Being unprepared for taking classes online can lead to consequences einalem/Flickr


There is no doubt about it—online learning is awesome! It provides a world of opportunity for students who otherwise could not easily access a college education. But there are some ugly truths about taking classes online that students need to be aware of before they register.


Work Load

In a traditional classroom, students can choose when they wish to participate in discussions. If they feel they have nothing significant to add or, dare I say, they didn’t get through all of the reading for that class period, they can stay silent, yet still learn from what their professor and peers contribute.


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Dakota State University LogoHow would you like to earn an online degree from a respected university without touching a computer? You can, using Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software through a special adaptive learning program offered by Dakota State University online.


The Larson Foundation in Brookings, South Dakota, has awarded a generous grant to Assistant Professor Chris Olson (who is a quadriplegic) allowing him to develop a series of voice-narrated tutorial videos for the online college course CSC-105-D31 (01467) Introduction to Computers. This online college course, targeted at students with access issues or disabilities and their counselors, will be offered through Dakota State University in the summer of 2014 (May 19 through August 8, 2014).


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Leaders of online group projects build workplace skills ijerf/Flickr


Online group projects (OGPs) can be very stressful and students often cite them as one of their top complaints. It’s not so much that your instructor wants to torture you—in fact, as a graduate student, I’ve learned there are great benefits to participating in group projects online. Don’t dread your next group project. Instead, look to OGPs as fertile training grounds to build critical leadership skills you’ll use in the workplace later.


3 Lessons on Building Leadership Skills


1. Don’t Wait for Anyone to Fix Your Problems


Part of the reason online universities assign group projects is to help working students master the art of teamwork. For projects to be successful someone needs to step up and lead the group. Why not you?


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Studying for an Open Book Test Darice/Flickr

When I first started graduate school as an online student, I remember three words that I thought would make my semester a piece of cake: Open. Book. Test.


While many online courses feature proctored exams taken at local test centers, other classes use open book or note exams instead. Terrific! No need to study ahead of time. Open book test means “easy A,” right?


Sadly, I found this was NOT the case. Although having my textbooks and notes available during online exams proved helpful, many of my open book tests were just as hard as the in-class tests I had taken during my undergraduate career.


If you’re an online student, or looking to become one soon, don’t dismiss an open book exam as easy to ace. Having an open textbook is great, but here are three big reasons why you need to study for an open book test.


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The Best MOOCs Take You Right Inside the Classsroom Prima Vista/Flickr

Remember all those “cool” courses you could never fit into your degree plan? The same ones everyone told you would never lead to a high-paying job or a reliable career?


My ideal college major would have been one part political science, two scoops nutrition and a heap of fashion merchandising with a dash of web design. In reality, to graduate on time with a coveted bachelor’s degree, I had to clock most of my hours working on major course requirements.


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Use These 8 Free Resources to Learn to Code GavinMusic/Flickr

The number of learn to code online resources has grown exponentially, and for good reason—web developer is #10 on CareerBuilder’s list of the best-paying jobs of the 21st century! The good news? A computer science degree isn’t necessary to snag a coveted coding job. Most employers look for proof of technical chops in the form of completed projects rather than a piece of paper issued by a college.


Below are eight sites that offer a wealth of information to give you a solid understanding of HTML, CSS, jQuery, Javascript and more. The best part: they’re totally free! Mix and match courses from different sites, and then show off your new talent by building a sample website, mobile app or interactive game.


We can’t wait to see what you create!


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Teach Online With These 5 Best Mobile Apps World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr

Ah, the life of an online teacher. Just because you’re going on a family or work trip doesn’t mean you get to take a recess from class. In fact, it’s just the opposite: wherever you go, you have to make sure you can teach online.


It’s not just about uploading your assignments and updating gradebooks, either. When you’re an online teacher, you have to remain available to answer questions about coursework for ALL your students.


I discovered this first-hand over Labor Day weekend, when my wife, daughter and I spent a five-day trip in New Mexico visiting family. We enjoyed traveling, but there was one nagging detail…we were staying in a place with no Internet (gasp!).


What to do?
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Competency-Based Learning Requires Focus and Determination |Chris|/Flickr

You may have read the story of Zach Sherman, a 21-year-old janitor in Ohio who earned his competency-based online associate degree in 100 days. Sherman speed-studied his way through two years of college to earn his degree online in about three months as opposed to the traditional two years.


Sounds great, eh?


Competency-based learning programs promise students faster, cheaper college credentials. But that promise is not always met. Buyers beware: choosing a competency-based degree program can represent a costly step toward college failure.


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Find the Best Research Sites for Statistics on Non-Traditional College Students Newman University/Flickr

Once upon a time, the majority of American college students were too young to request a credit card in their own name. But, hey, that was a long time ago—back in the pre-Internet days of higher education.


Today, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that the vast majority of higher ed students—73 percent, in fact—fit under the non-traditional college student umbrella.


Non-traditional students have changed the face of higher education. The rise of this new college majority is driving innovation online and on residential campuses. Life experience degrees, corporate universities and prior learning assessment (PLA) all have roots in the market demand for a new type of college—one that is built for and responsive to the adult learner.


Below are my favorite sites for statistics, research and news about this emerging college majority. Want to get educated about the demands of non-traditional college students, both on campus and online? Visit these sites.


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Learn How to Teach Online and Still Travel the World nerissa’s ring/Flickr

Teaching online offers the convenience of working from home. However, it also offers the convenience of working from anywhere in the world that has a reliable Internet connection. As soon as I secured work as an online teacher, my motto became “Have Internet card, will travel!”


I started traveling often and far in 2011. That’s when I also began mastering the critical elements of teaching online while traveling. Below are my six rules for how to teach online and travel the world. Follow these rules and you too can keep teaching full time without ever missing a class, e-mail, meeting or paycheck.


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Faculty Harbor Negative Attitudes Toward MOOCs katiew/Flickr

Skepticism about massive open online courses reigns supreme in higher education, according to the latest findings about faculty attitudes toward online learning.


These massive open courses, more popularly known as MOOCs, are the bright new stars in the education world.


But research from Inside Higher Ed’s 2013 Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology indicates America’s educators aren’t so keen on MOOCs.


The Inside Higher Ed survey sought to understand how faculty members and educational technology leaders use online learning and new technologies, such as MOOCs and learning management systems, in delivering course content.


Their findings revealed skepticism about the value of these courses, even if hosted by a university.


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Find Cheap Textbooks in Used Bookstores and Online Wesley Fryer/Flickr

Textbooks are not getting cheaper, but resourceful students can still save money on required reads for their online degree.


Below are seven easy ways to find cheap textbooks and beat one of the most costly college expenses.


7 Ways to Find Cheap College Textbooks


1. Used Textbook Stores

Campus bookstores sell used books at reduced prices, but they aren’t the only game in town. Used textbook stores often spring up near colleges. Don’t live near a university? Look online, where numerous retailers also sell used textbooks.

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For Online Student Success, Use Best Practices in Distance Learning PJMixer/Flickr

College students arrive in online degree programs with varying levels of competencies, but success in higher education requires many different skills.


In addition to the basics, such as numeracy and literacy, certain soft skills associated with virtual work, including adaptability and teamwork, are critical to online student success. Distance learning students must also master technical skills, such as using computer platforms and Internet systems, to function effectively in school.


Below, I highlight five best practices in distance learning that will help online students develop the skills necessary for success. Schools that adopt these selected best practices will see students experience greater levels of success and online engagement.

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American University School of Communications rates “digital media” among the top 10 high demand careers based on job ads placed from 2009 to the present. The message: get educated in digital and social media and get hired. The problem: finding a reputable university for digital and social media education education online.


By enrolling in American University’s program, students can tap the power and prestige of one of America’s top residential communication schools to earn a 15-credit graduate digital media certificate online.


Professionals concerned about reputation will find no better place to master digital media online than American University. Founded in 1891 and accredited by the Middle States, AU is an established university with a record of excellence in communication and media studies.


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For-Profit Colleges Offer Discounted Online Degrees on Sale jcolman/Flickr

Why pay $70,000 for a business degree from the University of Phoenix Online when you can get the same degree delivered to your desktop for only $17,000 from the University of Wyoming online?


Non-profit colleges are offering online degrees in escalating numbers. And non-profit colleges cost a lot less than their for-profit peers. (Check out my data tables on affordable online degrees for real comparative cost information.)


Wall Street analysts have begun referring to the online education sector as “overweight.” Too many colleges, offering too much product. Worse still, most online colleges look identical to students.


Too much undifferentiated product heralds price competition.


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Georgia Tech Offers MOOCs | Geeks Working Sign EvanLovely/Flickr

I recently complained that the MOOC party animals (aka: Udacity, Coursera and Udemy) would not be the ones to help drive down the cost of a college degree.


Turns out I was wrong about that.




Georgia Tech, in partnership with Udacity, wants to offer a massive open online course-based online computer science master’s to 10,000 tech students. AT&T is underwriting the massive online degree experiment in hopes of finding more affordable ways to increase the national brain pool of computer scientists.


Estimated price of the massive online computer science degree: $7,000.


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Jonathan Haber is Using a Laptop to Earn a One Year Degree illustir (flickr)

I wanted to thank Vicky Phillips for introducing Get Educated readers to my Degree of Freedom One-Year BA project, and thought it would be worth stopping by to describe what I’m doing in more detail (especially since much of it may be relevant to others interested in independent learning).


Degree of Freedom is a one-year degree experiment where I try to replicate a four-year liberal arts degree program by using only free online learning tools.


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Take MOOCs for Free College Degree | Free Your Mind Sign TheDarkThing/Flickr

Last week Jonathan Haber, an ed blogger, decided to spend the rest of this year taking MOOCs that correspond to the college courses required to earn a traditional bachelor’s degree in philosophy.


Go, Jonathan. Three cheers for low-cost online learning.


College equivalency credit for autodidactic learning is not new. In fact, a handful of accredited online colleges are founded on this very idea. The shocking thing is how many people in the media think credit for self-learning is a radical new (and scary) idea.

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Professor Rating Sites ntr23 (flickr)

Have you ever searched or a similar site to see how your students rank you? The results can be enlightening—or disheartening.


I recently received the following comment: “Worst Professor, i ever had. Avoid him.” The problem with this bad review? It was posted under a school I haven’t taught at in years. A disgruntled student simply wanted to criticize me and used any method possible.


As an online teacher, what can you do about bad reviews on professor rating sites?


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Time Management Strategies For Online College Students Doesn't Include Watching Cat Videos doistrakh (flickr)

We are all guilty of it: cyber dawdling. It begins innocently enough, usually with one amusing cat video. Before you know it, you’ve cyberstalked your high school sweetheart, pinned 25 images on Pinterest and have nothing to show for your study break.


While it’s natural to take a breather from online coursework, smart students use their out-of-class time to fulfill career or educational goals. Below are five (free!) time management strategies for online college students. Use them to make the most of your out-of-class online time. Each one is guaranteed to offer a longer-term payback than another crazy cat video.


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Tips for Success in Online Courses Include Finding a Private Study Area – Annetta – (flickr)

When adults—especially moms and dads—think about going back to school, many see no way to squeeze college into their hectic routines. But it is possible—and we’re here with tips for success in online courses.


Attending college online helps with that time crunch. Not having to commute to a campus saves adult students several hours per week. These stolen hours can then be applied to home study time.


Truth is, the average working American has about 30 hours of free time per week.


That’s right: 30 hours.


The key is learning how to manage your time tightly.


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You Might Feel Like You Need a Megaphone to Help With Your Elearning Communication Issues
floeschie (flickr)

If you’re in an elearning environment, you’ve likely faced some tricky communication issues. Elearning communication is rather different from face-to-face interaction and requires a unique approach.


Are you ready for more effective online communication? Let’s take a look at how you can solve some of the most common elearning issues and succeed at online education.


Top 5 Elearning Communication Problems and Solutions


Issue 1:  No Visual Cues


Lacking any visual cues is one of the biggest communication issues you’ll encounter in an elearning environment. Without the benefits of body language—a smile, a frown, tone of voice—it can be easy to misinterpret a message from your tutor, professor or other students. And since everyone must communicate without the usual visual cues, other people might get the wrong impression from your messages, too.

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Educators Can Make Their Presentations More Interesting With Elearning Audio gavinr (flickr)

If you’re an online instructor, you can easily make your courses more engaging with elearning audio snippets. Adding sound to a course is simple, and you likely have the free audio tools you need right at your fingertips.


Most computers have onboard microphones and web cameras that work extremely well. Worst-case scenario, you may need to spend a few dollars for a headset and microphone if you don’t already own a set.


Using your headset, microphone and one of several free audio tools, you can easily record and upload sound files to a course management system or website. You don’t have to be too tech savvy, either. Most audio recording programs are equatable to downloading an application or signing into a website.


Interested in learning more? Here are my top 10 free elearning audio programs for adding sound to your online classes.
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Mobile Learning Apps Make Studying Easier for Online (flickr)

It’s only been two years since I took my last online course, but this time around I have a new tool – my smartphone. It’s completely changed how I study on the go, thanks to an arsenal of free or low-cost mobile learning apps.


Call me a dinosaur, but when I started taking online classes in 2006, the iPhone didn’t exist. I didn’t even get an Android smartphone until a year AFTER I graduated!


This fall, I began my second foray into distance learning with Morehead State University’s online MBA program. This time around, I’m using my smartphone.


I didn’t know what I was missing. I’ve found that mobile learning apps make it easier than ever to keep up with coursework, whether I’m at home or rambling down the road. So far, I’ve found five apps to be particularly helpful for mobile learning. Here’s my personal list.

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Online Course Design | Teaching Students with DisabilitiesThe National Center on Education Statistics estimates that up to 11% of students in higher education have a diagnosed disability. These disabilities may be physical such as visual or auditory impairment, or may stem from biological processing problems that interfere with the ability of a student to process some types of information.


Unfortunately, many instructors don’t take this into account when it comes to online course design. According to a Wichita State University study, as many as 80% of all online instructors do not consider the needs of students with disabilities when designing or instructing their courses despite the high percentage of post-secondary students with disabilities.


The reasons for this oversight are varied. In my experience, instructors can become overwhelmed by the sheer number of potential disabilities present in a classroom. Attempting to tailor course design for teaching students with disabilities and accommodating a variety of learning styles can seem a daunting task. Additionally, many instructors are under the mistaken assumption that assistive technologies such as text-to-speech software automatically place students with learning disabilities on a level playing field with other students in the online classroom. In reality, online courses are rarely set up to maximize the effectiveness of these assistive accommodations.


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Editor’s Note:  2011 saw the launch of America’s first gay online high school. In this blog entry, Kim Fountain, PhD., a cultural anthropologist and Executive Director of the RU12 Community Center in Vermont, reviews the history of education for LGBTQ youth and argues in favor of separate safe places for LGBTQ youth to learn. While some may question the need for separate but equal educational spaces for gays, Kim, who was present for the opening of Harvey Milk, the first gay-friendly public high school in NYC in 2003, argues in favor of the benefits of online education  – both online high school and college programs for queers worldwide.


Online Gay High School Offers New Safe Haven for LGBTQ Youth


Harvey Milk and the Call for Gay High School Opportunities


LGBTQ Youth Parade | Harvey Milk Gay High School

In 2003, I was part of a welcoming crowd that ushered in America’s first freshman class of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth and their friends at the opening of the newly accredited Harvey Milk High School in New York City.


Many of these youth chose to attend a LGBTQ-affirming high school so that they could focus more mental energy on learning, and less on  dealing with homophobic and trans-phobic bullies.


But not everyone wished America’s first gay high school well.


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 Best Online High Schools | Virtual High Schools | Nerd at whiteboard



Earning a high school diploma through distance learning used to be a low prestige undertaking. Not any more. These days America’s top universities — think Stanford and Indiana University — are in  a race to build the best online high schools for gifted students. Moreover, the global appetite for a system of elite virtual high schools appears unlimited. An estimated 275,000 students enrolled in online high schools in 2011 and forecasters predict double digit growth as the decade progresses.


Online learning is 100% portable. Famous online learning alumni who have taken advantage of learning on the go include tennis pro Venus Williams and basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal. Virtual high schools are perfect for youth who travel, such as Olympiads and pro athletes. And the classes can be easily tweaked to support any special needs curriculum, including Advanced Placement (AP) and college prep. Both gifted youth — the Brains — and professional athletes on the go  — the Jocks — are swarming virtual high school quads.


According to the Speak Up Survey from Project Tomorrow, 27 percent of high school youth opted for an online course in  2011.  In 2010, only 13 percent made this same choice. High school students, whose social lives increasingly radiate from digital networks, are in love with virtual learning.


If you’re searching for the best accredited online high schools, the Get Educated editors recommend the following virtual high school programs. All hold regional accreditation — the most widely accepted form of academic accreditation — and all enjoy national reputations as top choices for AP, honors, and college prep online courses.

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stevendepolo (flickr)Online Learning Tools for Small Business Owners | Lemonade Stand

Now there’s a girl that could use some business advice


Entrepreneurs juggle many balls at the same time. Finding the right tools and resources to master necessary skills can save you both time and money in the long run. And there are plenty of online learning tools for small business owners and DIY entrepreneurial types that are 100% free.


As an entrepreneur myself, I understand that the self-employed wear many hats. On any given day, you could be the marketing manager, accountant, secretary, or web designer. Unless you’re a modern day Renaissance man, that means you’re probably going to have to teach yourself how to do a whole lot of new things.


Luckily you can find a host of free online learning resources, apps, and tools to teach you just about anything. Here’s a list of seven particularly useful ones perfect for new small business owners.


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Editor’s Note: This post is an online instructor’s response to an earlier article, 5 Things Students Hate About Online Learning Degrees. Written by online instructor and course designer, Matt Crosslin, this post is part of an ongoing series of conversations between real students and faculty on the quality of online education and learning inside accredited degree programs.

If you teach online, or are enrolled in an online learning program, join the conversation about how online colleges are evolving to meet the quality standards and learning needs of both instructors and students.

betsyweber (flickr)Rock'em sock'em robots show differing opinions on quality of online education and learning

As I read the top student complaints about quality issues in online education, I saw so much that I could relate to about the state of online learning. As an online instructor, I work the front lines and see where changes can be made in online education. And while it is true that there’s plenty of room for improvement in the online learning sphere, and while many online students’ complaints are accurate and valid, not all complaints are what they seem.


After all, there is always another side to a story.


Here are my thoughts, as an online instructor, on the common online student complaints against online courses.


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teacher at blackboard shows how classes were taught before online discussion boardsVelvettangerine (flickr)


It’s been two years since I’ve engaged in online learning, and while some things have changed — newer software, more electronic textbooks,  even the growing popularity of online classes — one thing has remained constant:  the critical role of online discussion boards.


Online instructor Marc Hatten explains in his post on Online Teacher Tough Love why participating in online discussions is such a “big deal” — it is one of the only opportunities (outside of submitting papers) for students in online classes to prove that they’ve been reading the material, and that they actually “get it”.


Over the years, I’ve developed 5 strategies to keep me on track and to help me ace the required discussion portion of my online classes. This fall, as I start my new program, the Morehead State University Online MBA, I am using all 5 of my own online learning tips.


Read on to see my insider’s guide to acing online discussion boards.

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Top Online Colleges for the Socially Progressive from Get Educated Awarded to Goddard College, Burlington College, Warren Wilson College, Antioch University, Union Institute & University, The New School

Attending college in search of truth, that’s like so 1960s. So old hippie. So not what today’s top online colleges are all about. Or is it?


Old hippies and new hipsters, take heart. All online colleges are not alike. If you crave an online education that feeds your social beast, get grooving with the official Get Educated list of top progressive colleges online.


If your educational goal is to make the world a better place — and yourself a better citizen — try college online at one of our editor’s Six Sisters of Intellectual Hope for social progressives.


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Top Online Colleges Library and Information Science Programs

Calling all digital librarians. Does the prospect of earning an online MLIS excite you almost as much a properly cited primary source?  If so, our editors have a new online college list just for you: 4 top online master of library and information science programs.


Our online learning experts reviewed 15 online information science degree programs in search of top contenders. We used six rating dimensions: accreditation, depth of offerings, longevity in e-learning, use of educational technology, progressive curriculum, and the legacy reputation of the residential information science school to select our picks for the top online MLIS degrees.


Only 4 out of the 15 online library science schools our experts reviewed made the official Get Educated “top” honor roll of online degrees for librarians.
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Jeremy Mikkola/flickr"Easy Street" sign | Online teacher reveals online learning tips

Spoiler Alert: Online learning is not going to be Easy Street




Want to attend an online college? That’s great!


You’ve done your research. You know the most common complaints about online learning degrees and you’ve checked your school’s reviews to make sure the program you’ve chosen is a quality one.


But before you dive head-first into an online degree program, you should step back, take a deep breath, and take a cold hard look at your preconceptions about online learning.


I’ve been an online teacher of college students for almost five years, and the one constant I’ve found is that the majority of students who begin online learning are woefully unprepared for the realities of such a difficult undertaking.


Therefore, consider this lesson #1… we’ll call it Tough Love 101, three tips sent to you (with love) from me, a real online teacher, about what it’s really like taking online classes.



3 Online Learning Tips – What to Expect from Online Classes:

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Rob Boudon/flickrUnicorn | Online College Costs | Cheap Online College

The mythical “cheap online college” is hard to find.


Online learning pundits predict that the marriage of educational technology with college learning will result in the birth of a new litter of low-cost or cheap online colleges.


I wish this notion were true.


I wish online education was destined to lower the cost of attending college while also solving the student debt crisis that plagues America.


Instead, surveys show just the opposite – online college costs might actually be higher than residential college costs. The cost of masters degrees, online MBAs especially, are often higher than the equivalent on-campus versions.

Don’t get me wrong. Tying technology to education can indeed lower the cost of delivering college courses. Online learning could, in theory, provide what one Forbes business writer has envisioned as a national system of “cheaper education for the masses.”


It could, but it isn’t.


Real Online College Costs – Not So Cheap

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Glamhag/Wikimedia Commons

Transferring masters programs | Pair of glass slippers

Sometimes the glass slipper just doesn’t fit as well as you’d hoped.


You’ve been accepted into an online masters degree program. Congratulations! But what if you start taking courses, only to discover your chosen online school isn’t such a great fit after all? Instead of living happily-ever-after, you might find yourself transferring masters programs.


Maybe you chose an online masters that looked really interesting to you only to have your situation change mid-program. Suddenly your chosen major looks to be a poor fit. What then? Do you stick it out and finish? Do you just withdraw from college and forget about it? Do you start all over again from scratch?


Or maybe there’s another — and better — option …


The Need-to-Know for Transferring Masters Programs

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An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about students cheating in those free online classes called MOOCs ignited a fireball of blogging last week about how online learning will, once again, be the ruination of all higher education.

Cheating in online classes, online education myths, photo of crib notes
Hariadhi/Wikimedia Commons


The Chronicle article focused on anecdotal evidence that students enrolled in free massive online courses (MOOCs) are plagiarizing their essays in literature courses.


So what’s the problem with online learning this time?


It lacks credibility because it encourages people to cheat.



To which I say: Really?


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Online teacher complaints, student asking question about financial aidUC Davis College of Engineering/flickr


Online learning students often don’t know where to turn when they have questions, so they end up directing them to their online teachers — whether we teachers are qualified to answer them or not.


As a result, I have had students ask me each of the following 8 inappropriate questions in my five years as an online teacher.


Editor’s Note: Online students, read on to learn if you’ve been asking the wrong questions of your teachers, and to learn more about the netiquette of corresponding with your online instructors.

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Students have much to say about what they like and don’t like about online learning faculty: “[I] had to wait too long for assignments to be graded!” “[The instructor] took two days to respond to my email,” or a common one, the assignment instructions weren’t clear.”

 BlackburnPhoto/flickonline student | online faculty | picture of frusturated bear with hand on headr


Sound familiar?


But what about online faculty? Surely, there is another side to this story. What complaints do instructors have about online student behavior?


Now, I don’t mean to suggest that faculty complain about their students as individuals, or that they dislike teaching online — actually quite the opposite is true. Online instructors care about their students’ learning; they want them to succeed. The things online faculty “wish” their students would do are the very habits that would make them, well… better students.


I work closely with online faculty, and as on online student myself, I’ve heard complaints from both camps. Online instructors’ gripes about students can usually be very easily solved by only a minimal effort on the student’s part, making both the instructor’s and student’s lives easier.


The following recommendations from online instructors have the potential to make everyone a more effective online student and improve the distance learning experience for students and faculty alike.


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“I was billed $1,170 for a course in which I have completely taught myself.”

— Disgruntled Online Student


Online learning degrees are all the rage – even the Ivy League schools are offering them – but do they honestly live up to all the media hype?


Online learning degrees | Broken, smashed laptop

There are some things about online learning that make students want to throw their computer out the window

(Daniel X. O’Neil/flickr)

At we’ve collected over 1,000 online university reviews from real students taking online classes and the watchful public at large. A recent analysis of all of the 1,000+ reviews reveals that not all online learning degrees are alike.


In fact, there are a couple of real skunkers.


Read what real students gripe about when it comes to their online learning experiences.


Get Educated about what it’s like to be a distance degree student BEFORE you enroll.


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Cheapest Online Colleges "Steals and Deals" logo


You found it – the only comprehensive, genuine, data-driven list of the cheapest online colleges for bachelor degrees in the USA.


We applaud your research skills.


The online learning steals and deals team at Get Educated researched and compared the sticker prices of 683 regionally accredited online bachelor degrees. We then compiled this special list of the cheapest online bachelor degrees just for you, the cost-shy consumer.
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Famous online alumni, Venus Williams, Marcia Cross, and Dr. O'Neal (Shaq)

Online learning is growing in popularity among the glitterati. If you look around, you’ll find famous online alumni among actors, actresses and super athletes.


That’s right, your favorite stars are sneaking around and – gasp – attending college online.


Scrutinize the back row of online college lecture halls and you’ll spot a handful of celebs in shades scribbling furiously just like the rest of us. But non-traditional learning is nothing new for the “who’s who” of society. Even before the internet came into being, a handful of famous hot, brainy homeschooled dudes were gettin’ their learn on with the help of correspondence degree courses.


Why would famous people go to college online? Well, think about it – celebs can’t exactly stroll into algebra class, plop down in the back row, and expect no one to notice. Being a college student is hard if you’re famous. Successful people have hectic lives. Super athletes, for example, travel around like ping pong balls. As a result, few super stars can reliably make it to accounting class every Tuesday night at 6 PM. It’s difficult for the famous to fit their lives into a five hundred square foot classroom. Thank God they no longer have to.


I’ve been asked to name names, so here it is, the official Get Educated list of the top 3 “Online Learning Glitterati,” famous online alumni who’ve used distance learning to further their careers.


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Types of Plagiarism | Academic Cheating | Screenshot of cheating and plagiarism in action, copying a wikipedia article

College kids have sticky fingers when it comes to lifting words from the Web.  Far too many believe authoring an academic paper involves one essential step: hitting “Ctrl C” on the keyboard.


In fact, simply hitting “Ctrl C” and swiping gobs of content from the net is one of the most common types of plagiarism according to a recent Turnitin report entitled The Plagiarism Spectrum.


Turnitin, a software plagiarism company, studied thousands of plagiarism reports and then surveyed educators to create the Spectrum report on the 10 most popular types of plagiarism styles employed by students today.


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Picture of Rosie the Riveter with "We Can Do It!" slogan|benefits of online learning
Michal Hadaassah/flickr


Given the exponential growth of online learning over the last decade, I’m surprised to find people who still believe that online education must be less effective than “traditional” classroom methods.

As an online student, I have to say nothing could be further from the truth.

Online learning can be just as challenging – maybe even more so – than conventional classroom learning. There are also several benefits of online learning that will help you acquire valuable career skills that you won’t get from any textbook.

These 4 beneficial skills are essential to succeed in the  workforce; they’re also skills that traditional classroom students often won’t develop until long after they’ve graduated – if ever.


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Top Online Music Colleges seal

I woke up my new iPad last week and several top online music schools and colleges flicked across my lap as I munched on a breakfast bagel. And by top, I mean like Juilliard.


The Juilliard School, prima ballerina of American music colleges, will begin offering online music courses this year. Juilliard elearning will be targeted to K-12 kids and their music teachers.


Juilliard has virtual “master classes” in the works too. Rumor has it these new top online courses will be marketed to aspiring master musicians who can’t make it to Manhattan.



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Montage of various famous correspondence degree students

Despite research to the contrary, many people — educators often included — continue to argue that no person of intellectual merit ever learned anything of substance in the history of distance learning.


This is my response to that silly prejudicial notice that it takes a lecture hall and a bell tower to make a university. Learning takes place inside your head, not inside a classroom. This helps explain why graduates of distance learning and correspondence degree programs have, for more than a century, gone on to win Nobel prizes, found entrepreneurial empires, and write literature worthy of global acclaim. One need only peer into the history of distance learning to uncover several big-name alumni.


Ladies and gents, here’s a little distance learning history from before the Internet came into being, my top 6 nominees for famous hot, brainy homeschooled dudes …

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Teaching online courses is a great way to earn extra income. Teach online and gain  flexibility over your work schedule of a type you never dreamed of as a traditional teacher.  With more colleges and universities adding online courses every semester, career outlooks are bright.


It’s time to get educated about how to land one of these dream online instructor jobs.


Vicky Phillips, founder of, reviews where to start your job search, as well as how to snag some of the higher-paying online instructor jobs.


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Curb edge in Michigan, Universal Design in EducationThis handicap-inaccessible curb shows how Universal Design is often ignored.

(League of Michigan Bicyclists/flickr)


I received a forwarded email message last week proclaiming that providing mainstream accessibility for people with disabilities was “exploding in the computer area.”

Yet another promise of the amazing promise assistive technology holds, to save us all.

As someone with a severe disability (I have no use of either hand) who uses a computer (and a “phone,” and a television connected to the Internet), a fair amount (at least 10 hours a day), one might think I would be extremely pleased to be informed of such news.

None of this is new to me though.

Accessibility is far from being a recent development in the world of computing.

It has improved exponentially in conjunction with increased computing power, but free — and surprisingly effective — accessibility tools have been included with operating systems at least as far back as Windows 95.

The problem is not availability. It’s adoption, and reinforcement, of a set of standards and best practices that would benefit us all, able-bodied and disabled alike.
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Editor’s Note: When life takes a nasty turn, and interrupts your college plans, consult this piece from David, our wise student blogger, to learn the secrets for withdrawing from college with a full refund and a healthy GPA.


"Don't Give Up" grafitti - advice for withdrawing from collegebrendan-c/flickr

No matter how well you plan your schedule and manage your time, a major life event could abruptly cause you to drop a class, withdrawal for the entire semester, or to even consider withdrawing from college altogether.

Medical problems, death of a loved one, military deployment…no one can be expected to factor these kind of life events into a study plan.


I found that out myself when I was studying for my bachelor’s degree at Kansas State University.

More than halfway into the spring semester of 2002, I had a sports accident that limited my mobility for several months. It prevented me from attending class, or even doing most of my coursework for weeks.

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An online masters degree can cost as little as $5,500, or up to $33,000.

Research by Get Educated highlights the top things to look for in finding an affordable masters degree online. A quick view of this video buyer’s guide will help you Get Educated online without going broke.

The price you pay for your online masters degree will depend, first of all, on your chosen major.

Be a sleuth before spending money on your masters degree. Use this guide to suss out an online school that will give you a top education without leaving you drowning in debt.

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According to the U.S. Department of Education, one-third of all bachelors degrees are business degrees.

Get Educated has published rankings of the best online colleges for more than a decade. Our surveys show that business degrees online don’t have to cost a fortune.

Earning a degree in administration or management is the best way to qualify for the highest paying jobs right out of college.

But it’s also important to pick the best business majors for the highest paying jobs later on.

Which business degrees online help you land the highest paying jobs after graduation?

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Education has changed dramatically since the digital revolution, and technology in the classroom is no exception.

When I began taking college classes at Dakota State University about 15 years ago, I had never sent an email or browsed this “Internet” that I was hearing so much about.

Technology in the classroom: students playing with an ipadBrad Flickinger/flickr


Even at a university recognized for embracing technology, DSU’s computer programming classes used methods that now seem archaic by today’s standards.

(Disclaimer: I now teach online and blended learning courses there in this very topic.)


Back then, I was impressed by a 32-inch TV/computer monitor with a remote control that doubled as a mouse. The professor advanced PowerPoint slides from anywhere in the room!

Students used pencils and paper, antiquated predecessors to the stylus and tablet PCs students use today.

But there’s a difference between how students are used to plugging in, and truly effective blended learning.
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Editor’s Note: If you have this hunch that just one, amazing, polished essay can make-or-break your chances for college admission or needed scholarships, you’re right.

Essays are a big deal, not to be rushed or scuttled in your haste to send an application in. This series provides a college essay sample and tips on writing a strong piece. This is the first of three posts about writing great college essays.

Want to know what winning scholarship essays look like?

Take a look at this college essay sample from Paul Hastings, who won $1,000 through Get Educated’s scholarships for nontraditional students.

Paul Hastings, winning scholarship essay writer

Paul Hastings, Winning scholarship essay writer and online student

Paul is 22 years old. That’s a normal age for college, but he’s a nontraditional student.

For one, the Texas native will be attending school at Thomas Edison State College, a New Jersey school, fully online this fall.

He also works full-time, has traveled the world, is an active blogger, and was home-schooled his whole life.

He is keenly aware that his peer group is fully comprised of traditional brick-and-mortar college-enrolled students, and he honed in on that in his essay to illustrate just why he’s so different.
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Get Educated has published rankings of the best online colleges for more than a decade. 

We’re committed to helping students like you find great deals on colleges, and become a savvy consumer when it comes to spending money on your education.

In this video Get Educated’s founder Vicky Phillips outlines the three traits that the most expensive colleges for an online bachelors degree have in common.

When you can pay as little as $15,000 or as much as $112,000 for an accredited online bachelors degree, why wouldn’t you hunt for a deal? 

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If you’re reading this post, there’s a good chance you are interested in online learning, or are already involved in an online degree program that requires educational technology of some kind.

There’s also a good chance that, when you were in 5th grade, a language-arts class on the computer would have sounded ridiculous to your sensible 9-year-old brain.


“Do you remember being in elementary school and opening a book to do your research for a class activity? Well now students, especially fifth graders, are required to use technology to research their selected topics.”

1907 classroom

Online learning is even becoming a part of “traditional” classrooms.

(Bion Whitehouse/flickr)



It’s not some excerpt from a futuristic novel – this is the introduction to a plea by a public-school teacher in Los Angeles.

Ms. Acuna, who posted a request for two laptops on, said the newest language arts requirements in her curriculum make the internet a mandatory component of their learning.

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Accelerated programs available. Finish your degree in as little as 18 months!

How many times have you heard something like that? Doesn’t that seem exciting?


Accelerated degree turtle

Sometimes slow and steady is the way to go.

Finishing an entire online degree program in less than two years is an impressive, and attractive, pitch to working adults.

What they don’t focus on is that students can graduate in “as little” as 18 months. While graduating in 18 months (or less) is technically possible if your plan of study allows it, life has a way of keeping us busy outside of class. Like it or not, dropping a class will at some point, probably be necessary.


Jobs, family, travel, illness, or injury can play a part in affecting our academic plan of study.

Though it may be tough to keep perspective, remember it’s not too late to scale things back mid-semester. And, there are worse things than dropping a class.


How to be a Tortoise, Not a Hare, When it Comes to Online Learning

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Clover Autrey/flickrGoing back to college - school ahead street sign


What’s the toughest challenge you’ll face as an adult attending college online?

It won’t be finding the tuition money.

It won’t be finding the time.

Get ready for your biggest problem to be your own family – your spouse and your kids.

The ones you love the most may be the noisiest naysayers when it comes to your great back-to-college plans.

Say what? It’s so easy to going back to college online.

Online learning is such a blessing for the returning student who is also a time-strapped parent. Why would someone who loves you oppose your earning a college degree in this great convenient way?
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Get Educated is committed to helping students find affordable online masters degrees. 
Our current college directory profiles 1,297 online graduate degrees — the largest directory on the web.

We profile 386 online education masters degrees. If that much choice overwhelms you, check out our video buyer’s guide.

Vicky Phillips, our founder, walks you through an online masters in education cost comparison. She offers tips to help you choose the best college using your personal values.

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Online college course cost, figurine standing one a dimeJD Hancock/flickr


As the price of attending college increases, questions arise.


In the past year, Inside Higher Ed, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and a CNBC guest blog suggested that technologies could cut costs and, presumably, the price of college attendance.


The two ex-Stanford professors’ creating free, massively-open courses has also raised additional questions about the economics of online education.

The biggest one always being, “Do online students pay more for their education?”

The answer appears to be “Often, yes.”

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All you can eat neon buffet sign

New Charter University has a unique, all-you-can-eat style model.

(WCWT Blog)


University Now, an educational startup, has put a twist on buying an online education with the for-profit New Charter University, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports today.

Ready for it?

At New Charter University, your tuition costs are just $199 a month for a bachelors degree program. It’s like an Early Bird buffet special, but for classes: Study all you can in four months, for one low price!
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Back in 2002, when Chris Olson was starting his online masters program at Dakota State University, the assistive technology software that was out there left much to be desired.

Christopher Olsen, assistive technology pioneer

Christopher Olsen, Assistive Technology Pioneer

“It was tough, really tough,” recalls Olson, who was stuck typing the coding required for his Master of Science in Information Systems degree using sticks fastened to wrist braces. The year before, a car crash had rendered him quadriplegic, with only the partial mobility of his arms.

“If I hadn’t had any movement of my arms, I couldn’t have have done papers, couldn’t have written codes, I couldn’t have completed exams,” he says.

Olson 34, is now a business and information systems professor at DSU, but says he might not have gotten there if not for that small range of motion. A range that many quadriplegics, amputees, injured veterans or developmentally disabled individuals simply do not have. Continue reading

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Hariadhi/flickrStudy tips for traveling for online students - open luggage with clothes


I used to love road trips, and  always enjoyed the chance to break up my usual routine.


Then I started online learning. Quickly, I found out that breaking up my routine, or sloppy learning on the go, could wreck my studies if I wasn’t careful.


Instead of risking it, I came up with these study tips to keep myself on track:



5 Study Tips for Online Learning While Traveling

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog from our friends at, Dr. Leah and Rachel. Dr. Leah has written The Complete Single Mother, and Rachel’s blog is Single Mom Seeking.

lego single mom pushing stroller while going back to schoolOver at Singlemommyhood, we’re really impressed when we hear about single parents in college or returning to school on top of everything else they’re doing!

Getting an education isn’t just important for you – it’s crucial for your kids, too.

Dr. Leah knows what single moms in college face – she returned to school while also parenting two young kids on her own. It was not easy, but this was her dream.

And, of course, these credentials made a critical difference in how she was able to provide financially for herself and her kids.

We often hear from single parents in college who are:

  • Working full-time and going to school at night
  • Completing intensive internships on top of their jobs
  • Returning to school as ‘older’ students to earn or finish a BA
  • Advancing their education to get a Master’s degree – and a PhD!

Bravo to all of you! We know how frantic every day life can get: working and parenting can be overwhelming.

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Editor’s Note: Online classes often require group projects to complete mid-terms or weekly assignments. Online group learning can make adult students feel uneasy – especially if it means being judged or graded on group projects.

Group project

In person group projects are bad enough, online group work is its own breed of “special”

(Luigi Mengato/flickr)


Our student issues blogger, , shares his tips for successful online learning when it comes to group work for students.

For me group projects were one of the toughest parts of my first online classes.  Just like “pop quiz”, the words “group assignment” filled me with dread.

Coordinating hectic schedules, interpreting mixed messages from team members, and a mad scramble to pull everyone together to meet group projects deadlines can make group work online a nightmare.

My first online group project earned a passing grade, but it was the toughest part of class for me, and we all spent far more time on that assignment than expected.

Since then, I’ve learned 5 tips for helping online students succeed:



How to Make Online Group Projects More Bearable

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Editor’s Note: In the world of online education, school accountability can be tough to find. Without a national data set, or any requirements by the government for schools to report success rates, there is no source for reliable, consistent data on online colleges.

At Get Educated, we’re big fans of the efforts by independent educational groups that offer free, honest evaluations of online universities. is a non-profit devoted to helping you learn about learning outcomes in online universities and degree programs.

From the project director, Cali Morrison:

Man looking over lake with binoculars | Find online school

Looking for real hard student data from different online colleges? Search no further!


As an adult, the concept of returning to or starting college can be a daunting one.

How do you know what institution to choose? What program of study will help you gain the knowledge and skills to pursue the career path you’re interested in? How can you find the best online university?

In a web full of marketing messages and websites whose only mission is to redirect you to high-paying clients’ schools, how do you find information you can trust?

Visit Our site came out of a collaborative of regionally accredited, adult-serving institutions that wanted to improve access to information on distance learning for adult learners. 
Our site provides data, not marketing fluff, for you to evaluate programs and institutions.

We don’t provide rankings – we want to leave the decisions on what elements are most important to you up to you when choosing an online school.
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May you never have to tickle Google for a list of America’s top online colleges. If you do, you’ll get a steaming pile of doo-doo created by fake online school ranking sites.


You’ll get list after list of America’s top online colleges — the top online colleges that paid to be listed on these fake school ranking sites, that is.


Mindful of the useless pile Google serves up in the “top online school” sector we, here at Get Educated, decided to tackle the task of creating a series of editorial opinion lists on some real top online degrees.


Online masters in education technology logoHere’s our first rating list, compiled from a review of 350+ online masters in education that we have stockpiled in our amazing online college guide.


These online masters degree options are not listed in any meaningful order (#1 is not better necessarily than #10). We note why each degree has managed to impress us, and why we believe it may also interest you, or your K-12 teaching colleagues.


Our emphasis here is largely K-12 education technology online, but stay tuned as we’ll soon have more top lists, aimed at higher education experts as well as corporate training types.


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Gritty TV shows portray CSIs as having an inner ‘eye’ for whodunit. Crime scene investigators appear both glamorous and gifted. So much so that a million and one-half people a month ask Google, “How do I become a CSI?”

Real CSIs must hit the books to master the guts and glory of the trade. CSIs today are earning forensic science degrees online. Turns out blood spatter analysis can be taught extremely well using online video labs.

Can you really learn how to be a CSI online? You bet, says the online degree division at Champlain College, in Burlington, Vermont. Champlain offers undergraduate and graduate forensic science courses online ranging from Intro to Forensics to Digital Investigative Techniques.

Online students at Champlain don’t just read books and case studies about forensics. They also learn online by viewing a series of video labs that teach distance learning students how to master skills like blood spatter analysis using catsup, rulers and – er — paper dolls.

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I’ve always enjoyed learning. If there’s something new worth knowing I enjoy the challenge of picking up that new knowledge. That’s why, as I graduated with my online Masters in Information Systems last year through a distance learning program from Dakota State University, my first thought was: “What can I learn next?”

"Back to School" Post-it note | Top Online PhDAfter I finished my masters in information systems degree online I was planning on another masters degree, probably an online MBA. However, because that plan originated when I’d just begun online learning in 2006, several new online graduate degree options now existed for me to consider. Could I go further than a masters degree? Could an online PhD be an option for me?

Amazingly enough… it seemed like it actually could! In the last several years distance education offerings across the United States have exploded. As of 2011, there are literally over one hundred online PhD programs; degrees ranging from an online Doctoral of Public Administration at Valdosta State University to an online PhD in Financial Planning from Kansas State University.

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Do Thomas Edison State online students ace the CPA exam because they are preened from a young age to be accountants? (Surprise answer: No)


Editor’s Note:

According to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s 2010 candidate report, graduates from Thomas Edison State College have the highest pass rate for the Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Examination among all regionally accredited senior institutions of higher education in New Jersey that offer accounting programs.


According to the report, 61.5 percent of Thomas Edison State College graduates who took the Uniform CPA Exam (2009) passed the exam. The TESC pass rate is more than 10 percentage points above the next highest pass rate for graduates of any university in New Jersey. We asked Susan P. Gilbert, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Business and Management at TESC to help us Get Educated about the high exam success rate of Edison’s non-traditional online students. Below is her great answer:

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Originally published at Absolutely Scott Free.


woodleywonderworks/flickr"Duplicate Original" Stamp | Academic dishonesty | Online Plagiarism

Good ol’ copy-and-paste plagiarism is actually easier to detect in online classes thanks to software such as Turnitin


Before I came to the online world, I spent years as a professor in traditional colleges. There, as here, I believe that the vast majority of students are honest. But I also know that under pressure, people are capable of many things. Some of the more creative cheaters I encountered were students who:

  • Recorded formulas or facts in an .mp3 file, then played that file in a continuous loop on an iPod during the exam.
  • Requested a bathroom break during an exam. In the bathroom was a cheat sheet taped to a stall door.
  • Kept a plastic water bottle on the desk during an exam. On the inside label of the water bottle was written, in tiny script, formulas, etc. that could be seen through the water.

I share these not to give you ideas– trust me, savvy professors have seen it all anyway– but to let you know that we know.

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Published originally by wcet LEARN.

Maybe I’m just getting cranky, but I’m increasingly irritated by attacks on online learning, especially those based on badly designed research, small sample sizes, or those using data from un-cited studies.  “Why Are So Many Students Still Failing Online?” was the provocative headline of a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article.

Boy reading newspaper | Online student success | Course retention rates

“Looks like another day of ‘doom and gloom’”

Now to be fair, the article itself, aside from postulating that the only reason that institutions offer online courses is that they are the “proverbial cash cow,” was not completely unreasonable.  Although the author is clearly not a fan of online learning, most of us would at least agree with his point that learning online requires certain skills.  But why the Chronicle devoted an entire article to something we have known for years while highlighting his solution of some sort of pre-test for students before enrolling, is beyond me.

This isn’t news.

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