Would you consider doing an online masters degree?

By | September 24, 2009

If it’s legitimate… and we’ve all seen the ads promising MAs and Ph.Ds for just signing your name… when universities start providing online courses, sometimes it’s difficult to separate the pretenders from the real deal. In fact, so few traditional schools do online education because of quality concerns for the students’ education. Many traditionalists feel that face-to-face interaction is what determines the quality of an ‘education’.

However, the Online master degree proves elusive and attractive to those who are interested in returning to school for a professional level qualification. Why? The costs of doing a full-time course for many are prohibitive, while the time and relocation requirements make it almost impossible if the prospective candidates are full-time workers and/or parents. The non-synchronous nature of online educational systems (like Moodle) mean that students can study at their own schedule, join classrooms when they need to, and coordinate their study around their lives.

To that end, universites and colleges like Gonzaga University can and increasingly do offer online equivalent degrees for those willing to stump up the change and time. But how do you know the school you are considering is reputable? How do you know if it’s not just another paper-mill. Take the following test:

  • 1. Does the school have a real campus with real students that you can visit in the United States?
  • 2. Does the school have accreditation by the same organisations that accredit top universities?
  • 3. Does the program you are considering have reputable professors and lecturers who have published in relevant journals and books?
  • 4. Is the degree course relevant to your career? Would colleagues or bosses consider a degree (of any mode) from that particular school a bona fide measure of your professionalism?
  • 5. How does the university/department/course rank nationally or regionally, both in campus and online mode?

There are other questions you could ask as well, but answers to these might be sufficient to determine whether you can consider a particular school for your subject or not.