Employer Perceptions of Online Degree Programs
Online degree programs are viewed with varying levels of legitimacy in different quarters. Some academics look at them with skepticism, concerned that too much responsibility falls on students for covering material independently, that syllabi cover too much material in insufficient depth, and that the methods of distance learning are poorly suited to collaboration, research, and developing novel ideas. Much of this resistance is likely due to the fact that online degree programs are a relatively new entity.
As such programs continue to evolve and grow, increasing numbers of people in academia are beginning to see them as a valuable and cost-effective way to reach a broader, non-traditional audience of students who, for a variety of reasons, including geography and socioeconomic factors, would be otherwise unable to pursue higher education.
While this marks an important step forward, the question remains for many potential online students – how will employers perceive my online degree education?
Opinions in the Workplace
Hard numbers cut both ways. In 2007, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that 55% of employers still prefer traditional degrees, although 41% of respondents claim they would give “equal consideration” to online degree holders. Despite the larger percentage of employers leaning towards the traditional degree, online degree programs do seem to be gaining increased acceptance.
For instance, the DETC, the national accrediting body for online education programs, positively notes that 100% of survey respondents believe that an online degree improves worker performance. Additionally, the Sloan Consortium, a non-profit organization that collects information on online education and promotes effective teaching practices, reports that 62% of academic leaders rate online outcomes as equal or superior to traditional instruction.
Making Your Online Degree Program Work for You
What does all of this mean practically? First, it means that you need to do your best in your online degree program to learn the material expected not only by the program, but also in your professional environment. Perhaps, an MBA from a little-known online university may not hold as much weight to some employers as one from an Ivy League college, but that does not meant that online degrees do not carry real value in the workplace.
However, you also need to be realistic about what your degree can do for you. The institution you choose matters, and you need to pick one that matches your ambitions. It is possible that you will be challenged by your potential employer. Be prepared to impress them with your presence in interviews and to defend your degree in person.
Rising Reputation of Online Degree Programs
The fact remains that traditional institutions still have a distinct advantage in terms of alumni networks, physical and financial resources, and name recognition, especially at the graduate level. However, the growth and augmenting respect for online degree programs holds out great promise for their viability in the professional environment.
The rising reputation of online degree programs is due, in no small measure, to the success that online alumni have achieved in the job market after graduation. Online colleges reward students who are self-motivated and independent, and employers tend to place a high value on those attributes. Ultimately, what matters most is not where you received your degree, but what you do with the skills and knowledge you have developed through the educational process.