Q&A: How Do You Know if an Online School is Credible?

Q: Some of my friends told me that online courses are not viewed as credible (or the same) as taking land-based courses. Is this true?

A: This is a great question. Your friends have been somewhat misinformed about online education. When online education began, it was difficult for many, even some educators, to grasp the concept. How could anyone possibly learn unless they were sitting in a desk in front of a teacher looking at a chalkboard? How could learning take place if one wasn't physically in a school?

Well, as we've all seen over the years, learning can take place anywhere. The desk has been replaced by the kitchen table or couch. The chalkboard has been replaced by the PC or MAC. Most importantly, the key components of education haven't changed: there's still a teacher and a student.

There are a variety of online schools (combination of secondary and post-secondary) that offer a wide-range of courses and programs. What makes online schools just as credible as "traditional" schools is the accreditation process. Just as public and private schools and universities are regulated by an educational state department, so are online schools. The official approval they give to deserving schools is known as accreditation and is earned through a process that governs the curriculum, programs and educators.

When looking for online schools, make sure to research the school's accreditation. You will want to take classes and/or graduate from an accredited school for your diploma/degree to be recognized. Some jobs and/or careers require a certification and/or license to work in the field. Be sure that the school's program is accredited in this area so that your hard work will be recognized by your career field.

There are many well-recognized online schools and programs. Thanks to online learning, individuals who may not have otherwise graduated from high school and/or gone to college now have this opportunity. For students who are unable to attend "traditional" schools for health, financial or personal barriers, school is now available. Career opportunities are broader and the future can seem more hopeful.

Beverly Browning

Dr. Beverley BrowningDr. Beverly A. Browning (Dr. Bev) has been a higher education adjunct faculty member for over 25 years. She has taught in the classroom and online for multiple colleges and universities including the University of Phoenix, Spring Arbor College, Baker College of Flint, Mott Community College, and Rio Salado College. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Spring Arbor College and Mott Community College. She is currently an online instructor for ed2go.com (Cengage Learning). In addition to founding and directing the Grant Writing Training Foundation, Dr. Bev is also Vice President of Grants Professional Services for eCivis, Inc. She is the author over over 37 grant-related publications and a frequent keynote speaker and workshop presenter for national and regional conferences. Dr. Bev is a product of lifelong learning and an advocate for online teaching and learning!