In April 2013, a study found that nearly 7 million students are taking online classes. Regardless of whether they’re earning a degree at an ordinary college that offers online classes or one that operates strictly online, the data is concerning.

Withdraw rates for students who attend an online college are high and pupils who do complete courses tend to perform more poorly compared to peers at a traditional college. Considering this data, the key to getting the best online college experience you possibly can is by selecting an accredited institution that allows you to transfer credits. Also, be sure your school offers a variety of support services.

Finding a good online school. Do your research.
One of the easiest ways of determining whether the school you’ve selected is worth your investment is by reviewing the statistics. Any potential student can look at graduation rates, loan default numbers and post-graduation employment data. To find out which online schools are good and which are bad, talk to your admissions counselor about these points:

  • What percent of the school’s student body come back each year?
  • How many students withdraw before earning a degree?
  • How many students default on their student loans?
  • What kind of career support services does the school offer pre- and post-graduation?

Go to an online school that’s accredited.
When choosing an ordinary college, you certainly would not sign a check over to an institution that does not meet criteria established by a nationally recognized accrediting agency. The same goes for online schools, look for an accredited online college(s).

An accrediting agency ensures that institutes of higher education provide students with a quality education, based on standards established by private educational associations. Students can see a list of accredited agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education.

Choose and online school that permits credit transfers
If you already have several college credits under your belt, you want to be sure that the online college you’re considering accepts your credits. An online school that rejects your hard-earned credits, specifically academic courses in the sciences or liberal arts, may be a red flag, indicating that the school does not have your best interests in mind.
Other considerations
Online learning has become so commonplace that schools that are strictly online, as well as those with distance-learning programs, offer many of the same technologies, making it even easier to tell the good online schools from the bad. Most online-only programs today have many similar tools and services.

  • Blackboard is a course-management system that allows instructors to post discussion notes, questions, assignments and grades. It allows engagement and collaboration between students and instructors.
  • A good online college will offer students a variety of multimedia learning tools, including videos, podcasts and other interactive programming.
  • An online college should be committed to your future. That means students should have access to a personal academic advisor. A good counselor will work with you to choose courses that will help achieve your career goals. They will also offer credit and course-load advice.

Online education is a wonderful choice for many people who want to complete an advanced degree.