An Online Computer Degree: Is it Right for You?

Considering an online computer degree? One might imagine that a computer science major is an ideal candidate for an online course of study. Undoubtedly, online learning programs would not exist were it not for the work of well-trained computer science grads. In fact, online learning has its roots in a computer-assisted training program developed in the 1960s at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Using the ILLIAC as a computational engine, Illinois faculty introduce PLATO, the nation’s first computer-assisted program of instruction. Conceived by physics professor Chalmers Sherwin and developed under the direction of professor Don Bitzer (electrical engineering), co-inventor of the plasma display panel, PLATO is the world’s first time-shared computer-based education system and the home of the world’s first online community.

Advantages of Earning a Computer Degree Online

Many well-established computer science schools now offer online computer degree programs, as well as combination on-campus/online programs. Both options allow busy students the benefit of being able to better balance school and work and eliminate the time and money costs involved with commuting to campus. In addition, learners who are more self-directed tend to thrive in the online computer degree environment.

In terms of technology, however, computer science majors may be better prepared than most for an online learning experience. Barriers that exist for other students, whether relative to computer equipment or technological awareness, tend to be less of an issue for computer science majors. In addition, earning your computer degree online will provide you with online access to professors, which can be advantageous when much of your class work is being completed on a computer.

Online Learning is Becoming Mainstream

Over the course of the past decade, online learning has truly become a viable option, especially for those students whose schedules demand flexibility. According to a 2010 survey of 2,5000 colleges conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group for the Sloan Consortium, 29.3% students were enrolled in a post-secondary online course in 2009 compared to only 9.6% in 2003, amounting to a growth of 3,976,052 students in just six years.

With the increase of students taking advantage of online education, educators opinion on the quality of online learning is also on the rise. In the same survey, the Sloan Consortium reported that 66% of academic leaders rate the learning outcomes of online education to be the same as or superior to face-to-face learning, growing from 57% in 2003.

A 2008 study performed by SRI International for the US Department of Education offers an even more favorable perception of online education and concludes that “online learning appears to be as effective as conventional classroom instruction,” with blended learning being more effective than either classroom or online learning on their own.

Choosing an Online Computer Degree Program

If you decide that a computer degree online is the right path for earning your computer science degree, be sure to look into the accreditation status of each school on your list. Recognized accrediting agencies for institutions of higher education can be researched on the US Department of Education website, which includes the Distance Education and Training Council. In addition, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognizes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

You should think about your career goals and choose your computer science degree accordingly, whether online or on-campus. For most IT careers, a bachelor’s degree is required, although some employers will hire individuals who have earned a professional certification or associate’s degree, if they also have the right experience.

Those who aim to be an information scientist or advance to a managerial position might want to consider pursuing a master’s or doctoral computer degree online. As you narrow down your list of online computer degree programs, be sure to research the particular emphasis and strengths of each. Especially at the graduate level, computer science programs tend to be specialized.

Is an Online Computer Degree Right For You?

Findings from the Distance Education and Training Council (DECT) in their 2010 survey of distance learning graduates from 24 different degree granting institutions, reported that 99% of the students surveyed rated that their satisfaction with the degree programs was adequate or superior, with some students remarking positively on the lack of commute, flexible scheduling, well-stated course objectives, and the ability to study at their own pace.

However, despite the benefits of online learning, it may or may not be the right choice for you. As you assess your options—whether you’re preparing for an undergraduate computer science program or a graduate degree—it is essential to consider your needs as a student.

If you are the type of learner who requires a healthy amount of face-to-face time with a professor, a classroom-based program may be better suited to your learning style. But if you have a busy schedule and are able to be self-disciplined, the convenience of an online computer degree may be a good fit.

Before selecting a campus or online computer degree program, be sure to evaluate all of your options and weigh the pros and cons of each. You can begin your search by browsing the schools available on our site. To learn more about a particular program, fill out an inquiry form and request for more information from the school today.