Online Degree programs have popped up everywhere and even some traditional universities are offering online courses, but will school districts look favorably on an online education degree? It may surprise you to know that most do. This is especially true of rural school districts, which don’t get the number or the quality of applicants that metropolitan schools receive.
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What do School Districts Look for in Applicants?
The first thing they seek, according to an article in U.S. News and World Report is a good GPA. Enthusiasm and confidence are important too. When employers look at your degree, most will make sure the school is accredited. This is because in the 1990s there was an explosion of “diploma mills,” which were schools that awarded meaningless degrees to anyone who could pay the tuition. While there are still some of these schools out there, there are also many reputable degrees offered. Today traditional universities usually offer some classes, if not entire degrees, online.
Do Most School Districts Accept an Online Degree?
In a survey by Babson Survey, 7.1 million people said they took at least one online course in the fall, 2012, semester. The “U.S. News and World Report” article said that 75 percent of employers now look on online degrees favorably. That is especially true if they come from a well-known university. Still, they tend to be choosy about accreditation and about applicant “fit.” The shortage of education dollars mandates finding people who can fit into several positions, especially in rural districts, but at the same time districts want the best buy for the buck. The increased accountability for student achievement as measured in mandatory testing and tied to federal and state money, makes it imperative that districts hire quality teachers. There are some real advantages to online degrees. First, because you don’t pay for housing and textbooks, they cost less. Job applicants have less stress from student debt. Second, students who earn online degrees from accredited schools often do so while holding a full-time job. That demonstrates determination and the ability to multitask. Third, more positions are requiring master’s degrees and many of these are offered only in online formats to accommodate working adults.
What Do Employers See as the Downside to Online Degrees?
If 75 percent of employers now look favorably on online degrees, that leaves 25 percent who do not. The diploma mills account for some of this, but there are some definite drawbacks to online degrees. Students who pursue them must be organized and committed. Some employers, especially those in education, value the education experience itself. That is, they believe that the best education results from interaction in a classroom situation with teacher lectures and class participation. As an article in the “New York Times” points out, online courses cannot be tailored to the students; they are basically one-size-fits-all experiences. Most sources say that the traditionalist employers who devalue the online degrees will probably not change their minds.
Attitudes to online degrees have changed radically since 2009, when the majority of employers viewed them negatively. The fact is, that regardless of where you get your education, your GPA, your enthusiasm and your work ethic will determine if school districts look favorably on an online education degree.