Online learning was once surrounded by stigma, tainted by the illegal market for fake certificates and ‘diploma mills’. Luckily, these opinions are changing and online learning is now a respected method of obtaining a recognized and validated degree or qualification.
Despite this, students researching online institutions are still encouraged to research the validity of the institution. Important recognition to look out for includes:
- Outcomes from monitoring visits by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) – this is the UK independent body entrusted with monitoring, and advising on, standards and quality in UK higher education. They are “dedicated to checking that the three million students working towards a UK qualification get the higher education experience they are entitled to expect”1.
- Results from the National Student Survey (NSS) – the National Student Survey is a high-profile survey carried out by final-year UK undergraduate students. An institution’s results reflect the level of support and quality that an establishment provides. It is an excellent measure of quality and recognition.
- Statistics on the HEFCE ‘Register of HE providers’ – “The HEFCE Register is a searchable tool that shows how the Government regulates higher education providers in England”2. It provides the provider’s legal name and address, the powers it has and the regulatory standards it is required to meet, and links to further information about the provider.
- Listing on the website Unistats – This is “is the official site that allows you to search for and compare data and information on university and college courses from across the UK. The site draws together comparable information on those areas that students have identified as important in making decisions about what and where to study.”3
Many online institutions will partner with a campus-based university to create and deliver their online programmes. This enables an online institution to benefit from the specialised knowledge and technology that an online provider can offer, while the online institution is then able to offer validated degree courses.
Many employers are also beginning to recognise online degrees, and students considering online study should not be deterred by old-fashioned ideas about ‘real’ degrees only being awarded by campus-based institutions. In fact, many employers now recognise that studying online (and part-time) takes a large amount of dedication and commitment and wish to employ people with these exact characteristics. Employers are always looking for candidates willing to ‘go the extra mile’, and applicants with the passion and drive to achieve a qualification while juggling family and work commitments can be exactly what they are looking for.
Think studying for an online degree is something uncommon? Think again; the latest statistics show that around 33% of college students are taking at least one course online and “eventually, one-third of college students expect to study online, one-third expect to study only on campus, and one-third will do both.” This increased participation will naturally lead to increased recognition for online learning.
Learn more about studying online:
The content of this Study Online guide has been written by University of Essex Online.
About University of Essex Online
University of Essex Online is an online education institution offering online and part-time degree courses in subjects including business, management, marketing, law, criminology, psychology, public health, infection control and an MBA. Students are supported by their own dedicated Student Adviser and receive quality teaching from industry leaders and subject experts while studying within a cutting-edge virtual learning environment. To learn more about University of Essex Online, click here.