What are some questions to consider before applying to an online school?
While it is quite possible to have a worthwhile learning experience through a well-developed program of an online school, there are several aspects which should be carefully considered before deciding to go in that direction or WHERE to go in that direction.
The first thing you should look into is the legitimacy of the online school. Is it accredited? Will the credits you gain be transferrable to other institutions? Will the degree or certification you earn be recognized? Is the online school/program associated with a recognized and accredited college or university? (Some online programs are outgrowths of college/university offerings; some are independent.) Do your research. Just because an online program calls itself a "school" is no indication of quality.
Find out how the course will be delivered. How will class material be presented? In what ways will you be able to interact with instructors and classmates? What provisions are made for the exchange of ideas? How much individual attention will you receive? How will your progress/learning be evaluated? What will be expected of you in completing the course or degree? Will there occasionally be requirements to be physically present for a classroom, laboratory, or lecture hall experience? Don't hesitate to ask these questions of the online school. Be sure you know what you could expect in working through a course of study with any given organization.
Another thing to consider in making your decision is the extent to which you personally will be able to commit to an online course. This is an aspect of personality and learning style. Studies have shown that the drop-out rate is considerably greater for online courses than for courses for which students are required to be physically present. This phenomenon undoubtedly has much to do with the relationships which develop in face-to-face encounters. Ask yourself whether you will be able to fully commit to an online program or whether you would prefer the interactions which would be part of a campus-based college/university study experience.
In making a decision as to whether to apply to an online school, you should consider your personal needs and financial resources, carefully weighing the advantages and disadvantages of online study against campus-based study. Consider whether you will learn more effectively through an online program or in a study environment which provides the opportunity for hands-on experiences and face-to-face exchanges with others. Would you make greater progress through the online contacts that you would have with your professors and classmates, or would you prefer the academic and social interactions which are part of an on-campus experience? Do a "cost vs. personal value" analysis of the two options.
Studying through an online school will, in almost all cases, be less expensive than attendance at a residential campus-based school. This is primarily because there is not an extensive infrastructure which has to be supported - class buildings, laboratories, sports facililies, dormitories, dining halls, etc., etc. etc. Expense will also be less in that there will be no need for you to pay for room, board, and travel expenses in addition to tuition. It may be that, for financial reasons, an online course is the only option which is feasible for you at this time. In that case, choose an online school with great care considering the suggestions above.