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Distance Degree Programs - Finding the Best Distance Degree Programs - What is a Distance Degree Program?

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Distance learning has been around in the U.S. for over 100 years. The first distance degree programs were based on mail correspondence, while technology progression allowed two-way audio and one-way video classes in the mid-20th century. With the advent of the internet, distance degree programs really took off, and now, they are an acceptable form of higher education hosted by some of the top colleges and universities in the country. As computer technology advances, full, media-rich, live, distance degree programs can provide everything that traditional degree classes can provide and a lot more. As a word of caution to prospective students, contrary to popular belief, the distance degree programs of today are often more difficult and more comprehensive that traditional classroom instruction.

What is a Distance Degree Program?

Distance degree programs are a method of participating in required college-level courses for a one of the many accredited degrees: Associates, Bachelors, Masters, and the PhD. Coursework is taught through a variety of media, usually delivered via online computer connections and computer multimedia systems. Types of media may include text reading, streaming or downloadable audio and/or video lectures, audio/video/texts delivered via CDs, live text chat, live audio and video conferences, email, telephone, and special programs aired on local cable TV channels.

Distance degree programs were once taken by those who, for one reason or another, could not reach a traditional campus. Today, distance learning is used mainly because of its flexibility. Those who hold regular jobs or those who are required to travel are often not available during regular class times. Distance learning, with some exceptions, can be done around a person’s already-existing schedule.

Choosing an Institution for a Distance Degree Program

Finding a good institution offering distance degree programs can be a tricky process. The biggest problem is that there are fake colleges and universities offering worthless classes and degrees. These institutions are known as “diploma mills” and are the bane of legitimate educators everywhere. Diploma mills put out a good sell. They make it seem like you can earn your degree with a minimum of effort and time. Some of them do not even ask you to attend classes. They give you a diploma simply for paying a fee based on your “life experiences.” Any institution that makes claims such as these should be avoided. The degrees they provide are worthless. You could put the degree on a resume, but once a potential employer investigates it, it will hurt you more than help you.

There is one sure way to determine the legitimacy of an online, degree-granting institution, and that is to verify their accreditation. While many diploma mills put forth a fake accrediting agency from which they have accredited, these can be verified easily. All legitimate colleges and universities are accredited by a regional accrediting agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education. Contacting either of these organizations will give you a definitive answer as to the legitimacy of any educational organization.

Establishing accreditation should not be the only criteria for choosing a school offering distance degree programs. It can also be helpful to find out how long the college or university has been in operation and how long they have been offering distance education courses. For both of these questions, longer is better. Schools that have been offering distance classes for fifteen years or more will have the experience to overcome any shortcomings.

Another factor to consider is the student-to-teacher ratio. If there are too many students in the class, the availability of the professor or the instructor will be so low as to be a detriment to learning the material. An excellent ratio is 10:1 or lower, but 10:1 to 20:1 is good, too, and 20:1 to 30:1 is acceptable.

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