Online Certificates

The "What, How, and Where" of Online Certificates

Today's media is awash with opportunities for online learning, so let's look at exactly what online certificates are and the best practices for choosing an online school. Generally certificates serve to show that someone has completed a certain number of hours of study in a particular area of a chosen field. They can either replace a degree in order to help one get directly into the workforce, or they can help someone with a degree show how he is furthering his education. In this competitive job market, on-the-job experience is often not a recommendation when applying for a new position. But certificates prove an individual's knowledge of a certain subject and also show his willingness to learn and grow both important traits to employers.

Online certificate programs are a popular choice for continuing education students. Their flexibility, affordability, and user-friendly instructional design make them a top option for earning the credit hours needed. But hundreds of institutions now claim to be the best place to get an online certificate. How can a student be sure he is choosing the best institution? Here are some pointers to consider carefully.

Make Sure the Institution Is Accredited

Accreditation means that the school meets, or even surpasses, a recognized set of educational standards. Because of this, current and future employers will value the certificate more. Many places can claim to be accredited, so be careful to choose those that are endorsed by the U. S. Department of Education.

Make Sure the Certificate Is Exactly What You Are Looking for

Some certificates have similar names. Investigate what courses are required for the certificate and email the institution to ask questions about the course content.

Find out About the Faculty and Class Size

How long have the instructors been teaching? Do they have work experience? What degrees do they hold? Where did they get the degrees? Don't forget about class size. A smaller teacher to student ratio is just as important online as it is in a traditional brick-and-mortar school. The ideal size is somewhere around twelve to fifteen students per teacher.

Investigate the Precise Certificate Requirements

Make sure the instructional design allows for completing the certificate completely online if that is the best option for you, and there are no hidden required class meetings or special projects. Examine the technical requirements. Online programs will often need software for chat rooms and video and audio streaming. Check the necessary Internet speed.

Analyze the Support Available From the Institution.

This doesn't just refer to financial aid, although that is certainly important. Look into the school's policies on withdrawing from a course, in case something happens. Also, make sure the faculty is available easily for help.

Take your time in your search for the right certificate program. With so many options available, there is no reason for anyone to settle for less than he wants from a school or institution. The "prep work" for the certificate can save a lot of headaches later. When you are settled into a great program, intently focusing on areas you really want to study, the extra effort will have been worth it.