Are online degrees treated equally?
Employers seeking workers with college degrees usually desire more than just that: They look at grade averages and may favor graduates from certain schools.
With a recent survey showing greater growth in online enrollment than in on-campus courses, are online degrees commonplace enough that employers consider them equal to traditional diplomas?
The Babson Survey Research Group at Babson College conducts annual studies of online learning. The survey asks administrators from schools offering both online and traditional programs if there is a difference between who gets jobs. The majority of respondents say no, according to I. Elaine Allen, co-director of the survey group.
However, in 2010 the Society for Human Resource Management found that only 34 percent of members said candidates with degrees obtained online were viewed as favorably as those with traditional degrees.
Whether or not a particular online program will advance a career probably can’t be answered from broad-based surveys, notes Norina Columbaro, a doctoral student at Cleveland State University who researches online learning.
Some schools are online-only and some schools offer both online and traditional degrees. Look for accreditation by an organization recognized by the U.S. Deptartment of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, advises CHEA spokesperson Tim Willard. In cases where a school offers both online and traditional classes, the accrediting body may not accredit the programs individually.
Ask the school about job placement for alumni of the online program, Columbaro adds.
Finally, adds Cate Monaghan, assistant director of CSU’s Center for Teaching Excellence: “You need to consider the quality of networking opportunities. Will people recommend you if they only know you [online]? I am not sure that anyone has studied that question yet.”
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