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Basic Guidelines to Choosing an Online School

With the gaining popularity of the Internet over the past 25 years, thousands of online schools have cropped up across the US and Canada - some good and some not so much. And, while there are a lot of excellent online colleges and universities that are fully accredited and qualified to provide quality undergraduate and degree programs, there are also quite a few diploma mills that may issue unimpressive credentials not worth a second glance. The choices can be overwhelming, so let's start with some basic guidelines to choosing the online school.

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First and foremost, whether you are researching online colleges and universities, or traditional, campus-based colleges, you should be sure to verify that your school is accredited by an agency recognized by either the United States Department of Education (USDE) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or both. Schools that are accredited by these agencies must pass the same rigorous criteria as campus-based schools, and their educational worth is assured if they carry these credentials.

There are also regional accrediting agencies that may add value to your diploma or degree from an online school. Even though online studies may theoretically be accessed from any state, the school you choose will necessarily have a physical base that is housed in a particular state, and there are several agencies that are authorized to accredit online colleges and universities by region. These regional accrediting agencies might include the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Northwestern Association of Schools and Colleges, Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges, New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement.

Next, take a long and careful look at the specific online degree programs that are being offered. As an example, you may qualify to enroll in an online master degree program only if you have completed your undergraduate degrees (Associate degrees and Bachelor degrees). Inquire as to the number of credit hours you may be required to commit in order to complete your chosen level of degree.

Then, find out how and when your online classes will be accessible. For instance, if the class if taught through teleclasses, you will most likely be required to be at your computer at a certain hour several times a week to participate in a real-time, live class. Or, will you be able to access class assignments anytime, 24 hours a day at your convenience? Are there strict time restrictions on completing assignments; or does the online course provide for a flexible learning path? These are all important considerations when selecting the right online school.

Lastly, be sure to find out if there will be any on-site visit requirements anytime during the term of your online education, and where and when these visits are expected to take place. While most online courses can be completed without ever leaving the comfort of your own home, there are some that require the students' physical attendance for exams or practical demonstrations where you must be present to prove acquired skills (such as some of the online medical courses). Those who are unable to travel or conform to a rigid timetable will be wise to take note of these types of requirements when choosing an online course of study.

With these guidelines in mind, you might have no trouble locating excellent online schools that may completely meet or exceed your educational goals. Remember, the admissions departments of any reputable school will be happy to discuss their accreditation, credentials, tuition, financial assistance, diploma and degree programs, and any other topic that may help you decide which online school, college or university will be the best choice for you. You may start now by contacting a few promising schools on our website today and requesting information.

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