How do you tell the best online doctoral programs from the bad?
Online education and the technology that allows it to happen, has developed and grown by leaps and bounds in the past few decades. Many traditional schools have created fully online programs and many fully online schools exist today.
But not all programs are created equal.
Some online colleges have had lawsuits filed against them, claiming that they have misrepresented themselves or committed fraud. Some have been accused of being more interested in profits than in students or education. Students who are trying to determine the best online doctoral programs need to do careful research before signing on the dotted line.
Here are some things to look for to tell the best online doctoral programs from the bad ones.
Accreditation: Accreditation is a certification that an educational institution meets or exceeds the standards set by the Department of Education. Standards include teaching methods, courses taught, faculty standards, and many other details. There are many regional accreditation organizations, and these are what students should look for when they investigate a potential college. It is also what employers will look for when they check references for hiring purposes.
Not all schools that claim to be “regionally accredited” really are, however. To see if an accrediting organization is legitimate, check with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the Department of Education. If they are not recognized by one of these two agencies, they probably are not reputable.
The Department of Education’s website has a College Navigator tool that provides verification of the accreditation of any college students might be looking at. They can also use it to check the school’s graduation and retention rates, and default rates on student loans.
Curriculum and credits: Before you choose an online college, be sure that any credits you earn can be transferred to other colleges if you should end up changing to a different school someday.
If the answer is “no”, it would be smart to find out why. This may be another way to find out a school isn’t accredited, and even if it is, does this mean that other colleges don’t believe the school’s courses are of high enough academic standards to compare.
Students should also check if credit for prior courses at other institutions will transfer to the new school. Will the student get credit for their prior learning or are they starting from scratch?
Students should also consider curricula when trying to find the best online doctoral programs. Are they getting courses that provide the needed skills for the workforce, or the courses required for certification or licensing? In fast-paced fields where technology changes quickly, are they up-to-date with the current technology?
Support services: Experts say students in online courses require as much or more support as students in brick and mortar programs. When researching the best online doctoral programs check out what student support services are provided.
Not only do you want to know who will help you with enrollment, technical support, library services, academic support, and other services throughout your education, but what about career services for when you complete your program? Do they have any continuing services to help you find a job after graduation, and what about farther down the road when you’re ready to transition to a new position?