The Quiet Explosion: Six Traits to Look for in an Online University Grad Program
By Dr. Bernard Luskin, Touro University Worldwide
Online education has been continually evolving and technology has been improving for more than forty years. The technology is here, and brain science has allowed us to integrate the technology of the brain into modern learning. Today, with growing demand and real time and computers, central to the telecommunications environment, becoming a household necessity, online education has literally created a quiet explosion. Established brick-and-mortar institutions everywhere now offer online activities, courses and programs to a growing number of students. Registration and payment are now online, and as with banking and shopping, online learning is becoming common and accepted.
Choosing an online university that’s right for you and your needs is an important element of the decision of any adult to continue or go back to school. Paying tuition, giving time and following ones dream is a big step and requires commitment, responsibility and commitment and effort. There are growing examples of individuals whose dedication paid off through gaining greater knowledge, advancing a current career, and increasing eligibility for a promotion within a company or putting one on the top of a selection list during a hiring process.
As an educator, now serving as CEO and Senior Provost of an online university (www.TUW.edu), I have learned how important education is and will always be. Since there is so much choice, it is important to know what to look for when making one’s choices. This overview will help you:
Make sure the school, college or university you choose is accredited by a qualified accrediting body. Typically, regional accreditation indicates the school meets accepted standards. There are six major regional accrediting bodies and others granting specialized accreditation. The accepted regional accreditation agencies are:
- Middle States Association and Schools
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- North Central Association of Schools and Colleges
- Northwest Accreditation Commission
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
National accreditation is not based on geography, but it is based on the specific type of school or college—e.g., trade schools, religious schools or technology schools. In addition, there are legitimate specialized accrediting bodies. Accreditation is important for receiving grants and federal funds and gaining corporate reimbursement.
2. Professors’ educational ad professional qualifications
It is important to know who is going to be teaching you. What are their qualifications and are they currently practicing in their field of education or are they career professors? When a school uses a scholar practitioner approach, this tells you that faculty is keeping current. Ask about this when speaking with a guidance counselor or program advisor.
3. Student-to-professor ratio
It’s always good to know if you will be in a virtual class of hundreds or in a class of 20 or less. You need to make sure your questions are answered, your assignments will be able to be graded on time and you will be a person and not a number. The challenge online universities face is losing the engagement and attention of the student. This is why it’s important to have smaller classes so students can interact with the professor as well as their fellow students. Make sure to find out if the university you are choosing caps their classes in order to maintain the interest level and connection with the student. Personal attention is always important, both online and in a physical classroom.
4. History, reputation, and affiliation of the school
The history of the school will tell you a lot about the education you will receive. There are many online universities that are branches or divisions of “bricks and mortar” colleges or universities. One should find out about the school you are interested in; talk to students who attended the school or go straight to the source and contact the school directly. Speak with the dean of the college; they should be available to answer your questions and quell any fears or doubts you may have. Typically a conversation can be the tipping point in the university you ultimately choose.
5. Match of degrees offered to career objectives
You need to make sure the college you choose has the degree program that is right for you. All degree programs are not equal. If you are choosing to earn your Master’s degree or doctorate while you continue to pursue your career, chances are you have some very specific educational needs. For Example, all MBA programs are not the same. You may be inclined to receive your MBA with a concentration in marketing, or organizational leadership. You need to make sure the degree offerings are going to satisfy your expectations and needs. Contact the dean of the program and make sure you ask if the degree program the university is offering will complement your career field.
6. Financial aid
An education does not come cheap and money doesn’t grow on trees. Properly accredited colleges and universities offer tuition assistance and financial aid services. If these are not available, the institution is probably suspect.
About the Author: Dr. Bernard Luskin, LMFT, is CEO, Senior Provost and Professor of Education, Psychology, and Marriage and Family Therapy at Touro University Worldwide. Dr. Luskin received the 2011 American Psychological Association Media Psychology Division Life Achievement Award for contributions to Media Psychology. He was Co-Director of the APA Task Force Report on Psychology and New Technologies and was founder of the first PhD program in Media Psychology in any university while serving as professor of psychology at Fielding Graduate University. Bernie has written, consulted and keynoted conferences across the world. The importance of his research and pioneering programs have been recognized with life achievement awards by the American Psychological Association, University of California, California State University, University of Florida, Irish Government and European Union. Contact Dr. Luskin at Bernard.Luskin@TUW.edu.