Getting a US degree is something a lot of people dream of, and is a tool that could open many doors at home and abroad. US schools are also at the forefront of online education. What this means is that anybody, anywhere, can get a US degree without having to leave home. In this article, we’re going to look at a few reasons why getting an online US degree makes so much sense for international students, and a few tips for those considering the option.
The biggest advantage of online programs is how convenient and flexible they are. Let’s say you’d like to advance your career as a social worker and get a masters in social work, but would still like to keep your position. Universities like the University of Florida would allow you to get your online MSW part time, so you could still continue working and get your new qualifications. Their courses take around 3 years on average to complete, but the workload is alleviated in order to give students more space to breathe. This is the perfect choice if you’re a busy professional or have family obligations.
Another thing that surprises a lot of people is the sense of proximity that online programs offer. You’d expect that being hundreds of miles away from the school you’re attending would be an issue, but the teaching format actually makes it easier for students and teachers to connect.
Students can ask questions directly to the teachers in a non-disruptive way. This is something that simply wouldn’t be possible in a traditional setting. Teachers also make it easy for students to meet them outside of class. You will usually have the opportunity to contact them when you want through email. Some will give you the option of getting in touch with them through video chat. Having this kind of support can make all the difference.
You won’t be alienated from other students either. Working together on projects is made easy with the tools provided, and by using third party options as well. Some people are actually more comfortable in an online environment, allowing for more free-flowing conversation. And since you’ll be rubbing shoulders with students from all over the globe, you’ll get access to all sorts of different perspectives as well.
Great for Introverts
A lot of people are afraid to leave home because they fear the expectations and social norms of American student life. For many, the transition might be too much. Online degrees completely eliminate the stress of having to be in a completely alien environment with sometimes little to no support.
Many students are better able to flourish when they’re on their own. This allows them to concentrate better and they might be more inclined to ask questions. Others like the autonomy it offers, and like the fact that they don’t have to be stuck to one desk or one place to study. They can study from where they feel the most secure and comfortable, instead of being crammed into a class with 40 other students.
While some online colleges do offer lower tuition costs, it is not always the case. However, there are still many ways students end up saving. For one, they don’t have to worry about moving or transportation, and also, they don’t have to worry about campus costs. There is no need to have lunch at the cafeteria, and no need for expensive manuals either. Many will also accept free MOOCs as credits, so that’s another way that you could save.
Opportunity for Advancement
If you were interested in advancing your career, then online classes are a great choice too. Since you’ll have the chance to keep your position, you’ll be able to get your credentials without skipping a beat. And you’ll end up with a degree from a prestigious US university, which could open doors for you all over the world.
Challenges Facing International Students in Online Programs
Now that we know some of the reasons why online programs are such a great option for international students, it’s important for you to know what challenges you can expect. These programs are better suited for a particular type of personality, and you have to make sure that you have the right disposition to make it. But being prepared will make it less of a shock once you get started. Here are some of the things you have to consider before going for a US online degree.
Dealing with Time Zones
Dealing with time zones might be an issue to some students depending on where they live in the country. While it can be only a few hours, these are still very important to keep track of if you don’t want to miss key assignments. Not only that, but know that you’ll often have to collaborate with people from across the globe, so you’ll have to learn how to keep tabs on everybody’s time when working on projects.
While acceptance of online classes from reputed online universities is widespread, it really depends on where you are. This is why it’s important that you pick the right course from the right college. The school’s reputation will make much more of a difference than whether you got your degree online or not.
Since you will have to interact with American students, overcoming cultural barriers might be a challenge. This can be difficult for any type of student, but can be worse when you haven’t even stepped foot in the country before, or only have a faint idea about American culture.
Some students have said that they had difficulty during things like group chat sessions. For instance, it could be difficult for students to keep track of what others are saying when they start using very American references. Things like fraternities, homecoming, or even the concept of a valedictorian might be completely foreign to you, but integral to US college life. The only way to overcome this is try to immerse yourself as much as you can in US culture and start joining communities where US students congregate.
English Writing Skills
US online classes rely a lot on writing, and while some people may have been taught how to speak the language very well, they aren’t as good when writing it. This is why you’ll need to make a clear assessment of your writing skills, so get some help if needed. If you already have a foundation, you could enroll in an English preparation class to improve your writing and bring it up to par.
Things to Consider When Picking an Online Course
It’s also important to know that not all online classes are created equal. Some schools will have more resources than others, and others will barely be schools at all.
Just having a degree from a US university will not make you competent and a desirable candidate. You have to make sure that you do your research on the institution, their approach to learning, and their reputation. Here are some of the things you’ll have to look at when picking an online program.
This is the very first thing you’ll have to look at when picking a college. Just because an institution has the word “University” in it, doesn’t mean that it will be recognized anywhere.
The US doesn’t have a single organization that ranks universities. You may see some rankings online, but none are official. Also, colleges have a lot of autonomy, and there is minimal oversight over their programs. This is why the accreditation system is so important.
Accrediting bodies are responsible for making sure that online courses abide by a certain standard. But it also allows institutions to show that they offer world class quality courses that will actually get recognition.
Know that online courses can be accredited at the regional or national level. In most cases, when people ask if you went to an accredited college, they usually mean by a regional accrediting body. So, you have to make sure that they are regionally accredited first. When it comes to online classes, you should also pay special attention to DETC, ACICS, and ACCSC accreditation, which are national accrediting bodies.
While these will give you an idea of the quality of the program, national accreditation does have its limits. For instance, some regional schools will not accept credentials earned through a nationally accredited school. Some employers may also hold regionally accredited degrees to a higher regard.
You also want to know how much experience the school has at teaching online classes specifically. While some universities may be very prestigious, they may have just gotten into online education, and some are more convincing in their efforts than others.
So, you have to check out what kind of technology they’re using, and how dedicated they are to online education. You don’t want to go to a school that is just dabbling in online education to attract more students. You should also make sure that you inform yourself on the teachers’ experience, as not all will have a teaching style that will transfer well to an online setting.
The learning environment could also make or break your chances of success. This is why it’s important that you pay special attention to this as well. The tools they offer don’t only have to be state of the art, but easy to navigate and intuitive. Also, you have to make sure that they have things like mobile access if you ever have to reach material from a mobile device for some reason.
Make Sure that You’ll Have the Support Needed
Since you’ll be miles away from campus, you have to make sure that you’ll have a proper support system in place. Some of the things you should be looking for include face to face career management, 24/7 help desk, and tutoring services.
Some colleges will go the extra mile to make sure that online students get the same level of support as anyone on campus. They will set up things like virtual student groups, or give students access to an advisor. Make sure that you check with other students who went through this program as to how much support they felt they were getting from the university.
Is Online Education Even Right for You?
You also have to make sure that online education is something that could work for you. Check if the school offers some sort of assessment test to see if you are a suitable candidate for online education. You might be the best student in the world, but in some cases, some people are simply not cut out for it.
Do you have the discipline, self-direction, and motivation to work on your own all the time? Are you good with setting deadlines for yourself and following through? Are you even able to concentrate on a lecture when you have so many sources of distraction around you?
One of the most important traits for online learning is time management skills. Online courses give you the chance to study from wherever you want, and sometimes, whenever you want. This could both be a gift and a curse. If you’re a constant procrastinator and can’t seem to set clear goals for yourself and achieve them, then this might not be the best option for you.
You also have to know that you won’t have it any easier than other students. Online courses are just as rigorous as any other, so be prepared to apply the same effort. Courses online are given by actual professors, and their lesson plans will be identical to any other class they teach. The only difference is the way you’ll be communicating with them.
Getting an online degree from a US college could be a great way to advance your career and get prestigious credentials that could open doors for you at home, the US, or anywhere around the globe. Make sure that you look at your options to see if this could be a good choice for you, and get prepared for the challenges of an online education before you start.
The Yucatan Times