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15/03/2013

Online Degrees-What to look out for when enrolling for an online degree.

The higher education industry is changing; and opportunities are opening up in colleges and universities. Workers who were too busy, did not have enough money, or were in far flung areas can now enroll for additional degrees, thanks to the explosion of the number of online courses offered. Kenyatta University and Mount Kenya University-MKU- particularly seem to be in the frontlines of enrolling students in the online degree courses. However, before you enroll for the online courses, here are a few pitfalls you might want to look out for.

1. Realize that many employers still have a hard time accepting online degrees.
Just like online dating has still not been embraced by many Kenyans, so too is online education. Your future employer will still have a hard time figuring how you attended classes without a lecturer being physically present, or how you did exams without someone actually supervising you. Granted, any ambitious student could read on their own and still get the knowledge required to perform a particular task. Programmers for example, pretty much code on their own, even without a valid Computer Science or IT degree. However,
what schools and universities do is ‘credentialing’, i.e proving to the employer that you actually attended classes, and got the skills- in this case measured in terms of grades. So, at least in the initial stages, be ready to meet blank stares from hiring managers and recruiters when you explain that you got your degree, diploma, or certificate online.

2. Realize that online education is suited for some courses and not others.
There are some courses where one to one interaction with the teacher or instructor is of vital importance. For example, a teacher would be indispensable for a successful lab experiment, something that an online degree wouldn’t confer. Sure, there are online learning aids such as the Khan Academy, or Coursera, which have done a pretty good job in online education, but the importance of a teacher or instructor, cannot be overemphasized. An online degree in business or an Arts program would probably be more acceptable, than say an online degree in a science or engineering discipline.

In Summary.
Whereas we all go to school to gain papers and academic knowledge, the interaction with fellow students is what influences our lives most. Interacting with individuals from diverse backgrounds, many of whom are already talented in so many other different fields, opens a student’s world in so many ways. Perhaps, this is the great disadvantage of online education, in that it doesn’t foster an interaction between students, between students and lecturers. So, perhaps, the best gauge of the quality of an online degree programme is to ask the university admission officers the frequency with which you will interact with fellow students and faculty offline.

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