(ARA) ? Kids aren?t the only ones getting ready to go back to school. So are some of their parents, and they won?t necessarily be attending classes at a brick and mortar institution. Thousands of adults are now pursuing higher education online.
Debbie Alms, 32, a relationship facilitator for Retek, a software company in Minneaopolis, Minn., is among them. She already has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of North Dakota, but is now pursuing an MBA at Jones International University to enhance her career.
?I decided to pursue a degree on line for a number of reasons,? says Alms. ?Flexibility is one of them. I can still work and I like not having to report to class at a certain time on a certain day. I do a lot of my course work at night and on weekends, so I didn?t have to turn my life upside down to advance my education." Alms has been working towards her degree for the past three years. She is about half way through the program.
Just ten years ago, online learning was something new. Today, about 95 percent of universities offer it. So how do you make sure the school you choose will be the right one for you? Pamela Pease, president of Jones International University (JIU) says there are a number of factors you should take into consideration.
?Accreditation is perhaps the most important thing to consider because it is thought of as a seal of approval,? says Pease, whose school is the nation?s first fully accredited all on-line university. ?It means your institution has been scrutinized by an outside body that has determined it meets certain educational standards.?
If you take classes at a school that doesn?t have accreditation, Pease says the chances are good your credits will not be transferable if you later decide to change schools and pursue your degree elsewhere.
You should also ask questions about the faculty members. ?It?s really important to make sure they have the credentials appropriate for the level they are teaching,? says Pease. She recommends that all instructors teaching at the master?s level have a Ph.D., and those teaching at the bachelor?s level have at least a master?s degree.
?You should also ask questions about accessibility. If teachers aren?t going to be available over the phone or by email to answer questions and offer assistance when you need them, it?s probably not the school for you.?
Asking questions about the services students will receive is also a good idea. ?The students need to make sure they will be supported,? says Pease. ?Will someone be available to answer their questions, to provide academic counseling, and to assist with job placement? Can someone tell you how many people have graduated from the program and then used their degree to enhance their careers??
Looking into the school?s technical requirements is also important. At JIU, students are advised to have a 56K modem and computer that has at least 256 megs of memory. ?That?s about the average for today?s consumer machine, so our requirements shouldn?t shut anyone out,? says Pease.
Once you have all of those questions answered, you need to take the time to consider costs, Jones International charges $1500 per course in its MBA program, $1025 for each undergraduate class, and it?s pay as you go. ?You really shouldn?t have to pay for more than just the course or courses you?re taking at the current time,? says Pease, who warns students to be wary of institutions that require you to pay for everything up front. ?If you decide to quit, you may not be able to get your money back.?
Recent JIU graduate Irene Leung says she did a lot of research before deciding where to pursue her degree in conflict management, and it paid off. ?It was a tremendous experience,? says Leung. ?I appreciated the flexibility the most. I was able to log on and complete my course work while traveling across the world to seal business deals, and professors were always available to answer any questions I had.?
Leung is the executive vice president of Tiara International, an importer of novelty knitware. Her company sells products made in China and Hong Kong to department stores, boutiques and specialty stores here in the United States.
To learn more about what Jones International University has to offer, log onto www.jonesinternational.edu or call (800)811-5663.
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