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How do online degrees measure up?

Marketplace Staff Nov 21, 2008

How do online degrees measure up?

Marketplace Staff Nov 21, 2008


Tess Vigeland: Graduates clutching online degrees have to compete with job seekers from actual halls of learning. Polls show employers don’t think distance learning is on par with traditional college — yet.

The gap is shrinking, according to pollster John Zogby. His new book “The Way We’ll Be” predicts that online education will become a way of life.

Thanks for being here.

John Zogby: Hey Tess. How are you?

Vigeland: I’m fine, thank you. So in your book you compare online college degrees to the trend of flexcars, which are like timeshares for cars. Explain for us what the overlap is.

Zogby: It’s all part of a new paradigm where Americans, in many ways from the bottom up, are creating new and more flexible institutions and so in a world where more and more Americans are seeking advanced degrees or college degrees or certificate courses, they’re also working for 40, 50 and 60 hours a week in the workplace and have other responsibilities as well. And so here come the online universities to offer very busy people the option of improving themselves with an education.

Vigeland: The obvious benefits are that you can adapt it to your schedule, it’s most likely cheaper, you don’t have to pick up and move somewhere to a campus, but there must be tradeoffs here as well.

Zogby: I mean right now, to be very honest, online education is not viewed with the same level of respect by professionals, by academics, by business leaders, in fact, for that matter, even the students themselves the same way that a traditional brick-and-mortar education is. I can tell you purely anecdotally that as an employer I have people with masters degrees from both very, very good top universities in this country and also those who have gotten online degrees and in many instances, the people are very, very good. In a few instances, I would have to admit that some of the ones with online degrees, not as advanced as those with brick-and-mortar, but we have reason to believe from the polling that we have done over the last couple of years that the level of acceptance for the online degree is growing.

Vigeland: I wonder if there’s any guidance in terms of what these online institutions have to do to make themselves more viable, more understood, more relevant?

Zogby: It’s going to be very difficult to have a virtual football team, now isn’t it?

Vigeland: Right!

Zogby: Or for that matter, fans. But you’re going to see all-out efforts at recruiting stars: star faculty, star authors, genuine experts in the field of research and so on, which in fact then draws the best students and problems, as I mentioned earlier, iron themselves out. Members of the old paradigm — public universities, major public universities — decide this is wave of our future and we can bring students in at a much lower overhead and offer them a very good education and they have the skills and the technology to do it all at home.

Vigeland: John Zogby’s latest book is “The Way We’ll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American Dream” and he’s been chatting with us about the value of online education. Thanks so much for your time.

Zogby: Thanks so much Tess.

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