How do I Choose the Best Distance Learning Program?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
A woman taking a distance learning class.
A woman taking a distance learning class.

Choosing a distance learning program starts with deciding what field of study you are interested in, and what level of education you want to seek. Certificates, associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and even PhD programs can be done through a distance learning program, and deciding what level you want to achieve will help dictate which program you choose. It is important to choose a distance learning program offered by a school that is accredited, and you should also consider a school that is within your education budget. Research the different types of distance learning classroom methods to choose the one that will fit your learning style best.

Many colleges and universities offer distance learning program options, so it can be difficult to wade through the endless options to find the best one for you. Start by narrowing down your search according to what schools offer programs in the field of study you want to pursue, then narrow the list further by eliminating non-accredited schools. Accreditation is a process by which a school is certified as offering a high quality education that is recognized not only by employers, but also by other educational institutions. This means you will be more likely to get a job after attending an accredited institution, you will be more likely to qualify for financial aid, and you will be more likely to be able to transfer earned credits to another educational institution should you choose to transfer at any point.

Once you have narrowed your search down to accredited schools that offer a distance learning program in your field of study, research the instructors who will be teaching the courses as well as the programs in place to support students throughout their education. Choose a program with instructors who are experts in their field; research work they have done, papers they have published, and so on to get a better idea of who is teaching the courses. Check into student services that will help you through your coursework. Some schools offer tutoring services, financial aid advisement, career placement, and more. A good distance learning program will make several student services available to you.

Be sure to read carefully about the different course structure options. Some courses are offered asynchronously, which means you will be able to work at your own pace and work class around your own schedule. Synchronous classes will require you to be online at class at a certain time each day, which makes scheduling more difficult, but this option offers you more direct contact with a professor. Be sure your computer can handle the technical requirements for the course; this usually means you will need an Internet connection of a certain speed and the ability to download and open certain files.

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    • A woman taking a distance learning class.
      A woman taking a distance learning class.