The decision to enroll in a master’s program requires serious consideration, especially for people who wish to upgrade their knowledge/skills after working for a few years. Once you’ve started your career, adding the stress of obtaining further education in a strict work routine can be tricky to balance. Going to and coming back from campus can be stressful and expensive. It will interfere with your job and other personal commitments.
However, many universities and educational platforms now offer online master’s programs. So things may not seem as daunting. Of course, distance learning comes with a unique set of challenges. But if you can manage your time and schedule, you might be able to make it through without hiccups. Research suggests that up to 80% of students leave their particular programs halfway. This is a considerably high statistic. So, to ensure you remain among the group of people who stick around to complete their master’s degree, we’ve listed some factors you should ponder over before choosing a program. So what should you consider?
The cost of the program
The cost of the master’s program you wish to enroll in will ultimately decide the fate of your educational journey. Fortunately, online education is cheaper than campus-based learning. The average cost of an online master’s lies around 20 to 30 thousand dollars, while offline programs from reputable institutes average about $49,000. Also, not all low-priced online degrees are low-quality.
Other factors determining the program’s cost include the subject and career potential. For instance, an online masters in counseling, cybersecurity, or any other in-demand skill/subject will cost more than something employers are not seeking at the moment. So visit information portals such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify what’s in demand before shortlisting your desired niche(s).
The availability of networking opportunities
A prominent benefit of campus-based education is the networking opportunities that come students’ way. These connections can help students through several personal and professional life paths. While interacting with your peers might not be crucial to obtaining a master’s degree, isolating yourself will result in you missing out on worthwhile experiences. For example, according to a performance-based hiring systems survey, 85 percent of job placements directly result from having the right connections.
That said, peer interaction will always be challenging when studying an online course. However, a master’s program that focuses on student development will offer you various opportunities to engage and interact with like-minded individuals. So, when selecting an online master’s program, you should consider looking for one that provides you with ample networking opportunities to interact with alumni, peers, instructors, and employers.
The credibility of a program
Another reason why students prefer campus-based learning is the stigmatization of online programs. A few years ago, many online educational institutes had a bad reputation for not providing quality education and utilizing shady recruiting processes. Not to mention, employers everywhere became wary of hiring applicants with online degrees without proper accreditation. So, as a result, many students still think prospective employers perceive online programs lower than their campus-based counterparts in terms of merit. However, that is not the case at all nowadays.
Quality online education is more accessible as more reputable accredited schools and universities recognize the advantages of offering online learning. That said, when selecting an online master’s degree program, ensure you pay attention to the course and school accreditation and their rankings. A well-recognized degree will lead to better job opportunities after completion.
The availability of student services
Selecting an online master’s degree over a campus-based program should not mean missing out on essential student support and services. So, find out whether the educational institute offers the necessary student support services. Doing so will determine how the educational institute is willing to enhance students’ learning experience.
For instance, identify if the university offers technical support to its students to ensure they can utilize technology to support learning. Also, determine if the university provides valuable resource material to supplement students’ learning. These should include free access to online research journals and e-subscriptions for magazines and articles.
The quality of the curriculum
When choosing an online master’s degree, take time to compare and explore course listings, course descriptions, and course content of the degree you’ve shortlisted. Furthermore, determine whether the program is designed for dynamic, active participation instead of static content consumption. If the educational institute offers collaborative projects and discussion forums to build, connect, and share knowledge, it will enhance your learning experience. Or, if it provides virtual labs, you will be able to test and apply your knowledge as you advance in the learning process.
A well-designed curriculum will provide you with a platform to test and apply your skills in real-world situations. This will help to set you apart from the competition. What’s more, an online master’s program should provide you with the same if not better benefits as a campus-based program.
The technology being used
The effectiveness of an online degree program rest largely on the tech used to deliver knowledge. So, consider evaluating the learning systems an online university uses and the learning tools these systems support. You should always have an active, engaging learning experience, no matter the nature of the degree. Therefore, technologies and tools that allow you to engage, collaborate, and learn with other students and teachers are vital to online learning.
Furthermore, when engaging with faculty members, identify whether these tech tools allow you to communicate with them effectively. For instance, determine if your professors are available for real-time interaction. Problems can arise at any moment, and an excellent support system should be able to accommodate any inquiries and questions you might have.
While online degrees differ from their campus-based counterparts, the learning results and the quality of programs should be the same. Furthermore, as online learning becomes more popular, more universities launch online degrees to accommodate students from different parts of the world. So, it is vital to weigh your options and consider the pros and cons of each program before making a decision.