When choosing a distance education university, a prospective student should focus both on the reputations of different universities and on their processes for delivering content at a distance. A distance education university should be accredited, ideally by both national and regional boards. The education offered by a distance education university should also be considered high quality by business or trade groups who would potentially hire new graduates in a given field. Several different types of systems exist for providing distance education, and a prospective student should consider which type best suits their personal educational needs and learning style.
Academic accreditation is provided by different governing bodies in different regions and countries. Before selecting a distance education university, students should examine the credentials of the schools that they are considering. Usually, national accreditation is more difficult to obtain than regional. A school that is not accredited should generally not be considered, as any degree that such a school confers is unlikely to be recognized by other schools or potential employers. Accreditation is usually a guarantee of a broad curriculum and solid academic standards.
Each distance education university has a reputation among groups and schools that might hire or recruit its graduates. Potential employers may be willing to advise a student on which universities they consider to be superior. Placement statistics may be useful in determining the practical value of a particular education as well, so long as statistics for graduates working in their field, rather than for graduates who are employed, are used.
Different distance education universities use different tools and systems to distribute content to students. Some schools employ asynchronous instruction, in which students and instructors interact through portals or forums that are available at all times. Others rely primarily on video conferencing or other tools that require students to be online at a given time. Most now require students to have stable and reliable Internet access.
A student who cannot keep a traditional fixed schedule may prefer a system in which they can submit assignments at any time of day. This system is also often popular among students who are located in time zones far distant from the schools they attend, including many deployed military personnel. A distance education university whose courses and programs more closely mirror that of a traditional university may be more helpful for other students, particularly those who prefer to work on a set schedule, or whose style is best suited to face-to-face contact and live interaction with instructors.