The first step in choosing the best distance learning degree program is deciding what specifically you want to study. A degree is an investment of time and money, so it is important to have clear goals before choosing to spend that time and money on any degree program. If you are unsure what distance learning degree program you want to consider, try talking to a career counselor or guidance counselor to narrow down the possibilities. If you are still unsure, consider enrolling in a program that will allow you to start your degree as "undecided," which will give you the opportunity to take general education courses that may help you choose a major.
If you do not already have an undergraduate degree — that is, an associate's degree or bachelor's degree — you can eliminate the possibility of graduate distance learning degree program options. These programs require that you complete an undergraduate degree first. If you have chosen a specific field of study, it is time to consider which schools you want to attend. Some colleges and universities with on-site classrooms offer distance learning degree program options as well, and this may be a wise choice if you live near one of those campuses. Some distance learning programs will still require that you participate in on-site lab work or job practicums, so being close to the campus may make these requirements easier to fulfill.
Other distance learning degree program options are exclusively conducted online. Be careful when considering these schools, as many of them are not accredited institutions. This means they have not undergone an accreditation process by a recognized accreditation agency, and the quality of the education they offer cannot be verified. If you plan on applying for financial aid to finance your education, be sure to attend an accredited school, as failing to do so may mean you are no longer eligible for certain types of financial aid.
It is important that you are excited about the degree program you choose. To ensure this, be sure to consider distance learning degree program options that are taught by experts in their fields, and by people you will be excited to work with. The instructors should be experienced in the field as well as in teaching to ensure a positive classroom experience.
Be sure to research the different methods of distance learning classroom delivery. Choose the one that suits your learning style most appropriately. Some online classwork will require you to work independently, with little direct guidance from instructors. Other online classes offer methods for direct communication with instructors as well as different learning objects such as interactive websites. Be sure the school you choose makes the most of current technology and instruction delivery methods.