time or place. Assignments are simply due by a particular date, so the student must balance work, family and school in order to have things done on time. Thinking and planning ahead, time management, and prioritizing are crucial. Online students generally become well organized, flexible, analytical, efficient, productive, and adaptive. They work well on their own or in a group. These are the qualities employers look for.

Because students are required to participate in online discussion groups and projects, in order to complete these assignments, students must communicate effectively requiring the use of technology. Students engage in “discussions that spark ideas and build team-leadership and negotiating skills (Fisher, 2000, p. 504)”. All of this must be done through much coordination, usually taking into consideration different time zones. Many are discovering the internet, email, and other technologies for the first time. For these reasons, students acquire and develop

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