The Truth About Online Degree Programs: Common Myths Busted
2020's college admissions scandal showed how important we all think a good degree is, and how desperate some people are to get it.
At the same time, student debt is reaching unsustainable levels. The requirements for jobs are growing higher and higher. The traditional university structure is starting to show its cracks. Even if you have a degree from any university, that might not be enough to land the career you wanted.
What if there was an alternative? One with more flexibility, affordability, and the same quality of education? Online degree programs offer these benefits and more.
But is it worth it? Online universities often get lumped in with community colleges as “second-tier" options. That's simply no longer the case.
Online courses now offer students the chance to earn bachelor's, master's, and even online doctorate degrees. And you can earn those degrees from wherever you call home.
Accredited degrees from convenient locations for lower costs than "traditional" universities? No wonder brick-and-mortar schools are worried.
There's a lot of misconceptions and misinformation out there about online courses. Here are a few common ones debunked.
Myth 1: You Can't Network Remotely
Clubs, fraternities, study groups, and job fairs are essential for career-building. Many people say studying online makes it harder for a student to build connections. They say this makes it harder for students to get good jobs and connect with people in other industries.
Networking during online courses is completely doable. Schools still have job resources. Professors are still available to meet with. Study groups, even if they're over Zoom, are still valuable ways to network with fellow students.
You can still connect with groups and organizations related to your field of study. Just because you're studying online doesn't mean your school's departments have lost their connections in the business world.
In the age of webinars and LinkedIn, it's possible and effective to connect with online groups. You can boost your network and your career options, and boost your online image at the same time.
LinkedIn networking is a big deal right now and is probably here to stay. Universities, teachers, and businesses know this, and most are happy to share resources with their students.
It might take more effort to make connections when studying online, but don't let anyone tell you that opportunities are gone.
Myth 2: Online Degrees Don't Help You
Not every online degree and program is worth it, that's the same online as it is offline. Accredited universities and certifications have always been present online. "Taking online courses" and "earning your online master's degree" are very different, and the latter is very possible.
Just like when you're reading the news, you can't blindly accept something because it's on the Internet. Know your school, know your career goals, and make sure you're in the right program.
Online schools like California Coast University (CCU) offer accredited programs in business, law, marketing, healthcare, and more. These degree programs range from associate degrees in healthcare to online doctorates in education.
Take the students' word for it. CCU surveys showed 98 percent of students achieved their goals with their courses. Another 97 percent would recommend the studies to their friends. According to Grad Reports, 93 percent said their degree improved the career prospects.
As an added benefit, remote teaching offers subject experts the chance to teach. They can share their knowledge without being tied to a university building or city.
Flexibility works both ways, to benefit teachers and students.
Myth 3: Online Universities Don't Support Students
It can be harder to have office hours, study groups, libraries, and help centers when you're studying online. Remote universities, at least the good ones, offer these services online.
CCU offers many resources for its online students. This includes the writing lab, tech resources, tips on time management, and department-specific help.
To be fair, most brick-and-mortar colleges also have online resources. The difference is CCU is 100 percent remote. Its resources are designed specifically for online students.
It's also true that when teachers don't have in-person office hours, it can be harder for students to meet with them. Online Education reminds us that teachers have had to adapt to new technology too. They've been catching up during the industry-wide shift online, just like students. The learning curve applies to everyone.
Teachers who already teach online degrees are a step ahead. They know how best to support their students, and they know the technology that lets them do it.
Online teachers can still be accessible for students in online courses. The ability to schedule one-on-ones over video allows for face-to-face meetings. The added flexibility of online scheduling means some teachers might be even more available than in person.
This is especially helpful for students with jobs or families. Scheduling a meeting in advance allows both parties to plan around jobs and families.
Myth 4: Online Courses are Solitary (Part 1)
Sitting in a library room studying for an exam or meeting up to work on a group project are staples of college. It can be hard to find groups to work with if your fellow students are spread all over the country or the world. But it's by no means impossible.
Online degree programs still have group projects and discussions. Students work together over video conferences and communication via services like Slack. And those are skills that workplaces want their employees to have.
The group eLearning Industry mentions these skills in five of its top seven reasons why online courses are good. These skills prepare students for the workforce they'll be entering.
As remote work grows in popularity, it's increasingly necessary to collaborate over distance. It's especially necessary for programs that lead to human-centric jobs, like online criminal justice degrees or a bachelor of science psychology online.
Many job fields are shifting online, even ones with lots of interpersonal interaction. Online studying is a chance for students to learn with the technology and tactics of remote work.
In addition, working with geographically diverse groups offers more chances for networking. Students can broaden their networks faster, and connect with people in different areas and industries.
The flipside of online courses' remote nature is that students can work from anywhere. If you already have a job, a home, family, and friends in one area, you can stay right where you are.
Online degrees let people keep their communities rather than packing up and moving to a new city. This is especially convenient for people who want to continue their education through certifications or online master's programs.
Myth 5: Online Courses are Solitary (Part 2)
One criticism of online universities, from the education group Peterson's, is that studying online requires a lot of initiative and self-direction.
It's true that online degrees require students to do more research. Students need to set career and degree paths, manage their time well, and be more proactive in seeking help. Those are all crucial real-world skills, and they're even more critical in the age of remote work.
Today, nearly every job posting wants people who are "ambitious," "self-starters," or "full of initiative." Online courses teach these soft skills along with the hard skills in your degree.
Self-discipline and self-management are difficult and require a lot of time and effort to learn. They are also essential, rewarding skills that will serve anybody well in the workplace and in life.
Online universities know how important self-discipline is. Many offer help to point students in the right direction. CCU's Student Resources include instruction and advice on time management and productivity.
Do online courses need more initiative and self-direction? Yes. Is it a valuable opportunity for learning and growth? Absolutely.
The Verdict: It's Worth It
The future is online. Remote workforces, high-tech skills, and distant teams are all becoming the new norm. Online degree programs are uniquely able to prepare students for this.
Online degrees offer flexibility without disrupting students' lives. Schools like CCU have accessible, accredited options, whether you want an associate degree or an online doctorate.
In the last year, colleges have rushed to adapt to new requirements and new technologies. The online shift has been a hot-button issue, and some traditional schools are struggling to catch up.
California Coast University has been 100 percent online for years, so there's no "shift" to catch up to. They're already online school experts and have everything set to help students succeed.
Check out CCU today to learn more about their programs, read student testimonies, and see why their online degrees may be right for you.