Online Education: How Valuable Is an Accredited Online Degree?

Online Education vs. Traditional Education

There’s a lot of discussion about whether an online degree, especially one from University of Phoenix is worth pursuing. Everyone, employer or future student considering online education, has to decide for themselves on the merits of online degrees. Here are some questions to think about:

  • Can distance learning medium be as effective as traditional learning? Is it intrinsically a good medium for leanring?
  • Are accredited online schools and programs as good as traditional schools and programs?
  • Are online degrees accepted by employers and hiring managers?

Researchers Say Distance Learning and Traditional Learning Both Have Advantages and Disadvantages

Researchers suggest that “distance learning using computer-mediated communication” has a number of advantages: “elimination of space, time and geographical constraints; increased peer interaction; deeper critical reflection; and the ability to utilize effectively internet resources” (Vartouchi, 2007, p. 16).

Effective Learning Depends a Great Deal on Instructors

The quality of either online or traditional learning depends on the quality of the instructors (preparedness, skills, and abilities) - not on the teaching method.

I attended both traditional programs in Los Angeles City College and online programs in University of Phoenix. At LACC I took a journalism course that was highly unproductive. Throughout the course, the professor made us, the students, watch boring old documentaries recorded on VHS tapes. The only thing from this class I remember is the noisy air conditioner in the classroom.

A year later, I took an online class similar in content to the one I took at LACC. The class was delightful and the insturctor was well-prepared. He facilitated very productive class discussions - interactive learning really took place.

Are Accredited Online Schools as Good as Traditional Schools - - Accreditation vs Reputation

Effective distance education is possible. And that is one of the reasons why distance learning programs were accredited by national and regional associations in the United States. But the last word on whether a school is good goes to employers and managers.

Many Employers and Managers Look Down on Online Degrees

“Fifty-five percent of managers surveyed last year by Vault Inc., a career-information company, said they favored applicants with traditional degrees over ones with online degrees. Forty-one percent said they would give equal consideration to both types of degrees” (Carnevale, 2007).

Jonathan Adams, an associate professor at Florida State University’s College of Communications conducted a survey of 269 hiring managers - 96% of these managers said they’d choose the candidate with traditional degree (Carnevale, 2007).

Acceptance of Online Degrees Is Growing among Employers and Managers

Why the opinion of employers and managers is important? If you’re an entrepreneur or freelancer who needs to build some skills through online classes, you wouldn’t care about what they think. But the majority of people need a degree to get a job.

Usually employers who know least about online education and learning are the most skeptical but “the more they learned, researchers found, the more comfortable they were” with online degrees (Carnevale, 2007).

Some surveys showed a more positive attitude toward online degrees. According to Eduventures' Continuing and Professional Education 2005 report, 62% from 505 employers surveyed showed “favorable attitude toward online instruction and perceive the quality of online learning to have the same if not greater merit than classroom instruction” (Online Degrees, 2007).

In the United States online postsecondary education has experienced an unprecedented growth in recent years - "3 million U.S. students are currently enrolled, and the field is growing at an annual rate of 41%” (Albion, Ferding, Maddux, & Sprague, 2007). And as one working generation is replacing another, able online graduates who find their way as hiring managers or employers would have a different attitude to other online graduates.

Is an Online Degree Valuable After All?

Yes, if you achieve what you initially wanted to. If you know that the industries or companies regard an online degree as valuable or equally important as a traditional degree, then go for it.

Prestigious U.S. Universities and Online Degrees

None of the most prestigious universities in the United States –Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford or MIT offers a complete online degree. With today’s technology that allows almost all kinds of interaction, they have the ability and resources to develop complete distance learning programs. If these universities embrace such programs, the issue whether online education is inferior will disappear.

Your Opinion

Do you think a university online degree can be as valuable as a traditional degree?

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Comments 17 comments

terrowhite profile image

terrowhite 7 years ago

I am very impressed and happy that you took the time to write out a very clear and un-biased review. Thanks for bringing all this useful information.

adjunct 7 years ago

Your assessment of the various issues surrounding the still ongoing discussion of the differences between online degrees and traditional degrees is very well reasoned and strikes an appropriate balance. As a full time online teacher, I agree with you that a motivated student and a dedicated teacher can accomplish any academic goal.

Ree 7 years ago

This is a very good unbiased article that I enjoyed reading. At this time I am seeking a degree using online education. You know it takes as much dedication and time to go to traditional school as it does to do online. Online is much more demanding , but I feel like Im not pressured as much as I was when I attended traditional. I feel happy to do the needed research , it was a good choice for because its more of a dedication and not forced.

Ree 7 years ago

This is a very good unbiased article that I enjoyed reading. At this time I am seeking a degree using online education. You know it takes as much dedication and time to go to traditional school as it does to do online. Online is much more demanding , but I feel like Im not pressured as much as I was when I attended traditional. I feel happy to do the needed research , it was a good choice for because its more of a dedication and not forced.

scott 7 years ago

I enjoyed this article very much. It does provide a well-balanced, articulate view of both traditional and online delivery of today's education. After taking about 4 online courses just for my personal enrichment--that the coursework was very demanding on me as a learner. I earned 2 masters and my bachelor's degrees at traditional schools and I found myself working harder and writing so much more in the online classes. I have to say from my experience that an online course--from a nationally regional accredited school--is just as meaningful and valid learning experience as a traditional in-class course. Dedication and self-motivation is the key for success as an online learner.

BARF_POET profile image

BARF_POET 7 years ago

"Can distance learning medium be as effective as traditional learning? " It is even more effective! Better prepared--more engaging--and encourages self-directed learning. Moreover, employers want employees who are savvy with technology and collaboration tools. And for those who are enrolled in online classes now, keep updated with e-learning tools such as enounce MySpeed video playback. It helps you control the pace of video lectures and save time.

sarfraz 6 years ago

well, in this busy live if somone want to complete its education by both learning books n doing his job, samultaniosly he must welcome n b hounered....simply

Sumit 6 years ago

Somehow I dont still agree about the validity of online courses in courses like management.I do believe that a lot more is learnt in a classroom program because one gets to interact face to face with people and situations.One also gets a whole lot of exposure to different view points & ideas of people with varied backgrounds.But then again an online degree might be usefull to people who want to learn a particular aspect of management...

smith4u profile image

smith4u 6 years ago

yes very true distance Learning and Regular both different and having there own disadvantage. according to me Both are also for different peoples like those who don't have time for regular classes...

I can list here many good and valuable college like University of Phoenix , if you want more like that simply go to for Accounting Degree, for psychology Majors for Culinary arts degree

adjunct2 6 years ago

Online instructors do not teacher rather they "faclitate," a point that was made crystal clear by the University of Phoenix administration. I have 4 years on online facilitation and have found that it is substandard and very lacking. First, "instructors" are hired based upon their professional expertise; however, they are not allowed to design or augment the course syllabus rather to simply lead discussion questions on a board and grade weekly papers. The assignments are nothing more than busy work and no lecturing ever takes place, hence, students rely on their texsts to learn about the subject.

When I did attempt to augment my syllabus, I was severly reprimanded by UOP, which was more concern about its facilitators following the organization's rules and policies than providing a rigorous education.

Online education is a major rip off in that students pay out of state fees even though there is no classroom setting and their tuition is excessively higher than that of a traditional college. Most students (undergraduate) have very poor writing skills and are not prepared to write simple papers and reports. Further they are not required to take prerequisites. However, the administration still expects the facilitator to look the other way when grading papers.

Students realize the power they have in complaining about their grades. Often I had Virginia College students who performed poorly by not following simple directions or failing to submit work in a timely fashion. These students complained to their academic advisors who complained to the program directors and eventually I was directed to bend the rules to accommodate the students.

Many students who pursue 2 year degrees that require licensure examination are not prepared to pass the exams.

Again, it's a rip off for both the "instructor" and students.

GreenE 6 years ago

Online students often misinterpret busy work as "demanding" assignments. Yes, online courses require students to produce a lot of papers, typically one per week. However, most students simply plagiarize the published work that they find online. I have had extensive experience reading the papers of online students and found that many did not have basic writing skills and often plagiarized their work.

Also, the online student is required to answer 1 or 2 discussion questions on a discussion board. These questions tend to be subjective in nature and remain constant for every class. Online administrators define this as teaching. Instructors are required to respond to a minimum number of students but the students are never required to respond to the instructor's questions or comments. Yet, they call this instructor and student interaction. In addition, this type of learning environment encouraged fraud in that it is very possible for a student to have someone else to log in, make comments, write and submit a paper without the instructor ever finding out.

Online students are required to take weekly objective assessments, which are nothing more than a standardize open book quiz. However, they are allowed to re-take the quiz numerous times within the week so as to improve their grades.

A true online course would allow the distant students to participate in a live course on the ground with traditional students. Such a course would require a dedicated distance learning room. In this setting, online students can see and hear the instructor, ask questions and make comments. In contrast, the typical online program offers merely a website, course syllabus, and instructor who never lectures.

I do not see how its possible for the student to learn within this type of environment.

Felisha 6 years ago

I wrote an article about this topic as well. On one hand, I understand why most places do not accept online degrees. There are way too many diploma mills. But then I think, What's the difference between sitting there in the classroom and taking notes and sitting at home printing out notes written by your professor.

Check my article out:

Jay 6 years ago

I agree with everyone who believes online learning is comical. I attended The University of Phoenix and received my bachelor's degree in Human Services (Jan. 2010).

UOP is a true "diploma mill". Although I received a GPA of 3.65 and completed all of my assignments with little or no help from others, I did not feel like celebrating when I graduated from UOP because it did not feel like I accomplished much! Almost like I cheated myself. I do believe the instructors are told to look the other way when it comes to grading. Some of my work was really basic with no effort involved.

I can speak from both sides, I went to UOP on campus the first 2 years and online the final year and a half. Both methods were a complete joke to me. I am now in the process of pursuing my Master's degree however; I have opted to go the traditional route. This time I want to feel "success and accomplishment". I no longer wish to tell someone I have my degree from an online school and their response is, "me too!"

Luke 6 years ago


I went to a traditional University and now attending an online University. I emphatically state that an online degree is much more interactive,intellectually stimulating and comprehensive. When I was going to the trad. uni., I noticed that a number of students didn't even show-up for the lecture and the professors didn't have the time of day for you. There was no colleague interaction, unless you went to the uni. pub or cafeteria...even then it would be only a small group of your drinking buds. I am glad there are online unis.;certainly more interactive and academic then the traditional old puffed-up peacock unis. I would recommend doing your B.A. at a traditional uni. and then switch to an online. You will notice the difference. Besides you tend to spend more money at a traditional uni. then on an online one.

Luke 6 years ago

Listen folks, like any university you have to choose what is best for you. Just don't up and take any university. There are bad traditional and online unis., Just do the research and use good judgement. If the online unis. is accredited by the education ministry, your degree is legit. Walden University offers good programs and is accredited. I am taking the Masters there. There is more research and work then I did at a traditonal unis. The whole program is quite extensive. For example, one is expected to complete over 60 2-3pgs.(min.) research papers in the course. Not even in my B.A. at a traditonal unis, did I do that much extensive work. So, please be discerning.

Kandice  5 years ago

I appreciate this discussion on on-line versus traditional education and excited that someone is taking the time to write about it. I have attended both an on-line university that provided on-site courses and a traditional university. I received my B.S. from a traditional University, MBA from UOP and went on to obtaining a specialty to my MBA from another traditional university. While attending this traditional university, I had the opportunity to work alongside many of their MBA students. What I discovered was that their education was no better than mine; in fact, it seemed they forgot a lot of what they learned in classes like statistic for example. I was taught statistics at UOP by an instructor who dealt with statistics everyday in her full-time career. She did a remarkable job facilitating this course and the way she delivered the product sticks with me still today and I am able to apply it to certain aspects of my job. Also, I would like to point out that UOP does not only provide on-line courses, they also provide on-site courses that provide that needed group exposure. I worked on teams and developed projects the same, if not better than what I experienced at the traditional university. I felt the traditional university was very laid back and students were less motivated. On-line students are motivated and excellent with time management because most work around their busy work schedules which is why they chose on-line in the first place; therefore, on-line students are very capable and most times more reliable as employees. I believe on-line students should be critiqued on a case by case basis just like that of a traditional university student because everyone brings something different to the table. I feel that employers who deny on-line university students may be denying some of the better perspected employees. Many of these students go on to develop successful businesses of their own.

Man from Modesto profile image

Man from Modesto 9 months ago from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California)

The 2007 Carnvale paper epitomizes the words, bias, distorted, and untrue. The author employs faulty reasoning in several places. Further, he quotes from reports prepared by brick-and-mortar colleges. Those groups produce a significant portion of the anti-online papers and reports. However, they should excuse themselves from the discussion. They have a clear bias; they must protect their own jobs.

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    Carnevale, D. (2007). Employers often distrust online degrees. Chronicle of Higher Education, 53(18). Retrieved February 7, 2008, from EBSCOhost database.

    Garrison, D. R. (1997). Computer-conferencing: The post-industrial age of distance education. Open Learning, 12(2), 3-11

    Online degrees increasingly gaining acceptance among employers. (2007). Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, 24(4), 50-50. Retrieved February 7, 2008, from EBSCOhost database.

    Vartouchi, A. (2007). Distance education. Distance Learning, 4(2), 15-19. Retrieved February 6, 2008, from EBSCOhost database.

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