December 2, 2015
For many working adults, an online education is the only means to earning a degree. Given the effort and cost expended, it's only natural to consider what the value of online bachelor's degrees is in comparison to degree programs in a traditional, face-to-face (F2F) college environment - and who better to ask than faculty that has experience in both?
Keely Griffith is the lead faculty for Southern New Hampshire University's (SNHU) online International Business Program and teaches a variety of core courses within the program. An online instructor for almost five years, she compares her experience as both an educator and student, offering a unique perspective on online bachelor's degrees.
As a student in the F2F college environment, Griffith enjoyed the large lecture halls and tests, but rarely had a close relationship with her instructors. "The online environment encourages students to reach out with anything, even after a term has ended," she said. "I have a lot of students who will contact me several terms after a course has ended to let me know about their international business venture or career opportunities. I truly think this comes from the natural relationship that has formed over an intense 9-week term."
One of the biggest benefits for Griffith is the level of engagement encouraged in the online environment. "The assignments and discussions - which mimic what a student might do in a field or industry - really stimulate engagement with the material by students and instructor and push members of the class to apply various experiences to the concepts being covered," she said. "It exposes each student to diverse industries and situations, better preparing them for a variety of real-world experiences in the field."
While she feels there are some advantages to an F2F learning environment, Griffith believes there is a lot of opportunity to provide a more personal learning experience in the online environment. "It absolutely requires the instructor to do more outreach and intentional relationship building, but once that is established you have this amazing medium to reach students in a safe and comfortable environment." With that has come a stronger focus on student success and application of course material. Subject matter experts, who know what students need to be successful in the field, develop courses. Relevancy is a major focus in each course.
Students earning online bachelor's degrees at SNHU benefit from personal attention received through assignment feedback, Griffith says. Detailed feedback is encouraged on all coursework, including discussions, milestones and final projects, which provide clear direction for students as they move through their courses and program.
"In general, the online learning environment helps students to develop a number of important skills, like time-management skills," said Griffith. "Juggling work, family and education can be a true test of someone's ability to focus and prioritize. It also creates the opportunity for students to collaborate with others, which is important in any work environment."
The convenience and flexibility of the online bachelor's degrees is important, Griffith says, because it allows students to gain experience in the workforce or manage various responsibilities without giving up on their educational goals. "Outside of convenience, an online bachelor's degree can be more rigorous than a traditional format," she said. "It promotes real-world experience because of the types of projects and environments that students are working through and exposes the student to all sorts of technology and helps to establish mastery of various web-based tools."
Griffith also notes that accessibility of online bachelor's degrees has created a more affordable option for college seekers, and it "has made a significant difference in the number of students who have been able to start and complete their degree."
When it comes to the value of online bachelor's degrees at SNHU, the emphasis on a personal learning experience, relevant course materials designed for real-world application and success and affordable access to higher education add up to a degree well worth earning. Just ask Keely Griffith.
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