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Questions to Ask About Long Distance Education Providers

written by: Sylvia Cochran•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 12/5/2011

Many schools offer distance learning programs. Accredited long distance schools occasionally carry a hefty price tag, but if online learning is the most convenient way of getting your degree, it is best to find out what it takes to enroll in a bona fide college online.

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    What Are Distance Learning Programs?

    Distance learning is the process by which an adult student may receive an education without actually physically setting foot inside a classroom. The concept is not new; established universities have offered auditing options for courses that more or less mimicked the correspondence courses offered by some career training programs. Relying on technological tools to deliver instruction combines ease of student attendance and a streamlined delivery process for instructors.

    With the advent of the Internet, distance learning programs have become a viable alternative to obtaining not just a career correspondence course certificate of completion, but also any of the readily accepted higher learning degrees from accredited long distance schools. At the forefront of distance education is the University of Phoenix, which claims a healthy share of long distance, online students in a vast array of fields.

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    How Do I Apply to a Program?

    Find distance learning programs that are listed as being accredited by reputable agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education. You may search by school name, state, or accrediting agency.

    Visit the website of the accredited long distance schools you have found. There you will find the prerequisites for enrollment. Generally speaking, enrollment requirements for online degree programs are identical to those for students who will attend class in person. Exceptions are usually made when it comes to career and vocational programs which offer a certificate of completion instead of a degree.

    Check out the admission requirements for the University of Phoenix to get a clearer understanding of the kinds of documents you might need to gather.

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    How Soon Can I Start Working Towards My New Degree?

    Online schools, which operate strictly on a correspondence basis, may allow you to get started as soon as you pay for the admission and first class. Schools that maintain an online as well as in-person student body will require that you start working on your new degree during the regularly scheduled semester start.

    An exception to the rule are institutions of higher learning that offer individual start courses, such as the University of Washington, in addition to group start classes. When choosing an individual start date, it is easy not to fall behind simply by keeping pace with the local student population. Make sure you are aware of each and every deadline you have to fulfill and try and meet it!

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    How Much Should I Expect to Pay for a Distance Education?

    Distance learning programs are not cheap. A look at Arizona’s Brighton College – an accredited institution that is famous for its online college classes and high quality distance education programs – reveals that the cost for the Medical Transcription premier certificate program totals $3,040, while a combination program of Medical Coder & Biller will set you back $3,670. Online degree programs at other institutions may also be more expensive as well.

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    Are There Distance Learning Pitfalls?

    The greatest danger of distance education is the failure to realize that some online schools are no more than diploma mills. These institutions are not accredited schools, but simply businesses that sell degrees to anyone who can afford the cost. Learning how to avoid unaccredited degrees sometimes takes a bit of finesse and also an understanding that if a degree is too easy and quick to earn, it may simply not be valid.

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