You know that quality matters when you’re pursuing a course of study. But what does “quality” mean? Here are a few things to consider.
First, is the institution accredited? This is a detail, but a critical one. Some employers won’t hire people with degrees or training from institutions which are not accredited, so to get the most bang for your buck, find a course or program that’s offered by an accredited institution.
Accredited institutions normally make a point out of providing that information on their website. Regional accreditation is the highest level of accreditation available in the United States, and requires institutional review every ten years.
Second, does the institution have the course or program that you want and need? Some programs are close, but not exactly right. Do some homework about the profession you want to enter – or if you’re already in that profession, talk with a supervisor or human resources professional about the skills needed to move up. Once you have a good idea of what you need, find an accredited program that covers the needed expertise and skills.
Third, are the teachers well qualified? This is normally covered under accreditation, since the accreditation review looks at the qualifications and expertise of the faculty in each institution. But having teachers with lots of letters after their names only goes so far. They also have to be actively involved in teaching students, which leads to the final and most overlooked measure of quality.
Technology and media are measures of institutional quality that are often overlooked. First and foremost, if you are looking at distance education, the technology utilized must work. Does the institution deliver the courses with state-of-the-art technology and high quality media? Do they provide technical support? Can you reach someone when you need help?
With online programs, courses need to be accessible, passwords need to work, and audio and video need to play correctly. The best online courses are laid out so that you can negotiate them easily and find the content you need quickly. Instructors should actively and regularly interact with students online.
If streaming video is used, excellent audio quality is critical, and video needs to be clean and watchable. You probably don’t want to watch 45 class hours of someone writing on a white board in a dimly lit room with a camera trying to shoot over their shoulder.
If you are taking classes, make sure to send your compliments to the instructor’s department head when the technology and teaching go well – and be just as ready to complain about lack of quality in any of the areas mentioned above. Assertive students who make constructive comments to administrators help to improve the institution. You are entitled to let the institution know when there are problems with the design or media in your classes.
Of course, we hope you find a lot to like in the courses we offer, and offer our best wishes for success to all students.