What to look for in an online university

November 8, 2018

If you’ve just begun investigating online education, you know that there’s a lot to sort through.

What’s the right school? The right program? How can you judge teaching quality? Can I afford to go back to school?

You probably have dozens of questions—so you’ll need an organized way to sort through the options. To help you with that, here’s a list of things you should evaluate carefully as you delve into material about schools, programs, financial aid, and more. This guide should help simplify things just a little bit as you begin your journey.

Educational quality


Accreditation is a quality assurance process that recognizes and certifies high standards in educational programs. The credibility of your degree among peers and prospective employers depends on accreditation. It should be one of the top requirements on your checklist!

Experience in online learning

How long has the school been serving students? When it comes to online education, does it have a track record of success? How is that success measured and reported?

Industry alignment

Today’s employers are looking for employees who have skills as well as knowledge. Is the program you’re evaluating centered on the skills and abilities that leading employers want?

Appropriately credentialed faculty

Instructors should be experts in their field. Do they hold the degrees to prove it?



Get a complete picture of the tuition and fees associated with your program. How does the cost of the program compare to the tuition of programs of similar size and stature?

Transfer credit options

If you have previous college experience, can you apply the credits to your new program? Be sure to ask how easy it is to transfer them.

Prior learning

Job experience teaches you plenty. Can you apply what you learned in the workplace to your degree and shorten your overall time in school?

Ways to save

Is financial aid available for your program? Beyond student loans, what opportunities exist for saving money while you’re in school?

Program quality


Does the program align with your educational goals? Are the interests and backgrounds of other students similar to your own?

Curriculum relevancy

Obviously, the information in your courses should be up to date. What’s more, the technology used in courses should mirror what’s used in today’s workplaces.


Can you work on your program anytime and anywhere?

Completion time

How long will it take you to complete your degree? Any ways to shorten the time?

Learning measurement

Is graduation dependent on completing exams or papers? Or by accruing course hours? How will you be expected to demonstrate your educational advancement?

Completion and satisfaction

How does the school’s graduation rate compare to other schools? Are graduates satisfied with the value of their education?

Support and community

Technical support

How does the school assist with technical issues you may encounter?

Financial support

Does the school offer access to financial aid in the form of loans, grants, and scholarships? Make sure there’s someone who will help with the application process if you need guidance.

Academic support

Who will help you navigate program and course requirements? Who will help if you get stuck?

Student community

How easy is it to connect with other students? How will you find students who share a similar background or goals?

Alumni services

Networking with other alumni can benefit your professional development. How will the school connect you with alumni in and outside your industry?

Disability services

How does the school accommodate students with disabilities?

Military student support

Does the school accommodate the needs of military members and their families?


Schools should assist graduates with their job searches and career growth. What kind of career development support is offered to graduates?

Choosing an online university or program takes a lot of careful consideration. Once you answer these questions, you can more easily compare programs and make the right choice for your next educational steps.


Check out how Capella University stacks up on thislist.

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Get started on your journey now by connecting with an enrollment counselor. See how Capella may be a good fit for you, and start the application process.