Help me learn about online universities.
December 29, 2011 4:42 AM   Subscribe

What are some good resources to start researching online universities? Or, what are some of the most reputable online universities?

I'm currently living abroad in Thailand so American-style community colleges aren't really available to me at this point.

I graduated back in 2006 with two equally useful degrees in History and Anthropology. After spending some time in management, I've realized that I'd like to do something a bit more fulfilling.

I'd really like to move towards physical therapy, but I lack the foundation in biological/physiological sciences. I'd like to get up to speed by getting an online degree in Biology or maybe Exercise Science.

I've tried a few google searches, but my alarm bells are ringing at some of the results. I'd like some help finding a good resource or some general tips for evaluating online universities.

As I'm currently working, I'd like to obtain a Bachelor's in my spare time and then devote all my time to enrolling in a grad school in the future. If this is foolish, let me know.

As an aside, I should receive my CSCS soon. Probably won't affect applications, but might be useful. Also, my anthro degree was almost exclusively cultural. There was very little physical anthropology in my coursework.
posted by Telf to Education (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
A good overall source of information about online education is Degreeinfo. They have very active forums with lots of informed and (at times) critical posters.

They consider both accredited and non accredited institutions, and can help you avoid a costly, time wasting mistake.

Hope this helps!
posted by Mutant at 4:58 AM on December 29, 2011

At around the 24 minute mark of this MarketPlace Your Money show, Western Governors University gets a mention, along with more general information on online universities. Unfortunately, they don't have a degree program in your area of interest but you should compare other online schools to this one.
posted by loosemouth at 4:59 AM on December 29, 2011

Best answer: Thomas Edison State College offers a BA in Biology. You will not be taking the majority of your classes directly through them. You might be able to transfer some of your old General Ed credits, if not you can just test out of them through CLEP or DANTES exams. You should contact Webster University in Hua Hin, Thailand and find out if they will let you take proctored exams in their testing centre.

You can take introductory Biology and Chemistry with an at home lab through Straighterline. You should be able to find out where you can take the other Biology courses on the DegreeInfo forum and DegreeForum.
posted by Ariadne at 6:28 AM on December 29, 2011

Many (most?) brick-and-mortar universities offer online courses, if not complete degrees. Don't limit your search to only "online universities". Also, many community colleges provide online courses available to anyone in the world, so don't limit your search to just universities either.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:17 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As a biology professor who also advises a lot of exercise science students who are pre-PT, I am skeptical of the your ability to either gain sufficient knowledge and skills through online education without labs or to gain admission to a competitive PT graduate program with your current plan. These programs generally expect well-prepared students with good grades and test scores who are ready to jump into a very demanding program. I am skeptical of online education and for-profit education in general, but I am especially dubious that one can actually learn basic science skills without ever applying them in a lab setting.

I would encourage you to find a way to take actual biology or exercise science classes with labs. It did not look like Webster University in Thailand offers science particularly, but there might be other English-language schools that do.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:17 AM on December 29, 2011

Best answer: The Open University based in the UK, has both Biology and "Sport and Fitness" undergraduate degrees, and a mix 'n' match option. The programmes are very highly regarded, and at least in the UK, are considered as good as a traditional university degree.
posted by roofus at 7:37 AM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Absolutely second the advice to look at brick-and-mortar universities. I am a university employee who once worked in admissions; my husband is trying to finish a BS in an IT field after an AA in business.

He was in a similar situation to you: unsure where he would live for the next year or so (thus unsure of residency), so he started out with Capella. Which... wasn't terrible, but it was very much not ideal. Now he's doing an online program through a state system school, which has worked out wonderfully. But, again, he's in IT, and therefore doing lab work online isn't a big deal.

You'll have several issues.

1. Residency: To establish residency in a state and qualify for lower tuition, you can't just go there and start school, thinking you'll get in-state tuition the next year. You need to be in a state for a year WITHOUT attending a state school or community college. However, if you attend an online school during that time, and can prove you're in the state for business purposes, you can probably get around that. (This is a much-simplified summary; consult your local authorities on this.)

That said, several brick-and-mortar schools offering online programs will give you a tuition break if you confirm that you're only doing it online.

2. Specialty classes: As hydropsyche says above, you'll want to take whatever you can in person or... some other way.

Diverging for a second: do you know about accreditation? There are several confusing aspects. You want your school to be REGIONALLY accredited overall; for example, UW-Madison is accredited institutionally by the North Central Association for Higher Learning Commission, while the PT program is accredited by the (national) American PT Association. Many for-profit online schools are nationally accredited [institutionally], which is sketchier. Nationally accredited institutions are almost never going to be useful.


I cannot stress this enough. There's nothing worse than spending time and money -- often a lot of money; for-profit schools count on this -- on classes that don't transfer.

My advice is to take whatever foundational stuff you can do online, but figure out how to do the lab classes in person at another school. Most universities will allow people to attend classes as guest students; given equivalent accreditation, you can probably transfer those credits over to your degree. Summer sessions are great for this because you can get them all done with in three to eight weeks, with a more relaxed atmosphere. So if there's a possibility of taking them while you're on an extended trip back to the States, see if that's an option.

Find out ahead of time if these classes will/may transfer.

(There's another type of residency to worry about: most schools want you to do your last 30-40 credits within that particular program. But that's something to consider later on.)

Here are some pre-PT guidelines that you might consider.
posted by Madamina at 8:13 AM on December 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

I don't know anything about biology, but having worked at a for-profit online school, absolutely do not go to one. I don't care if they promise unicorns and rainbows, just avoid all of them.
posted by desjardins at 9:49 AM on December 29, 2011

Response by poster: Hey guys,

Thanks for the help. The links will keep me busy for a while.
posted by Telf at 1:24 AM on December 30, 2011

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