Online degrees – are they worth it?
The world has witnessed an incredible rush by most of the top 400 universities to migrate towards an open culture and embracing the provision of online degrees. We now see some of the top universities going as far as to allow free enrolment on their courses enabling students anywhere in the world to start with an online degree immediately which places the student in the position to later claim certification retrospectively, at which point fees are due in order to facilitate recognition for their studies.
A brief history explaining the evolution of online degrees:
Online Universities were traditionally slated by establishment type institutions as not providing learners with a great deal of competence and the workplace played along by not recognizing degrees from online Universities in early days. The tide started turning when awarding organizations embraced innovation and accredited online courses that led to workplace competence – and people in the workplace had produced and delivered incredible skillsets at work which could no longer be denied. The top Universities then changed course rather cautiously and some started to offer “blended learning” which really incorporated up to 80% online learning and 20% live classroom learning – followed by the launching of Moodle, the worlds biggest online learning platform which supports online degrees and other short courses. The situation really evolved in such a way that today, most established universities offer online degrees and there are now ways of distinguishing which online degrees are considered acceptable in the workplace.
Differences between online degrees and full time degrees concealed well:
In a city like London which always attempts to portray itself as “worldclass” and authentic concerning education there are 100’s of third world style colleges which exists for the sole purpose of helping people obtain student visas and easy affordable degrees. Many of these colleges are affiliated to the University of London, The University of Wales, Huddersfield and there are countless examples of more universities engaging in affiliate practices. It turns out that if for example there is a lawyer who has completed an LLB degree directly with the issuing university, another who completed via an online degree program abroad and another who participated at one of the cheaper affiliate colleges, that each candidate receives the same certificate and the employer cannot tell the difference.
Which online degrees offer the best value?
In a world where bias linked to profit is a factor it is hard to provide a clear cut definition as to which online degree would provide the best value, however there remains one key fact which learners should keep in mind: An online degree should have the ultimate goal of increasing in individuals revenue potential rather than being merely decorative against the wall. To this extend, university rankings still plays a key role. We have produced a list of the top 10 universities in the world and also referred to the top 400 list of universities. Most of these institutions have online degree courses and it goes without saying that the employer bias applied traditionally when screening CV’s will still favour these institutions for some time to come.
Online degrees and individual differentiation:
In a case where an individual learner has completed an online degree and they truly gained new levels of competency, we believe the key to differentiation and competency can be found in the learners personal interest and levels of effort invested in exploring the subject. For example a student of IT courses who takes a free IT degree online and also studies methodically the lectures presented via MIT opencourseware, Yale, Berkeley and others, may actually bring more versatile skills into the workplace than another student who did not opt for an online degree but who’s family invested a fortune to send them to a “worldclass” institution. We would thus go as far as to say that some internet or online degrees that are regarded as unsung heroes can indeed go further in the workplace depending on the level of individual differentiation that learners can demonstrate.
Online degrees and real life skills – how are they measured?
One may venture a little further into the real world and find an establishment such as the Odesk where there are hundreds of thousands of individuals participating in the provision of global solutions. Now it is possible to find people who claim to have online degrees form universities we never heard of – yet they can produce competency backed results that amazes us at a fraction of the price other graduates would charge. There is a form of measurement which really presents itself as an online test, whereby contractors take live tests on specific competencies, a score is produced after which it is attached to their individual profile. This is an example of a real life solution which has been implemented to help people who hold online degrees go a step further in proving to employers that they are competent – and also provides them with the opportunity to challenge conventional degree holders to prove their own results, using the same method of evaluation.
Now that we have discussed the issue at some length, there may be those seeking to enrol in a suitable online degree – or those seeking to return to a full time university, attending classes and being stuck in traffic. We will share with learners several options for online degree studies, which is what we see as a non exhaustive list of options which could still be expanded upon.
Some universities you may not have heard of just yet, which may offer good value:
University of Phoenix online
Everest college Phoenix
Western international university
The usual establishment type universities offering online degrees:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
University of Cambridge
University of California, Berkeley
University of Oxford
University of Tokyo
University of California, Los Angeles
Online degrees and retrospective recognition:
There are two types of awards that should be distinguished. There are those which call themselves “life experience” degrees, which could be online or simply a mail order service. These are generally questionable unless an individual truly boasts a wealth of skills which needs to be translated into a degree. The second type to be distinguished in terms of retrospective recognition is really the type where institutions have a facility where individuals can enrol for the online degree without paying to experience the full benefits of the course itself. It is only when the student wishes to claim accreditation, that it is issued retrospectively based on their engagement with the degree course online, via the internet.
The suitability of online degrees for specific careers:
Prospective learners should be mindful that whilst there are many subjects available where online study via internet is the perfect mode, there are also areas of study where practical skills need to be gained with in a live environment with mentor, hence the bridging solution known as “blended learning”.
A medical doctor for example will never be able to learn fully and safely how to perform a surgery simply by watching a video and reading from a web, whereas a computer programmer or even a psychologist should be able to gather a wealth of knowledge for direct application in the workplace without a mentor, hence the understanding that online degrees does have limitations that are careers specific.
The future of online degrees:
One just has to observe people in major cities interacting with their iPad’s, tablets and laptop devices to notice how much the world has changed and just how disengaged people have become on an interpersonal level whilst increasingly engaging with online devices to realise that this has impacted hugely on society as a whole. As our social habits evolve and major institutions innovate to keep up with the trend, there is no doubt that the future looks bright for online degrees.
Are online universities worth it? This depend largely on the employers ability to verify the skillset in terms of the broader perspective and the learners ability to reach beyond a fixed set of available resources to enhance their knowledge and levels of expertise.