Finding the best online degree or certification for you requires several things. Work out your specific needs, research your options, choose the program that best suits your requirements, and find a reliable, accredited supplier.
Accreditation is important. Whatever type of degree or diploma you’re doing, it must be appropriately accredited. If it’s not, you will be wasting a lot of money and time on a piece of paper that won’t be recognized by your industry or any employers.
In addition to being industry accredited, the course should also be accredited by an education board. SACS for example accredits southern educational institutions in the US. Enrolling in courses at institutions that carry this or an equivalent accreditation is your guarantee that your degree or certification will be recognized. Preferably the coursework is transferable as well so units you take can be used as credits towards certifications at other similarly accredited institutions.
Carefully research the qualifications you’re after. Make sure they’re moving you in the direction you want to go career-wise. For example, there’s not a lot of point enrolling in classes for fire instructor certification if you want to advance your career as a fire officer, and vice versa. So, make sure you find the right accredited degree or certification courses to get you those qualifications. In most cases you’ll find a list of these on the program’s website.
On top of carefully researching your options around the various programs and accreditations available online, you’ll also need to check their support systems. Any institution that offers online training must have the technology infrastructure in place to support it. Today that means more that just being able to download your classes electronically once you’ve enrolled and paid for them.
For instance, you’ve just provided your bank or credit card details to pay for the courses. Is that information secured? Are your personal details and privacy likewise securely protected? Is the website user-friendly and easy to use, and can you find what you’re looking for quickly and efficiently? The last thing you want to do is spend your valuable time wading around an unfriendly site trying to find things. How fast and reliable is their infrastructure? The system should not be constantly crashing when you’re trying to use it. Just as importantly, do you have an adequate Internet connection at your end?
Further to these considerations, does the institution offer one on one support, even electronically? Can you get in touch with your tutor, lecturer or other support staff when or if you need to, and how? Is there a student board or forum where you can interact with your virtual classmates? Do they provide links to good online research tools? Also remember to check the fine print on any course you enroll in. Some courses do have a completion timeframe and if you don’t meet this, you’ll likely forfeit both the class, and your money.
We mentioned fire certifications earlier, and ensuring you’re enrolled in the relevant online fire classes for the certification you want. For example, in addition to holding the necessary pre-qualifications Fire Officer 3 certification requires completions of 3 mandatory classes – Analytical Approaches to Public Fire Protection, Chief Officer, and Ethical and Legal Issues for the Fire Service. This information should be clearly listed on the website offering the classes along with the desired outcomes for each course. Additionally, you should also be able to find a list of essential supplementary materials ie text books, and the equipment and computer software needed.