Distance Learning; Home Schooling With a Twist!

Diplomate, American Association of Experts in Traumatic Stress
Adjunct Professor of Counseling and Psychology, Troy University, Orlando, Florida
Adjunct Professor of Counseling and Psychology, Webster University, Orlando, Florida
Adjunct Instructor of Psychology, Valencia Community College, Orlando, Florida


Fifteen years ago if you wanted a Bachelor's, Master's or Doctorate degree and you were not fortunate enough to live in a city that had a college or university, you were stuck. You had limited choices; move to a college town, commute enormous distances and waste valuable time in the process or get a diploma from a diploma mill and hope no one ever challenged your credentials.

Today the internet Has changed the way education delivers it's services to students and it will never be the same.

In 1998 only about 700,000 students enrolled in internet based distance education courses, in 2000 the numbers had risen to 1,400,000 and is anticipated to top 2,230,000 students by the year 2002.

Today, or even tonight, you can enroll in accredited colleges and universities over the internet. Enrollment is similar to traditional schools but can be done from the convenience of your own home, you can complete the degree and specialization of your choosing as well as qualify for federal financial aid.

There are, however, a few cautions you will need to take. This article will outline these cautions as well as the pros and cons of internet based distance education.


One of the foremost questions on your mind should be in assuring the college or university you plan to attend will award you an accredited degree. Accreditation is not mandatory. Colleges and universities voluntarily undergo accreditation procedures. Accreditation ensures that the program offered meets, or exceeds, the same high scholastic standards of traditional classroom based programs.

When evaluating a school the first question you should ask is "Which agency are you accredited by?" The two main accreditation bodies are;

Schools accredited by either of these agencies are "REAL" schools.

In addition to these to agencies, there are six regional agencies. Accreditation by any of the following six agencies grants automatic accreditation by the two main bodies listed above. These seven regional accreditation agencies are;

Accreditation by any one of these agencies assures you the degree is "REAL" and will be accepted anywhere. Additionally if the program is accredited by one agency, such as the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Colleges, but you live in the Southeast, the degree is still valid. It's as if you went to the University of Alaska but now work in Georgia. NOTE: State accreditation IS NOT the same as regional accreditation.


Undergraduate degrees generally do not have residency requirements. Masters and Doctoral degrees do. These residency requirements, while varying from school to school, are generally accomplished through brief local residencies located at the main school, around the country or even summer 2-3 week residencies at the school's main campus.

Accredited degrees at the baccalaureate, masters, and doctorate level are available. It is even possible to complete an accredited advanced nursing degree (i.e. MSN, Nurse Practitioner) as well. One popular critical care nursing magazine recently advertised for a distance based Medical Doctor (MD) program.

There are literally hundreds of programs with more coming on-line everyday.


Distance learning programs are generally less costly than traditional programs. However this does not include the savings you accrue by not commuting back and forth to school.

Accreditation also offers another advantage; student loans. Any program with regional accreditation entitles the student to apply for, and receive, federally backed student loans. Veterans, if entitled to benefits, can apply for Veteran's benefits as well as federal student grants and loans. Many hospitals, businesses and agencies, also offer tuition reimbursement.


You attend class when you want to, even if it's 3 AM. Your degree is valid anywhere in the world and you can choose the program you want even if it's based three states away from you. The biggest advantage is that you make your own schedule and you make the program fit your needs.


Distance education is not for everyone. To succeed you really have to commit to a schedule you will follow for completing assignments on time. You do not have to be an internet guru but you do need to be reasonably familiar with the internet and E-mail. Don't worry, whatever your skill level is now - you'll get better!


There is no way we can cover all the available programs. They grow in number almost every week. A good place to start is at www.gradschools.com/listings/distance/ nursing _distance.html.

The following are selected, accredited programs and some of the degrees they offer, most also offer more degrees than those listed.

NOTE: Many diploma nurses graduated from programs that did not award college credit for the courses they took. A number of the distance BSN programs, especially those in the UK and Canada (which are accredited in the US) award credit for the courses taken in the diploma program. Many diploma nurses can finish an RN to BSN program in as little as a year.

Some Suggested Schools to look at

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I'm biased. I strongly recommend Walden University! Walden is one of the leaders in distance education offering such degrees as: Bachelors, Masters and Doctorates in clinical, counseling, sports, health and academic psychology, education, business, human services, information technology and others. It has a well designed curriculum, amazingly supportive faculty and staff and continues to advance to meet the changing needs of students on a regular and consistent basis.

State University of New York at Stony Brook Nursing Department

Capella University
Their Master's in Counseling is CACREP (Commission for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs) approved

Offers Masters and Doctorates in Education, Business, Psychology and information technology.

Fielding University

Offers a Masters in Organizational Management, a Doctorate in education and psychology an an American Psychology Association (APA) approved doctorate in clinical psychology. Also offers Post graduate certificates in Neuropsychology, Psychopharmacology, and Respecialization in Clinical Psychology.


As with all college courses you will need to buy books. Nearly all of the schools offering distance education classes have direct links to their college bookstores allowing you to purchase the books you will need.

Even so another advantage exists on the internet; college book resellers. There are a number of internet bookstores specializing in reselling college textbooks. Some, such as www.bestbookbuys.com will search 10, 20 or even 30 different internet bookstores allowing you to choose the price you want to pay and even if you prefer a new or a used textbook. The savings over conventional bookstores can be substantial.


Every college requires students to write papers. In the past a paper meant you had to find out when the library was open, go to it on their schedule and research your material.

That too has changed. Many sites such as the New England Journal of Medicine (www.nejm.com) and the American Psychological Association (www.apa.org), for a fee now offer full text access, on-line, of their journals.

A number of schools, such as Walden University also offer full text journal articles through their on-line libraries.

>Most schools allow students to check out books via mail or order reprints of journal articles via mail or fax.

Finally, many local colleges and universities will honor distance based college's student ID cards and permit these students to check out materials from their respective libraries.


To find out more about the degree or specialization you are interested in, go to any internet search engine (yahoo.com, hotbot.com, etc.) and used the keywords "distance learning" followed by the specialization you are interested in. i.e., "distance learning nursing."

Education is changing. With the addition of distance learning through the internet there is no reason anyone's career or personal growth and development should have to wait. Get on the internet and start advancing your career today!

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Last updated on 27 January 2007