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I've just finished high school and am looking at different options for undegrad. My long term goal is to get a PhD. I wanted to know what admission committees think of online undergraduate degrees. Are they considered on par with regular offline degress? I'd prefer an answer from a STEM perspective because my field of interest is Computer Science.

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  • What sort of online degree? Who will offer it?
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 11:09
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    @Buffy We don't want to be reviewing individual programs.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 13:24
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    @BryanKrause, there are reputable programs offered by accredited universities and there are others offered by commercial entities. There can be a big difference. Hence my question.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 13:29
  • I'm talking about degrees from accredited universities @Buffy
    – Gagan
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 15:47

3 Answers 3

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Admission will depend partially on whether the previous institution is accredited and has a good name (in the eyes of the evaluator). There are a few online degrees that are considered to be on par with a traditional university, but not many.

As a member of the admission committee, I would also worry about the lack of socialization into academia that comes with presence on a campus. I would not have this problem with an online MS degree.

Online education has certainly received a boost due to Covid, but the experience in general seems to me to be that the online years were not good and left students without some essential skills.

TLTR: There are very few undergraduate online degrees that are considered to be good and on par, (such as Open University or Fernuniversität Hagen).

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    Note that the two institutions you mention have a long history of distance education, far preceding COVID. And yes, both do a good job of it.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 13:09
  • While those two examples may be excellent at what they do, and rankings may be dubiously useful, they do not have good rankings when compared with traditional universities. Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 22:53
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If the university is respected it won't make a difference if it is online or on campus, but personally I found online leaning difficult. I tried doing it online myself and the lack of having peers around me made it very difficult to stay motivated. I changed to a traditional university and the support networks are on another level. I could share ideas with students or get feedback from lecturers in person without needing to wait for responses. It won't be an issue if you do achieve an online qualification, but it is also important to consider which method of obtaining the degree will give you the best grade as your long term goal is a PhD.

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  • Yes, feedback is extremely important and hard to get online. Sometimes impossible in massive courses.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 22:22
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Academia has a pronounced bias towards supporting people who have prestigious backgrounds. "Prestige" is composed of two parts: the experiences of those in power, and money.

If your PhD admissions decision is made by faculty, most faculty at PhD-granting universities do not have experience being a student in an online undergraduate program. Online degree programs tend to have less money. Therefore, in general, they have less prestige.

In my opinion, prestige should not be your primary concern, either in choosing an undergraduate degree program or in selecting PhD students.

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