Choosing an Online Journalism Degree
Journalism is a popular degree program among online students. You can get associate’s, bachelor’s, and even master’s degrees in this field online, and once you do, you qualify for jobs such as reporting, magazine writing, professional blogging, publishing, and broadcasting. The quality of your education depends on the school you choose, so it is important to consider your options carefully. With more and more programs coming online every year, distance learning isn’t what it used to be, with just a few selections. Let’s cover some of the most important things to consider if you want the best online journalism degree possible.
Online colleges were once the topic of much speculation when it comes to the quality of your education. Today, there are many legitimate programs that are just as high-quality (if not more so) than traditional classroom programs at brick and mortar campuses. On the other hand, there are also scams that are attempting to cash in on the growing popularity of online degree programs. Diploma mills, for example, will give you a diploma in exchange for your “tuition” payment, even if you don’t actually go to classes, pass tests, or learn anything.
The best way to avoid such programs and other scams is to look for a college that is accredited. Accreditation means that a third party, usually a company or organization that is nationally recognized, has evaluated the program’s diploma or certification requirements to ensure that you’re getting a quality education. Without accreditation, you likely won’t qualify for many grants or scholarships, and your degree may not mean much on your resume after you graduate. It’s usually pretty easy to determine if a university or college is accredited, so just make sure to do your research before even applying.
Interaction with Professors and Students
Even if you’re a self-guided learner, it is important to share ideas with others in a classroom setting. At an online college, you won’t find a traditional room filled with chairs and tables, but you will find that many programs have online chats, conference calls, and other interactive “classes” that require students to help one another learn. The idea is to still foster one of the key pillars to attending college, which is a sense of community. By allowing students to discuss issues and work through problems together online, they can learn much more efficiently. The best online journalism degree programs will allow you to talk to other students via college-run portals, so be sure to seek things like this out when narrowing down online programs.
Being able to contact your professor is also important. Some online programs are written but never actually taught by a live person. This isn’t an optimal way to learn, since there’s no opportunity to ask questions or get clarification. You don’t want to end up with just a basic grade at the end of the semester, based on standardized tests. In the field of journalism, this is especially important, since your writing skills will guide your career. Many times though, because of the nature of journalism, grades will be much more contingent on writing and so most classes will not be simple multiple choice exams. These classes do typically have professors you can ask questions with and they even will get on live student forums to discuss issues with your fellow classmates. Utilizing this forum is the best way to air out questions and get the answers you need from someone who has a similar perspective as you. It is important to note though that many times people will only get on these forums to ask questions and then won’t help others. Make sure to stay engaged and encourage other classmates to help each other out.
Practicality of Online Learning
We’ve seen more traditional college environments adopt technology and online learning, even if for only particular aspects of a class, so it should come as no surprise that exclusively learning online is increasing greatly in popularity. As technology has advanced in recent years, many journalists have adopted online research methods and actively communicate via the internet. This has made a large difference in online education, allowing it to evolve to provide a learning environment that is much closer to real-world experiences. Students pursuing a journalism degree online can now be as experienced as their traditional university counterparts because of how integral using a computer has become in the profession. This has closed the gap between learning online and attending class on a college campus, so be sure to take advantage of this.
Who is teaching your classes? Not every online school has professors who are big names in the world of writing, but these professors should be experienced in journalism and in teaching. Not every professor needs a PhD to be qualified, but someone who has little real-world experience in journalism can’t answer your questions with authority or give you tips on finding a job after graduation. Before signing up for an online program, try to gain a better understanding of what the faculty is like and the experience they’ll be able to impart on their students.
These factors aren’t the only standards you should use to judge an online journalism degree program, but it is a start. It’s recommended to “tour” a number of online colleges because it’s much easier this way to determine which one is right for you. Look for identifiable differences between the schools and try to gauge the most notable benefits for each to make the best decision. This is a huge part to determining success in college, so make sure thorough research is done.
Getting a journalism degree online doesn’t mean you’re getting a less valuable education. You can still make your degree work for you by staying active and up-to-date on happenings in the journalism community while still in school. Keep your eye peeled for worthwhile internships and other information that can help you get the most of your college experience. College isn’t merely defined by choices in the classroom, so make sure to seek out as many opportunities as possible.
Featured Journalism Schools and Degrees
Ashford University — Ashford's bachelor's degree program in either journalism & mass communications or communication studies is a good fit for anyone pursuing a career in business, communication management, media, journalism, or public policy. Upon completion of either program, graduates are highly valued and sought after in the job market in all of these industries. Ashford also offers a similar degree in English/Language Arts that is geared toward individuals interested in a liberal arts education. AU is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission, 985 Atlantic Ave, Suite 100, Alameda, California 94501, 510.748.9001, www.wascsenior.org. Read more about Ashford University.
Southern New Hampshire University — Southern New Hampshire University offers a MA degree in communication that combines courses in communication with a solid foundation in the liberal arts. Graduates of this program will be prepared to enter careers in advertising, business writing, corporate communications, journalism, and more. Read more about Southern New Hampshire University.
Walden University — Walden University offers a Master of Science degree in communication that combines communication theory with practical skills. This particular degree focuses on journalistic aspects of new media, including Web publishing, online video, podcasts, Web conferencing, and more. Assignments consist of exercises reflecting the material and interaction with other students taking the same course.
Grand Canyon University — For the aspiring journalist, Grand Canyon University offers a BA in communications degree with three different specializations: digital film production, graphic design, and public relations. Students of the communications program are prepared to become leaders in the fields of media and communications.
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