I was really glad to get this reader question. It addresses what I think is a topic of frequent conversation. Here goes:
I have a close friend considering a bachelor degree from an online university and I wanted to know from a hiring point of view, is there a stigma associated with that type of degree? I would hate for her to waste her time and money only to find that employers discredit this type of degree. She is middle aged and has a great job despite the lack of degree and is concerned that if she had to find a new job that it might be difficult because she never completed school. I appreciate any insight and advice.
At one time, I believe there might have been a stigma associated with online curriculum. Today, online educational courses are much more prevalent. In fact, I just read an article in USA Today about universities developing iPhone apps to help students with their educational goals, no matter where they may be located. The world is definitely changing.
But I think there’s more to this question. So, I reached out to Deirdre Honner, associate director of human resources at Calvin College to find out what colleges and universities are doing in the area of online studies and how someone could evaluate curriculum to determine the best fit.
Deirdre, I know many people who are weighing their options when it comes to online versus classroom degrees. As someone who works in higher education, is this something that colleges and universities are struggling with as well?
Most colleges and universities offer online classes. There are a number of colleges who have been doing this for years and do it really well, and there are others who are starting to jump in the pool. I encourage the reader (and anyone considering online classes) to first consider – how do you learn best? Many of the online classes are designed with a combination of individual work and group projects which, when done virtually, can be a challenge. There are some great advantages – you can do your homework in your jammies, you aren’t tied to a date, time, location for a class and you don’t spend money on gas.
You’ve taken both classroom and online classes. What did you find as the major differences between the two? Were there any similarities?
My best personal experience with online education was a hybrid class. We met a couple times in-person, had individual and group projects and had some ‘chat’ assignments as well. I like in-person classes but I truly enjoy the freedom and flexibility that online classes offer.
Does a person have to choose one or the other? Are there degree programs that offer both classroom and online?
There sure are – and some pretty prestigious ones at that.
If a person is leaning toward a total online degree, are there some additional factors they should consider when conducting their research?
In evaluating programs, I would always look to make sure the college or university is accredited, that it has a good reputation, has career resources with documented success and has good support in the admissions and financial aid process.
Are there any case studies or resources available for people who are trying to make this decision?
The information and research done for distance education is overwhelming. Without knowing the type of school and area of study, my best advice is to talk with the admissions staff, check out accreditation, placement statistics, alumni resources and if possible, talk to alum and faculty.
Deidre also shared with me an important point the reader didn’t ask. “I don’t think it’s a bad idea to ever stop learning. One of the best reasons to take classes is to not only continue learning but to expand your network. Most colleges and universities have career development resources that will help with alumni connections, internships and job assistance. And, if the reader is concerned about job security, networking never hurts.”
Many thanks to Deidre to sharing her experience and expertise. If you’d like to read more of her thoughts, be sure to check out her blog The HR Maven and follow her on Twitter. And if you have a question that you’d like to see answered here, feel free to complete the contact form here on the site or drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.