A survey commissioned by eLearners.com and conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently revealed that degrees obtained online are gaining acceptance amongst employers. This is good news for students enrolled in online courses, more than 4.6 million of them according to data from the Sloan Consortium’s 2010 report an online education. A Pew Research Center survey has shown that 46 percent of college graduates within the last ten years have taken one or more online courses. Eighty-nine percent of four-year public schools now offer online courses, along with 60 percent of four-year private schools.
Of the SHRM survey participants, 79 percent had actually employed a job applicant with an online degree within the last year. In addition, 87 percent believe that online degrees are viewed more favorably now than they were five years ago. A survey conducted by online institution Excelsior College, in conjunction with Zogby International, revealed similar opinions. Of the executives surveyed, 83 percent said an online degree is as credible as one earned from a traditional campus-based program.
In this shaky economy, many professionals are going back to school online to obtain advanced degrees. Many younger students are also working full-time while taking their college courses online. As the number of students taking online courses increases, it becomes more likely that some of your job candidates will have online degrees on their resumes. As a business owner with a company to run and positions to fill, what should you do?
If you’re concerned about the quality of the education a candidate has received, or the validity of their online degree, just ask. You may begin by asking about the accreditation of their degree program and school. Accredited programs are required to meet the same rigorous standards, whether online or on campus. Ask about their toughest assignments. This will give you a sense of the difficulty of the program. Ask about their communications with instructors and other students. The best online degree programs generally offer a high level of interaction.
Finally, Conduct an Education Verification in addition to a criminal records background check and standard employment verification. You should at a minimum verify the type of diploma or highest degree the candidate holds as well as major, minor and attendance dates –regardless of whether they obtained their degree(s) on campus or online.