Online Program FAQs

Discover whether employers respect online degrees and learn about the benefits of an online degree from the University of Saint Joseph.

Are online degrees respected by employers?

Online degrees are becoming more and more common. From Biology to Health Informatics, Nursing to Nutrition, students can earn a degree online in almost any field. But how do employers feel about these degrees? Do they earn the same respect as a degree earned in a more traditional on-campus format? A few years ago, online degrees were thought of as less valuable and less prestigious than traditional degrees, but is this still true?

The truth is, people’s perceptions of online degrees have changed a lot over the last decade. Today, given the sheer number of people earning their degrees online, perceptions have shifted. According to a recent survey, 61 percent of CEOs and small business owners nationwide said they were familiar with online or distance learning programs. And even more impressive, 83 percent of executives in the survey said that an online degree is as credible as one earned through a traditional campus-based program.

Clearly, employers think differently about online degrees today than they did in the past. Now, an online degree is measured by different criteria, not written off completely. While online degrees are much more respected by employers today, it is important to remember that not all online degree programs are created equal.

What types of online degree programs are available?

The majority of online degrees can be completed 100% online, with no on-campus component. These programs are self-paced — lectures and exercises are posted to the online portal and students can watch them when it fits into their schedule. Students usually have a discussion component in the form of an online forum where they can exchange thoughts with their peers. Typical deadlines for assignments and exams still apply.

Then there are hybrid online degrees. In these programs, students can complete most of their coursework online but there is also an on-campus component of the degree. Sometimes this takes the form of a two-week intensive only once during the year, while other programs require students to spend a semester on campus before completing the rest of their degree online. Hybrid programs are popular because they allow students to connect with their professors and peers on campus while still enjoying some of the flexibility that a 100% online degree offers.

Do employers take online degrees seriously?

Today, with the increased prevalence of online degrees in the marketplace, employers take online degrees much more seriously. Across a myriad of industries, from nursing to criminal justice, more and more people are earning their degrees online in order to save money and advance their careers on a tight schedule. That being said, not all online degrees are the same and your online degree is more likely to be respected by future employers so long as it meets a few important criteria.

Accreditation

Accreditation is by far the most important criteria to consider before you embark on an online degree program. Accreditation is a peer-review process that signifies to future employers or future institutions that the program you attended follows strict guidelines for curriculum and instruction. An accredited program at a college or university will be more recognized and more highly respected across the board — including by employers.

College Structure

Online degree programs can come from a few types of schools but can generally be divided into two categories: schools that have a physical campus and schools that only exist online. The fact is, employers have more respect for a college that has a physical campus — even if you don’t earn an on-campus degree. Programs with schools that only exist online still suffer from the old stigma that online degrees are less serious. To make sure that your degree is taken seriously by employers, it is better to earn your online degree from an institution that has a good reputation and a central campus.

Reputation

Ultimately, what matters most is the reputation of the institution where you earn your degree. Degrees from traditional four-year institutions or accredited graduate programs will earn more respect than for-profit online degrees. If the institution is known within its local area, state, region, or at the national level, chances are that employers will be willing to overlook the fact that you earned your degree online — in fact, they may not even notice.

What are the benefits of an online degree?

As online degrees become more common employers grow more comfortable hiring graduates from these programs. In fact, some employers may see it as an advantage — believing that an online degree shows a person’s determination, grit, and commitment to their goals. So, what are the benefits of earning a degree online?

Students who earn their degree online generally do so because they have busy schedules or are unable to uproot their lives to move closer to a college campus. These students may have family obligations, a busy work schedule, or a long commute, and yet they still manage to earn a degree while working. This ability to balance work and school is indicative of many positive traits that are highly valued by employers, such as 

  • Juggling competing priorities
  • Meeting tight deadlines
  • Working in a fast-paced environment
  • Communicating across teams in a virtual environment
  • Dedication to achieving a goal or purpose
  • Flexibility and adaptability

Earning an online degree in your chosen field can help you advance your career or execute a career change without compromising your current role and putting yourself into a tight financial situation. But on top of this, your online degree signifies to employers that you have the passion, dedication, and resolve to achieve your goals and reach new heights.

Are the online programs at USJ accredited?

All of the graduate programs at USJ are accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) and the Office of Higher Education for the State of Connecticut.

Accreditation allows participation in federal and state financial aid programs, is required for acceptance and transfer of college credit, and is preferred by employers in the workplace.

How much do online credits cost?

Tuition for online programs is based on a per-credit rate.

How long does it take to complete an online program?

A general timeline for completing a 30-credit online program is two to three years. Length of the program directly relates to the program requirements, how many classes are taken each semester, and whether transfer credits were used.

Will the diploma indicate that the course format was online?

There is no distinction made between degrees earned online or on campus on USJ transcripts or diplomas.

Can online students still participate at Commencement?

All graduates are invited to attend ceremonies held during May. Information about Commencement will be made available to all graduate students.

How are online courses delivered?

USJ delivers its online courses through the Blackboard learning management system. Students are assigned to their courses in Blackboard 7 days prior to the start of the term. You must be officially registered for a course in order to be assigned to it in Blackboard. Instructors will post the course syllabus, assignments, lecture material and more in Blackboard. You can also email your instructor and interact with your classmates from within your Blackboard course.

How do I interact with my instructor and peers?

A great strength of the USJ online learning environment is the opportunity to discuss issues and gain ideas from both the instructor and peers. All courses have a threaded discussion board forum component, a digital drop-box for submission of student assignments, an online grade book, and document sharing technologies. In addition, all instructors use email for communication.

In certain courses, the instructor may schedule time that they are available for extra help online in a feature Blackboard calls the “virtual classroom.” The instructors will usually offer several times a week when they are available during the work period to offer help.

What are the computer requirements for online classes?

To confirm that your browser and computer are ready for Blackboard, visit Blackboard’s Browser Checker.

How do I receive and hand in assignments?

All assignments are available through Blackboard. Each unit’s work is clearly organized in the syllabus: all assignments, due dates, and grading criteria should be available to help you plan. You can view and print assignments, discuss them with your colleagues and ask for feedback from your instructor. The instructor may ask you to submit your assignments through a drop-box within Blackboard or through an online document integrity system called Turnitin.com.

How much time should I reserve each week per course?

Typically, students spend an average of 12 hours a week working in each course. Times may vary from five to 20 hours depending on such factors as the number of course credits, pace of reading and typing, and familiarity with the subject.

When do I need to be available for class?

Since most of the classes consist of posted lectures/class notes and book work, classes can be reviewed at a time that you choose and worked on off-line.

There will be discussions that require participation weekly or bi-weekly. The discussion board feature allows much interaction, both formally and informally. Most people enter the online classroom several times a week because there may be requirements about responding to other students’ posts; however, you can complete these posts at any time before they are due.

Do classes have a specific start and end date?

Each USJ course has a designated start and end date, as online courses follow the same academic calendar as the courses offered on-campus. There is a fall and spring semester, along with a summer session.

Will I be missing the give-and-take of a conventional classroom setting?

An online course offers many advantages to the traditional classroom setting; however, it does not always substitute for the face-to-face classroom experience. Online courses are an alternative that allow you to expand your opportunities in an efficient and convenient manner. Some advantages students mention about the online classroom are:

  • Highly personal and interactive learning experience
  • Flexible study and participation time that works around your schedule
  • There are no lectures and no “back row;” everyone participates
  • You can continue your studies while maintaining your professional and family responsibilities
  • They eliminate commuting time and hassles

How do I contact my instructor and receive feedback?

USJ faculty is available by email and phone. Most online instructors have previously taught in traditional-style classroom and have transitioned to the online format.

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