The Struggle to Find Acceptance for Online Course Delivery

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More colleges are offering psychology courses and full psychology degree programs online. While just a handful of universities offered such programs a few years ago, now it is rare to find a college that doesn’t offer online subject courses. Colleges have embraced the idea of distance learning and the ability to serve a greater number of students without investing time and faculty presence for a traditional class. If you are hesitant about taking an online class or doing your degree online, then kindly read on for a bit more info about this rapidly growing trend.

Most face-to-face classes at an average-sized college cap out at about 30 students. The same class offered online could serve as many as 60 students, doubling the standard number. Students taking online courses are still required to pay tuition, purchase books, complete coursework, and complete assessments – the same as students in a traditional class. However, the most common question that plagues the minds of potential online learners is “Is my online degree worth as much or is it as ‘real’ as one from attending college in the traditional face-to-face manner?”

[showmyads]It would stand to reason that with so many colleges and universities offering online degrees that this is a moot question. Yet, even with prestigious schools such as Seton Hall and Howard University offering online degrees, there is still a lingering belief that online colleges and degrees aren’t as valuable or as ‘real’ as those received sitting in a classroom – even if the same school confers a degree from an online program to one candidate and another to a candidate who attended face-to-face classes. The general impression is that online programs are ‘easier’ and less comprehensive in scope.  Additionally, there is the thought that online degrees are simply bought and not earned; that the online programs are less regulated by the accreditation organizations, so getting a degree from one of these programs is just a matter of paying the right amount and then getting your degree.

However, these assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth. Students involved with online learning are subject to the same requirements as students attending a traditional program. Online learners experience the same, if not more, rigor due to the fact that the don’t have the benefit of being in a face-to-face setting so they are more responsible for finding answers to their questions and finding help when it is needed. It is also essential for online students to have superlative time management skills as they don’t have the reminders that students in a face-to-face setting may receive. Finally, because of the accreditation process, online programs are reviewed in the same way as face-to-face programs. While there are unaccredited online programs, those that are reputable will make sure all prospective students are aware of their accreditation status.

The academic stage where online college degrees make the most sense is at the PhD level. However, this is the level where potential candidates meet the most resistance regarding future career paths, particularly in higher education. There is a definite prejudice in most academic arenas against advanced degrees from an online program. While there are usually other reasons cited, such as less rigorous and less comprehensive programs, the truth of the matter is that many persons in higher education feel that graduates of online programs simply haven’t “paid their dues” working as a graduate teaching assistant or research assistant and living as a starving student while writing one’s dissertation. Yet, with fewer students financially able to career track as a student through to the completion of a PhD, more doctoral graduates will be coming from online programs. At some point, higher education will have to become more accepting of online PhD graduates, most likely out of sheer necessity due to the low number of graduates from traditional, face-to-face programs.

As technology allows us to “travel” to almost anywhere in the virtual world, more students will be interested in taking university coursework online. Because of the convenience and accessibility of online courses, students will feel more in control of their learning and they will have more options in their educational paths. Eventually, students will not even consider whether or not their degree will be seen as valid based solely on where the degree was obtained and the delivery method used.  As in the past, educational institutions will adapt to the changes affecting them and use those changes to benefit all learners.


Sameer Bhatia is the founder of ), which provides course development software to businesses, educators and students.  *

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