How Credible Are Online Degrees

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 12 minute read

There is no doubt in your mind that remote learning/distance education has been around for some time, and it’s not a new approach to getting an education.

Tweet It’s becoming more and more common for people to express interest in online degrees.

For the first time, a kind of distance learning that relies primarily on the Internet for material delivery has emerged: online education lives stream or recorded.

Having an Internet connection and a computer, laptop, or tablet is all that is required for students to be able to study from anywhere.

How widely acknowledged are online college degrees compared to those received through face-to-face instruction and exams?

It’s still a long way to go before they’re accepted equally, but the trend suggests that they haven’t been as well-received.

Courses and Degrees Available Online

If you want to call a class an online course, you have to have at least 80% of the material given online and only 20% of it in person.

This might be due to a face-to-face need for orientation, assessments, or some other reason. 

An online degree should be made up entirely of online courses, according to this definition. The term blended/hybrid learning is used to describe degrees in which at least one course does not meet the criteria of an online course. 

According to the 2014 Sloan Consortium/Babson Survey, blended/hybrid training delivers 30-79 percent of course content online, whereas face-to-face instruction gives 0-29 percent online.

For this reason, the United States Department of Education only started mandating colleges and universities to report their online degree enrollment numbers in the fall of 2012, while the technology was still considered so new. 

Data on students attending online courses for a degree program has been gathered for a number of years, but not always precisely duplicate of student numbers and sometimes not separated from distant education courses via snail mail. 

Online degree enrolment data are now required to be included in the school’s overall enrollment figures. There is a lot more information accessible for the former than there is for online degree enrollments. 

Although there are notable trends in attitudes toward online degrees and courses in general from a variety of perspectives, including students and employers, there are still noticeable yearly patterns.

The Point of View of the Students

Are online courses and degrees acceptable to students? Online forums going back to 2008 show some students complaining that online learning is not for them because they lack self-discipline. 

Many individuals believed that online degrees were meant for self-directed learners who could learn a subject on their own, without the guidance of an instructor.

Leonardo da Vinci and many more great inventors, authors, poets, photographers, architects, filmmakers, entrepreneurs, billionaires, politicians, and others are on a list of prominent autodidacts in history.

Some pupils still have that mindset. Public Agenda surveyed 215 community college students in 2013 and found that they are still adapting to online courses.

It’s important to keep in mind that the sample size for this poll is quite tiny, and as a result, it may not represent the whole student body at U.S. colleges and universities. In any case, it demonstrates the polarization of opinion.

There has been a steady rise in the number of students attending online classes, regardless of how they feel about the practice.

A yearly survey of online education is undertaken by the Babson/Sloan Consortium, as previously indicated since 2003, from Fall 2002 onwards. 

More than 2,800 (2,831) of the country’s 4,700 (4,726) recognized institutions of higher learning responded to the Jan. 2014 survey (conducted in 2013 on 2012 enrollment statistics), representing a response rate of almost 60% (59.9 percent). 

Some schools did not answer since they had the smallest enrollments, which represent 81.0 percent of higher education enrollments, according to the report.

For the 2012-2013 academic year (AY), the following data was compiled from the Jan 2014 report, which was carried out in 2013.

The following table displays information on the number of students enrolled each year from 2002 to 2012. Note that all numbers except for the increase column thousands – kilo are in millions of pupils.

As a result, in the fall of 2009, approximately a million new students were enrolled in one or more online courses over the fall of 2008.

Overall enrollment in 1-credit online courses has increased steadily from the fall of 2002 through the fall of 2012.

Academic Officers’ Opinions

According to the Babson Survey study, which was released in January 2014, approximately 2800 academic leaders (also known as “CAOs”) participated.

In terms of student enrolment, the majority of institutions that haven’t responded are rather modest in terms of size. 

According to a 2010 Babson research, non-respondents made up fewer than 20% of student enrolment at accredited colleges and universities in the United States.

That’s a whopping 80% of all American college students who took part in the 2014 poll, compared to the 2010 survey, which had just over 300 more schools participating. CAOs’ responses to a survey reveal some unusual points of view.

The number of CAOs that believe that the learning results in online education are the same or superior to face-to-face on-campus education decreased in 2013.

After peaking at 77.0 percent in 2012 and then falling down to 74.1 percent in 2013, the percentage has remained at 57.2 percent. 

A decrease from 69.1 percent in 2012 to 65.9 percent in 2013 was seen in the number of CAOs that believe online learning is vital to their school’s long-term plan.

No online courses or degrees were offered by the CAOs of both universities. In contrast, over 90 percent of CAOs believe that a majority of all higher education students will take at least one online course within the next five years.

Schools still have a long way to go before they can provide some types of online learning, such as MOOCs, to their students (Massive Open Online Courses).

Fewer than half of colleges and universities are now offering or intending to provide MOOCs, which is only one sort of online learning format. 

Some MOOCs have been extremely successful, such as the Darden business school’s business MOOC, which had 90,000 students from almost 200 countries sign up.

However, less than a quarter of CAOs believe MOOCs are a long-term solution for online education. 

The writing is on the wall digitally, yet some CAOs still require convincing on the best approach to instructing kids online.

This is essential since some of the larger traditional colleges generally offer MOOCs, and there is the potential for these schools to overtake the online offerings of smaller or less-known schools.

What do Online Education Do Schools offer?

Whether or not a school offers online courses and degrees appears to have no impact on a CAO’s opinion of an online degree.

More than half of the country’s four-year schools and universities offer online degree programs, including master’s and doctoral degrees. 

In certain cases, conventional colleges only provide online graduate degrees, whereas undergraduate degrees need on-campus teaching.

Over 1,055 college presidents (from 2- and 4-year institutions of all kinds – private, public, and for-profit – participated in another Pew Research survey in 2011 and found that 77% of schools offered online courses, with 89% of 4-year public colleges and universities offering online courses and 60% of 4-year private colleges offering online courses. 

Because of this, 77% of educational institutions currently offer distant learning options as an educational option.

When it comes to online courses, just 29 percent of the 2,142 citizens polled by PewResearch agreed with this sentiment, compared to 51 percent of college presidents.

There are a variety of options available to schools that don’t already offer online degrees but do provide online courses or content.

One of them is a massive open online course (MOOC), which is generally offered by a third-party provider and is open to both students and the general public., which has worked with 16 major colleges, charges $49 for a certified certificate of completion for each course. Part of the price goes to the university that provided the resources. 

A few years before MOOCs, institutions were making their course materials available to the public via Apple iTunes or some other online distribution channel (video, text, etc.).

At one extreme of the online-learning spectrum, only students who have enrolled in person can access online content.

Online degree enrolment is greater at certain institutions than on-campus degree enrolment in some programs.

More than 1,000 students were enrolled in the Kelley Direct online MBA program at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business during the 2013-14 academic year. 

On-campus courses are only one part of the school’s overall program. On the other hand, Kelley Direct’s two-year program costs just $61,200 less than the on-campus equivalent, saving students around 34% overall. Only tuition and fees. 

The obvious advantages of not having to be on campus all the time and saving money on commuting are evident. In some cases, even for online programs, students from out of state must pay an extra charge.

More than 500 (551 online MBA students) are enrolled in UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s (KFS) full-time on-campus MBA program.

A 12.88 percent savings in tuition and fees may be found in the online pricing of $96,775 compared to the full-time price of $111,092.

Only two online MBA schools are included in Bloomberg Businessweek’s B-school rankings, and these are the only two.

Online MBA programs are a serious threat to the country’s 420 officially recognized MBA institutions. 

As many as half of these B-Schools, says Haas School of Business dean Richard Lyons (UC Berkeley), might go out of business in the next five to ten years.

A direct result of this is that they will have to start competing with top-tier business schools by offering online degree programs.

Some, but not all, of the top 20 business schools offer online degrees. The educational system has a lot of work to do. A fall in interest in MBAs may be due to increased tuition and the current economic climate. 

The number of people applying for the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) is declining, which is a requirement for admission to most MBA programs.

Fewer than 117,000 Americans took the GMAT in the year that ended June 30, 2012, a 6% drop from 2002. 

There was a 46 percent decrease in the number of full-time MBA applications in the United States in 2013.

The number of full-time MBA students at certain institutions is already lower than the total number of part-time and executive MBA students rolled into one number. 

There is more incentive for future students to hunt for exceptional online programs—and not necessarily to study business—because students in the latter two groups generally receive less financial aid than full-time students.

These institutions may be in peril if they do not provide online degree programs.

Opinions of Educators

When it comes to online education, what are academics’ thoughts? Inside Higher Ed questioned more than 2,200 people from a wide range of colleges and universities. 

According to a survey released in August 2013, faculty members who had previously taught an online course were more favorable than those who had never taught an online course in general.

In this context, the quality of online learning, student outcomes, and overall efficacy as opposed to in-person courses are all taken into account. 

Teachers were more skeptical about online courses in their particular departments and courses than they were about online education as a whole.

Non-tenured professors (25%) were more likely than tenured academics 17 % to think that online courses produce better learning outcomes.

The following are a handful of the many statistics gathered in the study. See the Inside Higher Ed survey summary for additional information and a link for the full study.

Concerns of Employers

Online degree credibility isn’t universally accepted by employers, as it is by students, CAOs, and professors. Online degrees are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis by companies, according to several polls.

Additionally, 656 human resources professionals from companies looking for job candidates with a postsecondary degree were questioned for the aforementioned 2013 Public Agenda report. 

An overwhelming majority (80%) of employers believe that online education is necessary, with older students accounting for the majority of those making use of it.

However, just 50% said the same thing about recent high school graduates taking their initial steps toward postsecondary education. 

A higher percentage (17%) prefers candidates with online degrees over those who have earned their diplomas at top-tier institutions, although 56 percent of employers prefer a job applicant with a traditional degree from a mediocre school 42 percent of companies questioned believe students learn less from an online-only degree; however, 49 percent believe students learn the same, 4 percent believe they learn more, and 5 percent don’t know. 

Employers believe that online learning requires as much 29% or 45% more discipline as traditional classroom instruction, while just 23 percent believe the contrary.

When asked if online degree programs were easier or more difficult to pass, 39 percent said easier, 13 percent said more difficult, 41 percent said the same, and 7 percent said they didn’t know.

Online education is a must for 80% of businesses surveyed, according to a tweet. Some of the information in the Public Agenda may be bad news for online education, but other studies have revealed slightly more favorable opinions, at least for some areas of online degrees. 

In late 2012, Time Magazine reported that employers’ attitudes toward online degrees have gradually improved over the past five to ten years, based on SHRM data Society for Human Resource Management. 

There were over half of the HR managers said that if two applicants with equivalent experience had an online degree, it would not affect their evaluation of them.

79% of the respondents stated that they have recruited someone with an online degree in the past year. 

Although this is the case, 66% of respondents said that applicants with online degrees were not given the same consideration as those who had earned a degree from a typical face-to-face institution. 

A person’s knowledge of a particular program and online education, in general, will play a considerable effect on their view of an online degree, since it’s part of their nature to be conservative about candidates.

An increase in favorable attitudes toward online education among employers/HR managers was discovered by US News & World Report in late 2013 and early 2014.

Employers are less likely to inquire about the quality of an online degree program if they are happy with other aspects of a job prospect, according to several recruitment firms. 

When it comes to employing applicants with online degrees, 75 percent of SMBs (Small and Medium Businesses) said they had no problem with it, while the remaining 25 percent said they wouldn’t hire them because of their lack of credentials.

Even Nevertheless, 75% of those polled say that online degrees must be accredited.

While some businesses are starting to grasp the advantages that an online degree provides, others are still attempting to figure out how to include it into their overall recruitment strategy. 

All parties concerned will have a better grasp on the benefits and drawbacks of online education the more it is discussed in public.

Unfortunately, recent discussions on online degrees have focused on diploma mills, which are either unaccredited colleges or institutions that have been accredited by fictitious accreditation bodies.

Online degrees were sometimes referred to as diploma mills because of their prevalence in the recent past. It will take some time, but some employers have already overcome that stigma. So what are businesses searching for in a potential employee? 

For the most part, a person who is competent for the position and has been appropriately trained for it.

Due to the fact that most college graduates do not come out of college-trained in their chosen industry, businesses are looking for people that at the very least have the education and background necessary to accomplish the job at hand. 

As a result, older students with job experience and an online degree are presently more likely to be seen favorably than their younger counterparts.

Accreditation is a far more important consideration for companies when it comes to regular university degrees.

Due to a variety of factors, not everyone has the opportunity to attend a top college or university limited enrollment, qualifications, budget, and geographic location. 

This includes the candidate’s education, as well as his or her ability to perform a variety of tasks at work. 

A candidate with an online degree must meet the same, but additional, requirements as a candidate with a traditional degree:

  • Candidates’ qualifications and experience, independent of degree source or delivery method online or in-person.
  • An online degree from an established, well-regarded, brick-and-mortar college or university normally rates higher than a degree from a lesser-known institution, but this isn’t always the case for all companies.
  • Credible local accreditation for online degree programs is critical for conventional but less well-known schools. All degree programs are available to students at an online-only institution.
  • Although it is not always the case, a non-profit school is more likely to be seen positively.

Generally speaking, some firms genuinely want their employees to learn online and occasionally grant partial or complete tuition reimbursement for them.

It’s possible to earn a degree while working full-time, which isn’t possible with a standard degree. 

Increased online enrollment and growth in the number of colleges providing these programs will allow companies to recognize these credentials on par with traditional degrees for both new and existing employees, regardless of the field.

It will take time for the general public to adopt online-only degree programs, as with any disruptive technology.

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