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How to Justify an Online Degree

posted by Peter on January 16th, 2009

There may come a time — maybe during a job interview, or when your obnoxious cousin is in town — when you’ll have to explain why you chose to get an online degree rather than taking a traditional campus program. You could have many reasons, but when the time comes and all eyes are on you, it’s easy to let the pressure get to you and start spluttering like a lawn sprinkler.

Don’t fret, progressive-minded online student: This handy list of reasons for taking the electronic route would be enough to satisfy even the most staunchly pro-campus uncle. Print it out and keep a copy folded up in your pocket, just in case.

“It was flexible enough to accommodate my hectic work schedule.” Perhaps the biggest reason people ride the Internet school bus is the difficulty in taking time out of their work schedules for classes. It’s hard enough to find a botany section that doesn’t conflict with your other classes when you’re unemployed, let alone when you’re a gainfully employed ice cream truck driver. Hey, if they can let you do that for a living, who are they to argue with flexibility?

“It was an affordable alternative to the relentless university fee grinder.” College campuses are always finding excuses to raise tuition or barrage their students with spirit-crushing fees and expenses. Not so with your school, you can say. There are no trees to trim, no buildings to renovate, and no new toys for the campus police department, hence no surprise jumps in student body fees. That means more cash you can donate to saving the dolphins and feeding starving children in Zimbabwe, right?

“Its accessibility was perfect for my nomadic lifestyle.” Maybe you’re a flight attendant during the week, or maybe your boss keeps sending you on “business trips” to Vegas. The thing about online schools, you can say, is they’re accessible from anywhere, including from your suite in the Renaissance through the free WiFi. It was this accessibility that allowed you to hit the books during those quiet Friday nights, earning you your MBA and prompting your boss to give you more responsibility, and send you on even more business trips.

“I was able to pound through the trenches at double-time.” Your grandfather, who was a war veteran, will appreciate this. Degrees that take an entire year in a campus program can take eight or nine months online, and depending on how diligent you are, you can slash months off of a bachelor’s or master’s degree, too. Just look them in the eye with a grave expression and say an online degree is the mark of an educational warrior savage.

“I had total control over my learning environment.” Everyone who attends a traditional college knows about “that guy,” the one who sits in the front and asks infuriating questions, or the one who enjoys spouting off volumes of his own knowledge, whether or not it’s relevant. Or the guy who sits right next to you and chews on corn nuts like he’s passively trying to express something. Those guys weren’t part of your learning experience, you can say. The only “that guy” was you, and the other “that guy” in the mirror. And they even high-fived occasionally.

“I could keep my own hand on the education throttle.” In your online learning experience, you might say, you weren’t idly wasting your time while the professor pandered to the slack-jawed ignoramuses in the class. And you weren’t dragged behind in the dust as if tied to a hurling freight train. You could study at your own pace, with the free will to read ahead, or to skip a few nights. You were like a lone wolf, a self-actualized mover-shaker, or a Hell’s Angel on the open highway. Depending on your listener’s age bracket.

“My school’s reputation is well established.” You wouldn’t go to Barney’s School of Online Hopscotch and Kilt Mending, would you? Then you can probably say your online school’s reputation is as sound as that of any school whose foundation rests in American soil. As long as it’s properly accredited, your degree is solid enough to knock heads with anyone else’s, and the real zinger is employers are warming up to them more every day. Say that, then lock eyes with your listener and ask if they know what accrediting body backs their school.

“I can’t step on any cracks when walking on pavement.” It’s plain and simple, college campuses have a lot of cement, and cement has cracks. Actually, maybe you’ll want to keep this one under your hat.

“Online education is the wave of the future.” The past several years has shown a steady increase in online school enrollment. Though this by no means indicates online schools will replace traditional classrooms, it’s looking like the institution is becoming firmly grounded in modern education. Online schools aren’t everybody’s slice of pie, you could say, but their value is becoming more recognized, and soon they will be just another convention like the radio, the television and the computer. You may then opt to flourish your hands dramatically and repeat, “computer, computer, computer….” By now, your audience will definitely be convinced.

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