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The value and convenience of an online  degree program is undeniable. As technological advancements allow for more integrated and sophisticated programs, elite universities are beginning to develop online programs at an increased rate.

Though this is the best time ever to consider such programs, know that each one is not created equal. Students have a bigger pool of online programs to choose from every year, so using discretion and being very selective is imperative to finding a quality program. Here are five things to look for when evaluating an online degree program:

1.     Reputation

The first thing you should look for in any online degree program is whether or not the university has a solid reputation for being top-quality and legitimate. This sounds obvious, but it is important to ensure you aren’t tricked into enrolling at a Diploma Mill. These low-quality or sometimes even phony institutions are infamous for tricking students, so make sure your degree is coming from a university that has been accredited by one of the six regional accrediting organizations.

2.     Interactivity/Technology

If you are committing to an online program, you want to make sure that the technology you will be using is state-of-the-art and that you won’t simply be logging on to Blackboard and anonymously responding to a prompt.

Many programs take advantage of the latest web communication and database technology to create virtual classrooms that will provide a level of interactivity and engagement with the professor and fellow students that wouldn’t even be possible on campus.

3.     Accolades

If you are still unsure about a particular online degree program after reviewing its curriculum and touring its interface, you should look no further for reassurance than to actual student testimonials and official rankings. An admissions representative will most likely tell you what you want to hear, but students who have completed the program and ranking bodies, such as the US News and World Report college rankings, will tell it like it is.

Having a ranked program ensures prestige, but having student testimonial gives a peace of mind that many schools cannot offer.

4.     Career Prospects

The primary reason to pursue a degree online (undergraduate or graduate) is to advance one’s career. A common misconception with online programs is that you will be forced to sacrifice the opportunity to network with fellow students and that you will not graduate with the same career resources or opportunities as on-campus students. You will want to make sure you select a program that puts these misconceptions to rest.

5.     Community

Last but not least is ensuring that you will enjoy a strong sense of community and camaraderie with faculty and students in the online degree program you choose. Something that has traditionally been absent in online education is a sense that you truly are part of the university’s culture and will enjoy an experience close to that of an on-campus student.

Finding the right online degree program can be challenging. Keep this list in mind during your search and you will find a technologically superior program that gives you a level of interactivity and potential that you never knew possible.

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