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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Lower Value of Online Degree Programs?

The post: eLearning Technology: Online Programs that Offer Training in eLearning? has provided some interesting results around online programs - and a really interesting question:

How do employers view online degree programs? If you are going to spend the money and time upgrading your skills, you want to make sure the employer will recognize them.

I am very curious what other people think about this. I personally hire mostly folks with undergraduate degrees and mostly they are technical. I look at the individual first and foremost - but that said - I definitely am looking for an undergraduate degree from an in-person program first and foremost. For graduate programs, I probably have less of a bias and I would value an online graduate degree from a bigger name higher than an in-person from a local, lesser name program. That said, I still would value the in-person higher than the online for the same university. Given my passion around distance learning, it's a bit weird to admit this bias. But, I wonder if this isn't shared and that people should be aware of it?

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Interesting comments on the value of degrees. Just curious, what do you feel makes an in-residence degree better than an online degree? Have you participated in an online degree program? What are your thoughts on community colleges? I’ve seen some pretty tough programs at community colleges compared to four year institutions. Think about a series of chemistry classes at say Allan Hancock University versus USC. Which learner gets more individual attention from a teacher versus a TA?
In my experience, a person’s ability to do the job and grow the company far outweighs any degree they may have, sans being a certified teacher, doctor, lawyer. Furthermore, the institution which the degree is obtained from is only important if it is from a prestigious institution, even then it really does not guarantee you will have a good (great) employee.
When I interview, I am much more interested in how someone can critically think and move through details of a potential project than if they have a degree from a specific institution, online or otherwise. To me, the degree signifies a person’s ability to complete something on their own -- without being forced, such as we do day-in and day-out at work. The degree must be accredited though.
A degree is required at our company, but it doesn’t have to be in the area people are applying. I know plenty of programmers who have degrees in physics, biology and the like. I think you are living example of this with your company.

Tony Karrer said...

The comment "In my experience, a person’s ability to do the job and grow the company far outweighs any degree they may have" ...

I completely agree with you.

Also, I went to a smaller (4,000 person) University (Loyola Marymount) and I felt I got a great, well-balanced education. I took a Master's program from USC that was over a TV system - you go to the University only twice a year for tests. I got my PhD from USC - a fairly standard PhD program with lots of on campus stuff. I maybe bring a little bias because of my experience of taking large (200+ student) masters classes over the TV where you could make fun of the prof during the lecture with the other students. It doesn't quite have the same feel of respect.

FYI - I've hired about 50% of my employes also from that same University (and also from UCLA, USC and CalTech - also here in Los Angeles).

I definitely judge the individual. And like the commenter - " I am much more interested in how someone can critically think and move through details" ... but is degree somewhat an indicator - in my experience the percentages go up with certain institutions over others.

But, I'm curious of the biases that people may have, especially relative to online programs?

Anonymous said...

I thought studies had shown whether the course in online or in a physical location the amount of information learned is the same?

If that is true, then wouldn't a person who has been an online student have some real world experience from the user perspective and I would thnk that would make them a better online instructor?

Karl Kapp said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Karl Kapp said...


First, I have to say I am surprised with your admission…but it is not unusual. I think there is definitely a bias against online programs.

Personally, . I believe that an online education is as good or better than a face-to-face from the academic standpoint. I think there is value of an undergraduate going off and living on his or her own but that value is separate from the educational impact of online courses. An online degree is every bit as good as a face-to-face degree if it comes from an accredited organization.

Check out this article from titled Report: Number of students taking online courses rises.

It states three interesting things:

--Many students physically on a campus take online courses.

--62 percent of chief academic officers surveyed said they felt students learned as well or better from online courses as they did in face-to-face courses.

--Eduventures, a consulting and research firm, found 50 percent of consumers who expected to enroll in a higher education program said they would prefer to get at least some of their instruction online.

I have a post on this topic at Online Students Increasing in Numbers

Tony Karrer said...

Karl - thanks for the pointers to the articles. What's also interesting from your reply is the "value from going off and living on own" - which is actually quite important. I don't believe the experience is nearly the same for commuter students. And online programs are pretty much commuter programs.

As I'm digesting my own biases and trying to understand how others feel, I also realize that my feelings are quite different around advanced degrees and undergraduate. For advanced degrees, my bias is not the same at all.

Part of what is also at issue is there is also a selection process that occurs during acceptance. Thus, people who get into certain programs, likely have been higher achievers. I have no idea of the differences for online programs in terms of acceptance - but my guess is that its easier to get into online than in-person just based on the limited slots for in-person.

Anonymous said...

While I personally did my undergraduate and graduate work at "real" universities (Auburn and Rollins College respectively), I can't necessarily say that I would devalue a purely online degree right off the bat.

For people like my brother who is working full-time and raising a family, the online degree gives them the option to continue pursueing their education when otherwise they may not.

For him specifically, he chose to take some classes with the University of Phoenix. Now, he took primarily tech related courses and so it was a little easier than say a science degree, for example.

I guess it all comes down to what the area of study is, what the school's reputation is, and whether the student can demonstrate a certain level of competency.

Anonymous said...

I have been experienced bias not because I have an online degree, but because I have a foreign PhD.
I noticed people think less of that. I have a flawless carrer, mor ethan 50 publications etc. Still, I have a hard time to get an interview. I have enough data to demonstrate the reason is my foreign degree.
Can anyone suggest how can I improve my odds?
Thank you.

Tony Karrer said...

Ph.D.'s are a weird thing even from US programs. They suggest both positive and possible negative aspects (too theoretical? why did they bother - afraid of real work?) about the candidate. Not sure about US vs. other programs. Note: often undergraduate degrees in some disciplines, e.g., Computer Science, can be more theoretical in some countries. Not sure if you are facing that bias.

Anonymous said...

While the degree is important, the abilities of each person are more important. What he/she knows and what value he/she will add to the company, these are the most important factor. You, as a proficient manager, should come up with the best interview that is going to reveal all these aspects.

Anonymous said...

I believe in the advantages of face-to-face interactions, especially after having telecommuted my work engineering software. Alone in your home, you don't feel the nuanced urgencies of the teacher during their lectures, nor do you remember any queasy feeling over the classroom after the teacher announced the material on the exam. It's harder or impossible to coordinate study with other students. If you're watching lectures online, you can't raise your hand and learn from the experience of wording a naive question to the teacher.

With that in mind, the bias is understandable. It's quite a sweeping statement, but with a lack of better information, given a same school candidate, I imagine people would go with their gut and avoid an online learner.

I could go on and on.

Frederico said...

I was wondering the same thing recently and found some illuminating studies that have been conducted in which employers are looking rather favorably on online degrees. Good news!