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How Do I Choose the Best Biology Distance Learning Program?

C. Mitchell
C. Mitchell

A degree in biology, whether at the graduate or undergraduate level, can open many doors. Enrolling in a full-time college or university program can be incredibly time-consuming, however, particularly for older students who are already established in careers or family commitments. Schools have increasingly been responding to students’ need for flexible education arrangements by offering certain programs and courses online. Choosing the best biology distance learning program is usually a factor of your goals and what you hope to get out of the program, your own credentials and ability to be admitted into the program, and an idea of how you want to use your education.

There are probably as many biology distance learning programs as there are reasons for enrolling. Some people want to brush up on specific biology topics for use in already-established biology careers. Others want to advance their careers by pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees, while some are looking to switch careers entirely and become a biologist as something of a change. There are also people who are just legitimately curious in topics like genetics or marine biology, and are looking for college-level knowledge for no other reason than personal interest. Biology distance learning programs exist for all of these situations, which makes nailing down your specific goals an important first step.

The best programs require on-site lab work in addition to distance learning classes.
The best programs require on-site lab work in addition to distance learning classes.

Determining your criteria for identifying the available online biology courses and programs is the next step. Not every distance biology program is the same, and it is important for you to know what is and not acceptable for you. Many brick-and-mortar schools offer their classroom biology classes in distance formats. In these courses, lectures are usually taped and either live-streamed or posted online. Students typically access lecture material and notes through online portals, where chats and interactions with other students, as well as the professor, are usually encouraged if not required.

Some biology distance learning programs focus on preparing for a specific qualification or a test, such as the AP biology exam. If your high school doesn’t offer AP biology as a course, you can find an online AP biology course to take instead to pass the test and earn college credit. Since AP biology classes are structured around the AP test, you can complete the course with the help of a knowledgeable instructor and a quality AP biology prep book.

For students looking for a degree from a name-brand or otherwise known school, this sort of distance option may be the best bet. Most of the time, schools in this category issue diplomas for successful completion that are equivalent to the diploma one would get if attending the class in person. Just because the courses are offered online does not necessarily mean that the admissions process is any easier, however. Most of the time, the admissions criteria for an online program is the same as it is for the residence program. Students should enter the application process prepared for competition.

Colleges and universities that exist entirely online often also have strict admissions requirements, particularly for advanced degree programs, but the competition is not generally as steep. The tuition is also usually significantly lower, since the school is not paying the overhead of running a physical program. For a great many students, a biology distance learning degree from an online university will meet their needs exactly. Many online degree programs are well respected and widely accredited. Not all are, however, which adds an element of careful research to the online university search.

Before investing time and money into a degree program, you need to be sure that the program is both legitimate and respected in the field in which you plan to use it. If you are unsure of an online school’s validity, ask a representative for information on accreditation information and graduate placement numbers. If you know professionals in the biology field, ask them what, if anything, they know of a particular school’s biology distance learning programs. You can also contact your community’s Better Business Bureau or other consumer watch agency to ask if any complaints have been lodged against the school.

Choosing a biology distance learning program can seem like a daunting task at first, but with enough time and research, the process can actually be quite fulfilling. When you are confident that the program you have chosen is going to get you to your educational goals, you have one less thing to worry about. You can then start your studies on the right foot, and keep your eyes focused on the future.

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    • The best programs require on-site lab work in addition to distance learning classes.
      By: markos86
      The best programs require on-site lab work in addition to distance learning classes.