Introduction to Online Universities

If your time is restricted by a career, family, or other responsibilities, you still can advance in your goals with an online education. An online education can offer options that are flexible and cost-friendly, while still fitting the need for today’s highly demanding educational requirements in any field.

Sitting in a classroom is not the ideal learning model for some, but beyond that, online schools offer flexible schedules that work around a student’s lifestyle. The student is able to work anywhere with an Internet connection and does not have to attend classes on a regular basis.

Liberty University
Liberty UniversityAssociate's, Bachelor's, and Master's Degrees. Liberty University was founded in 1971 by Rev. Jerry Falwell and today is the fastest-growing evangelical Christian university in the United States.
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Kaplan University
Kaplan UniversityAssociate's, Bachelor's, and Master's Degrees. Kaplan also offers continuing education, so working professionals can earn professional certificates to advance a career from a highly respected faculty.
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Walden University
Walden UniversityBachelor's, Master's, and Doctorate Degrees. A member of the Laureate International Universities Network, Walden University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Walden's mission is to educate career professionals through online learning to effect positive social change.
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Grand Canyon University
Grand Canyon UniversityBachelor's and Master's Degrees. An online Christian university, Grand Canyon was recently rated the #1 online university in the United States by OEDb. Degrees are offered in arts, business, IT, education, healthcare, criminal justice, and more.
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Boston University
Boston UniversityBachelor's, Master's, and Doctorate Degrees. Originally established in 1839 and chartered in 1869, Boston University is one of the leading private research institutions in the United States. BU boasts two primary campuses in the city of Boston, study-abroad programs around the world, and an online education program for distance learners.
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Learn About Online University Reviews

Online universities have become popular because of the convenience they offer those who want to return to school. Online university reviews can be found around the web and rank schools and degree programs based on a variety of factors. Many of these reviews and rankings are from students themselves or from reputable publishers who take the time to explore the different facets of an online degree program. These reviewers take all of these things into account when creating a list of top online universities.

How are Online Schools Reviewed?

There are common themes in most online school reviews and rankings lists. Among these things are site navigation, number of years accredited, experience of staff and professors, student resources, professor availability for meeting with students, and retention rate. Retention and graduation rates are the very top factors reviewers look at when grading a school. It is important a school is dedicated to helping students succeed. If the school is showing a high dropout rate, it is because the staff and professors are not creating an experience that encourages student development and growth. Because of this a school can lose funding or become less reputable, even if they are an accredited institution. This is something that matters greatly for traditional schools as well as online colleges and universities.

How Do I Know if an Online School is Reputable?

When researching which online school is right for you, you are looking for an accredited college or university. This means the school is accredited by the same organizations that accredit traditional schools. This accreditation may vary by program at some online schools, so it is important to inquire thoroughly about the school’s standing. The longer a school has been accredited, the better. This means they are a reputable learning institution and doing what they need to in order to ensure students’ diplomas are valid for future degree programs (such as a master’s degree or PhD) and employment.

The first step to learning more about a particular program at a school is to set up an appointment with an academic advisor. This can be done in person for schools with campuses or conducted online or on the phone for schools that solely operate online. Ask the advisor about the school’s credentials and how your prospective degree program works. Ask about the graduation rate for your program and job placement. As with traditional schools, many online schools specialize in a certain area such as the medical field or business. Not all schools have well-developed programs across the board, so take the time to do your research to ensure the school and the program is the right fit for you.

What are Signs My Program is Worth Signing Up for at an Online University?

You want to check out your program, not just the school. The school may check out online, but upon meeting with a school advisor you may find out the program you’re hoping to enroll in is underdeveloped or does not have as many resources as a competitor. You should enroll in a program that has experienced professors. This is crucial for students returning to school or those who are new to online classes. Experienced instructors make all of the difference in online classes. For professors who have taught for a long time, but have limited technology experience, online courses are often difficult to follow. Experienced professors know how to interact with students online and keep the momentum of the class going, even though students aren’t physically attending classes. Expect classes to be just as difficult as traditional classes, with the same work load and requiring the same time commitment. You must be disciplined and take the initiative to interact with students online while absorbing material and studying regularly.

I Just Signed Up for Online Classes – Now What?

After enrolling in an online program, you will receive a syllabus packet prior to classes starting. This may be a week or two in advance and contains the material that will be covered during the course and any important dates, such as due dates for major papers or exams. The syllabus will also outline how grades are calculated. In this syllabus, it is wise to keep an eye out for a participation grade. Most online courses have a message board where students can converse about material and study together. Many times, this message board is a participation grade and a reflection that students are actively studying material and moving along at a steady pace in terms of learning course objectives. There will also be one or two major exams, and depending on the class, one or more major papers. All of these things vary by class and by school and will be outlined appropriately in the syllabus issued at the beginning of the course. This also gives you time to assess your own schedule and begin to divide your time between school and other obligations such as work and family.

For new online students, it can take time to adjust to courses. It is for this reason it’s suggested you take one or two classes to get a feel for how online classes work and to adjust your schedule, so you have enough time to work on each class.

Do Online Schools Offer Financial Aid?

Online schools offer financial aid and payment plans for students who cannot pay the bulk of tuition all at once. This is just as with traditional schools and for payment plans, students are required to pay so much bi-weekly, monthly, or per semester. This varies based on the cost of the program, and some schools take into consideration a student’s financial status. Payments are often based on a student’s income, although the sum total of tuition is still paid by end of the payment plan. When you schedule a meeting with an academic advisor, you can also inquire about financial aid. Many online schools offer financial aid and are willing to work with students on a limited budget. Usually, all financial aid is required to be paid back beginning after the student graduates. For example, if you are enrolling in an online MBA program and qualify for financial aid, you will be required to start paying that money back after completing the MBA. Whether you attend school full time or part time does not matter.

Are Top Online University Reviews Worth Researching?

Reviews for online universities are definitely worth exploring because they give you an idea of what schools are known for different programs. You can also read student reviews and what their individual experiences were at various online schools. During your research you will notice there are many schools that are continuously mentioned as providing students with ample resources and support while attending an online program. Because online programs require disciplined students who take initiative, it is important a school does everything it can to provide students with adequate aid and resources. If not, a student can quit a program due to lack of support. Schools with high dropout rates should not be considered for online degrees. A decade ago, students had very limited choices when it came to choosing an online school. Now there are many reputable schools to choose from, including online programs from traditional schools with household names. Because of this, there’s no reason any student should settle on a program or a school. Take your time to explore your options carefully and remember that accreditation is key for any online degree program.

What if My Online School Isn’t One of the Top Online Universities Reviewed?

If your prospective school is not on any big list, do not worry. This does not mean it isn’t an accredited institution or that the professors are not experienced. Remember there are hundreds of online degree programs out there. There’s no official source for reviewing or ranking these online schools, so many are bound to be left out. Do your homework when checking out online schools. If the school is accredited and has an experienced team of people working in your department, you are likely in good hands.

Your school’s name may not appear on a high profile rankings list or review site, but it is doing its job in the right departments and that’s what matters most when obtaining a degree of any sort. You want a school that is qualified and looking to see students succeed by doing everything they can to assist students on their academic journey. Talk to the academic advisor about the school’s standings and try to ask former or current students about their experience. If students are happy and willing to share their stories, you will have a solid understanding of what this experience could mean for your online education experience and career growth.

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