Since its inception the Internet has been changing paradigms across an array of different cultural lifestyles and norms from marketing, to entertainment, to education. Accredited online schools are still relatively young in the grand scheme of higher education, but they are constantly moving towards the forefront of American and worldwide learning. After realizing the potential for massive social impact, brick and mortar schools began offering distance learning programs in the last decades to which they have attached their prestigious names. Places like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University offer distance programs, to name just two the truly world-class institutions engaging in the practice of online education.
In fact, online universities today represent one of the largest populations of current collegiate enrollment in the United States. A vast majority of today’s online schools descend from what were known as “correspondence schools,” which used snail mail, pre-recorded video broadcasts, and even walkie-talkie-like systems to essentially train students over large distances. While slow and slightly inefficient compared to today’s technological standards, learning in correspondence schools was geared towards independent learners – much like online schools, in fact – and tests were taken in localized proctored settings.
Nowadays, online institutions follow similar ideas and are essentially in existence all around the world. Distance learning is sometimes integrated into traditional brick and mortar curricula, where one might have to take an online class in addition to their on-campus studies to complete degree requirements on time (and to change up the pace and reduce learning fatigue). Interestingly, virtual schooling has also be matrixed into high schools and even elementary settings. In theory, an individual could grow up into a professional by getting their education completely online.
Whereas a person entering a traditional on-campus institution might purchase textbooks, backpacks, a laptop and the usual dorm décor, virtual school students get textbooks, laptops, study guides, headsets equipped with microphones, and even wireless technology that ensures they can work comfortably for their living room or their bed. It’s certainly a different type of mentality and isn’t meant for the lighthearted or unmotivated individual.
How does society perceive degrees from accredited online schools?
That’s not a bad question, and a solidly researched answer would suggest that employers no longer associate online degrees with a degradation in the quality of the education behind them. Though it will always be true that big names like Harvard and Berkeley will attract the eyes and ears of recruiters and employers, degrees from accredited online universities speak to a much different and more nuanced level of professionalism and dedication.
Consider this: you’re an employer sifting through resumes. Your top two candidates for an open position have largely the same skill sets and experiences – the only thing that differs is that one got their education online and the other went a brick and mortar school. Which person do you choose? Degrees from an online school signal to an employer that the individual is independent, dedicated, and absolutely passionate about their specific expertise. Why? Well, it is already incredibly difficult for the average college student to stumble out of bed to class with motivation as it is – imagine the student who sets their own learning pace and expectations, and who acquires all of the relevant knowledge in a specific niche without a structured classroom setting in which to do so.
Imagine the student who completes their degree while maintaining a family, or while continuing to work and gain professional experience. Imagine the student who is so dedicated to their independent studies that they have earned their degree in less than the traditional four-year road. Employers know that self-motivation is a highly valuable skill in the workplace, and if they offer nothing else – accredited online schools, and the people who graduate from them, evoke a sense of legitimacy and respect for an individual’s independence.
Accreditation in the United States is a century-old process, and there are several things you should look out if you’re interested in pursing an online degree. Regional and national accreditation of an entire institution are great, but what’s even more important is that the specific program you’re interested in pursuing is accredited as well. It is excellent if you’ve found an online school that’s accredited and that works for you, but if you’re interested in psychology and that school’s specific department is not accredited by any regional body, then something is wrong and you should be weary.
Ultimately, online schools are here to stay and they will continue to improve and change the way we think about education, about independence, and about what it means to take charge of not just where you learn – but how you learn, too.