How to Defend Your Online Degree

In the grand scheme of higher education, online education is relatively new. Like anything nontraditional, some people may be unfamiliar with online programs and a little skeptical of the value of a degree earned entirely online. As a graduate of an online degree program or as a current student, you may have to explain your reason for not enrolling in a "traditional" brick-and-mortar program.

Whether you are discussing your resume with a prospective employer or chatting casually with friends and family, here are ten talking points you can use to defend your decision for earning your degree online.

My online school is accredited.

Online colleges and universities who are accredited by an accrediting agency are required to adhere to the same standards (and a few extras) as traditional, campus-based schools. Human resources (HR) departments routinely establish institutional accreditation as a fundamental requirement when evaluating and accepting an individual's academic credentials.

A school's accreditation is an important factor for HR, whether reviewing a job applicant's resume or approving a request for tuition assistance/reimbursement. Accreditation separates legitimate schools from diploma/degree mills. Because accreditation distinguishes your school from a diploma mill, let people know your degree comes from an accredited school!

I can manage my time effectively.

One of the most important skills online learning teaches you is how to manage your time effectively. It is advantageous for employers to have individuals on their team who know how to manage their time effectively.

Illustrate how you were responsible for managing your time by prioritizing and meeting the deadlines set by your professors. Demonstrate how applying effective time management practices was the only road to success by explaining how much advance planning and time was required to complete the course work.

I have a lot of experience with new software and software applications.

List all the computer skills you have acquired from your online degree program, including troubleshooting your PC. Highlight the software programs you have utilized, like Microsoft® Office, and your familiarity with posting in forums and discussions, chat rooms, and synchronous meetings. These skills can be directly applied to any work environment.

In a global economy, computers are the lifeline of business, and meetings are often conducted by teleconference, video or web conferencing. Having experience and familiarity with these types of technology can set you apart from your peers. You bring experience from your online course work and know the various forms of etiquette of these types of communication require. Be certain to highlight your experience in the area of computers, software applications, and related technologies.

I have excellent communication and interpersonal skills.

Every organization value the ability to read and manage the emotions, motivations, and behaviors of oneself and others in a social-interactive context. During interviews and reviews, companies must assess and measure those skills in a candidate or employee. You can demonstrate the strength of your interpersonal skills by talking about:

  • online teamwork and the frequency of group projects in your online courses;
  • crafting messages in order to express, clarify or persuade others of your ideas;
  • and maintaining regular contact with your peers and professors online.

It takes a lot more effort to communicate ideas effectively without being able to rely on body language. Highlight how you have successfully been able to work with others without depending solely on physical cues. By working effectively with others online, your degree is proof of your excellent interpersonal skills.

I have proven leadership skills.

Online classes frequently include a group component in the course work or syllabus. Not only does this allow the students to learn from one another, but it also helps develop a sense of community. Most online students will have had the opportunity to lead an online team. Highlight that experience and the leadership skills utilized in order to effectively lead a team. Most likely, you used a combination of:

  • Communication
  • Decision making
  • Running meetings
  • Reporting out
  • Project planning

Because of your work leading an online team, know that you are prepared and capable of leading in today's business environment, which increasingly must deal with technology and remote workers.

I know how to take initiative and stay motivated.

You may find yourself in front of an interviewer who believes that online degrees are easier to obtain and require less work than campus-based degree programs. This is an opportunity to highlight the time and personal effort that you invested in order to obtain an education.

Consider how much initiative it took for you to start your online degree program as well as the endurance, discipline and self-motivation you needed as you worked towards the completion of your degree. Remember, excelling in an online degree program illustrates your initiative and drive.

I have excellent reading comprehension skills.

Online learning depends a great deal on reading text and understanding. Most online students see a marked increase in their reading comprehension through the process of obtaining a degree because they are constantly using these skills and practice makes perfect.

You have learned to read text online and convey the meaning from your readings in short summations or comments (what you do in discussion postings or chat rooms). These skills transfer directly to the work environment where keeping up often means reading and comprehension.

My online degree program helped me develop a strong work ethic.

You've spent a few years taking courses online, you've set up a schedule and for the most part followed it regularly. You have learned to work hard and keep things in balance. You understand the value of a job well done and the sense of satisfaction you get from doing it without being recognized in real time. Your commitment to your learning is totally driven from within, so you can truly say you have a strong work ethic.

My online education skills are directly applicable to the work environment.

Think of all the skills you have gained from being in an online degree program. You had to learn, practice and develop many new skills, such as: computer skills, information literacy, researching, writing, time management, and reading comprehension.

Graduates of online degree programs are often self-reliant and can master new software rather quickly; are especially good at navigating the Internet; and a strong work ethic. These skills have direct importance to a company. When organizations are evaluating potential employees, they look for the ability to learn new skills, time management, communication, and you have succeeded in all these areas.

I succeed in diverse environments and work well with others.

Most people are used to working with others face to face. After taking courses online, you have learned to work with others in a whole new way.You have learned to work with a host of differently skilled people: some know how to use a computer; some are just learning; some need extra help. You've learned to work around other people's schedules when working to complete a group project. You've learned to respect other people's time by refraining from excessively emailing your professor. You've practiced patience with your team members, your classmates, and your professors since you couldn't shoot up your hand and be recognized immediately. And you have probably experienced a whole host of different cultures, abilities and backgrounds in the class, which has added fairness and culturally awareness to your repertoire.

If you encounter any negativity or bias against online degree programs, you should still be proud of your accomplishment. Earning a degree online tests your ability to adapt and succeed in a different environment and once you do that, it's easy to apply those lessons to any new situation.

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