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Online Degrees Increasingly Gaining Acceptance Among Employers

Online Degrees Increasingly Gaining Acceptance Among Employers
Skills, experience and reputation of school are more important factors.

Acing the interview and landing a job after college is becoming an increasingly common scenario for those who earn their degrees online.

Such degrees are gaining more acceptance among employers, according to a survey from Eduventures’ Continuing and Professional Education 2005 report.

*Of the 505 employers surveyed, more than 62 percent have a favorable attitude toward online instruction and perceive the quality of online learning to have the same if not greater merit than classroom instruction.

Administrators at universities that offer online learning, such as Webster University, say that their online degree programs are well received by employers.

“We’ve had no issues whatsoever with employers discounting the online knowledge,” says Dr. Benjamin Akande, dean of Webster’s School of Business and Technology. “I think that employers nowadays are also doing their due diligence, and they are recognizing that online education is probably a little bit more challenging than in-class education.”

Akande also acknowledges that it takes a committed student to succeed in an online environment.

“Those students that have the strength and capacity to successfully go through those online delivery processes are disciplined and know how to work through the confines of planned education,” he says, adding that students who must balance work, life and school responsibilities often do well with online courses.

According to the Sloan Consortium, more than 80 percent of institutions where doctoral and research programs are available also offer online courses that fulfill requirements for those degree programs.

The report also concluded that 80 percent of online students who are seeking their bachelor’s degree are older than traditional college students and often have jobs and families. But only 40 percent of that population is utilizing online courses exclusively. The rest are hybrid students, blending online courses with more traditional campus-based classes.

Dr. Pamela Chandler-Lee, the associate dean of Regent University’s School of Undergraduate Studies, says older students may have the edge in commitment and maturity, but students coming straight out of high school often have the technical aptitude to succeed online.

“For them, online learning is a natural part of who they are,” she says. “They are much more used to dividing their time and prioritizing. They just understand how to multitask better than the freshmen of my generation.”

Dr. Denise DeZolt, provost of Walden University, says graduate students who earned their undergraduate degrees at traditional institutions often initially question the quality of online education. But after entering the program, they find the courses worthwhile and challenging, she says.

“It’s not uncommon for a student to come to us and say, ‘I thought this was supposed to be easy. I think it’s even harder than a land-based brick and mortar institution,’” DeZolt says.

All of Walden’s degree programs are offered online, and DeZolt says the vast majority of its graduate students are employed in fields related to their coursework. Most of the students are reimbursed by their employers after completing their degree.

DeZolt, who initially came to Walden as a part-time faculty member from a traditional classroom setting, says she was not certain at first that online education would be as rigorous as traditional coursework. She also worried that “the standards and expectations of the students would vary and not be the same as traditional institutions.”

But, she says she’s since been convinced that Walden and its students — of whom 30 percent are minorities — hold standards every bit as high as campus-based institutions.

Administrators like Akande conclude that online degree programs are beneficial to minority students because they are able to express themselves freely and openly.

“I really believe that online learning is the biggest equalizer of all,” says Akande. “The intimidation factor is non-existent. It’s an equal playing field, where everyone comes to the table truly poised and committed to learn from that experience and be contributors. Online education enables that process to take hold.”

Patricia De’Shazior Hill, who is pursuing a doctorate in leadership from Capella University, says the online experience has helped her take control of her education. While working towards her master’s, she says she received a lower grade in a group project because she was Black. But by working online, she’s avoided a similar experience.

“I am relaxed, and I’m creating the optimal emotional climate for my learning,” Hill says.

According to Chandler-Lee, employers are less concerned about whether a degree was earned online and more about the reputation of the school.

“When I went into the marketplace and into the job force, [I found that employers] were concerned about what you know, what experiences you have,” she says. “What is more important for employers is that the school that you come from has an excellent reputation.”

–Molly Nance

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