Tips for Parents

When Your Kid Wants to Go to School Online

When Your Kid Wants to Go to School Online

Guest Post provided by Cher Zevala

You are overjoyed when your child graduates high school. You could not be more thrilled when he or she decides to attend college. However, you might not be certain how to react when your adult kid decides he or she wants to get an online degree.

Online university education is dramatically more legitimate than it used to be, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should automatically accept your child’s decision to enroll in an online program. Before you give your blessing (or write the tuition check) you should learn as much as you can about the program and its benefits.

Is the Program Legitimate, or Is It a Scam?

For more than a decade, the majority of online “institutions of learning” were little more than degree mills, where “students” would pay a one-time fee to receive a fake certification in the mail. However, as the internet grew more civilized, more real universities developed e-learning programs, and entirely online schools developed, as well. Today, the vast majority of online institutions are legitimate, but you should devote time to making sure your child’s primary choices are genuine, just in case.

The best way to ascertain whether a school is a scam is to look for accreditation. Agencies recognized by the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) survey programs, looking for markers of legitimacy so you don’t have to. Whether your child is heading to a traditional, on-campus university or an online graduate program, like an online MBA, accredited schools should be your only considerations.

How Are Online Programs Different From Traditional Courses?

As you might expect, online programs take place over the internet, so students never set foot in a physical classroom and rarely meet professors and peers face-to-face. However, that doesn’t mean they are missing out on educational opportunities. In fact, after 30 years of research, studies have found that there is no significant difference in learning outcomes between online and traditional students. There is a common misconception that online courses are easier than in-person courses, but in truth, the lenience of a class depends on the professor who manages it and the school that reviews it.

There is no single form of online education. Courses within the same degree program can take different formats, from text-only to multimedia-rich. Different types of information respond better to different presentations, so it’s likely your kid will experience a range of online learning best suited to his or her needs and interests — just as he or she would in a traditional learning environment.

Will Your Child Be Penalized in the Job Market for an Online Degree?

This is perhaps the most widespread parental fear in regards to online programs: If you don’t value online learning, why would a potential employer? Isn’t education a waste of time and money if employers won’t look upon online degree-holders favorably?

Fortunately, employers aren’t nearly as archaic in their views of education. Most hiring managers are well-aware of the tensions of modern higher education and are forgiving of degrees from non-ivy-covered institutions. In fact, many see online education as a boon, not a bane, for it shows that students are forward-thinking, budget-savvy, self-motivated, and comfortable with technology. Thus, your kid likely won’t have any trouble finding a job after completing his or her online program.

What Do Online Students Gain?

This question is easy to answer. Online students gain:

  • Flexibility to structure courses around existing responsibilities, like full-time work or military service.
  • Time to learn at their own pace. Online learning materials, including lectures, can be reviewed at students’ leisure.
  • Comfort in their learning environment, rather than fitting into cramped desks or crowded lecture halls.
  • Enhanced concentration without interruption from fellow students, who talk, fidget, or otherwise distract.
  • Tech skills from spending every day on an electronic device. Often, courses utilize advanced software, which might be useful in future careers.
  • A degree deserving of being framed and hung on a wall.

Are You Saving Anything by Going Online?

In the simplest terms: Yes; you and your college-bound child are saving a great deal of time and money in choosing online school over traditional universities. First, your kid doesn’t need to move into an expensive dorm to attend classes; he or she doesn’t even need to set aside time to commute. Just the cost of living and traveling to campuses can be well over $10,000 per year, and online students avoid that completely.

Further, online tuition tends to be lower, as online schools do not need to pay for classroom space or resources. This isn’t to say that an online degree is free or even cheap; you still pay for the quality of education you want your child to receive. Still, you can shave thousands off the cost of tuition, and you can still rely on traditional financial aid, like scholarships and student loans, to help make payments manageable.


Note: This was a guest post from one of our readers. If you’re interested in submitting a guest post to UniversityParent.com, please click here to learn more.

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