Higher Education Goes High-Tech

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Learn how modern technology can help you earn a degree online.

By Chris Kyle   

You want to go back to school but you have one big worry: namely, how are you going to find the time?

Thankfully, new innovations in online education - like web cams, live online chats, and online discussion boards - may offer the flexibility you need to earn your degree.

The idea of a more flexible, inclusive learning format actually stretches back to 1858 when the University of London offered the first distance learning degree by mail.

Today online education is evolving rapidly, much like enrollment, with nearly six million students taking at least one online course in the fall of 2009, according to the non-profit Sloan Consortium which tracks online education. That's an increase of almost one million students from the previous year, Sloan says.

Keep reading to learn about four popular degrees you can earn online and see how modern technology is enhancing the education experience.

Online Program #1 - Business Administration

Want to study and network with business school professors and students who live all over the world? Earning your degree in business administration online could help you add to your Rolodex in a big way.

Maybe you've already earned some credits or even an associate's degree. Any previous work you've done may be transferable to schools like the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, for example, which offers an online bachelor's degree in business administration that is open to students who live in and outside the state.

The University of Massachusetts offers a similar online degree program in business administration that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. All you need is an internet connection. Some of the school's online classes in the business administration program include accounting, finance and operations management, hospitality and tourism, marketing, economics, and sport management.

Click to Find the Right Online Business Administration Program.

Potential Career Paths & Average Earning Potential*
Advertising Sales Agent: $55,020
HR Specialist: $57,830
Marketing Specialist: $66,850


Online Program #2 - Criminal Justice

You know the old saying that crime never sleeps? Same goes for online criminal justice programs, many of which are available to students around the clock.

For example, the online criminal justice program at Virginia-based Old Dominion University has an online learning format that gives students the flexibility to work whenever and wherever they can, since they don't need to be online at the same time as their classmates or the professor.

Meanwhile, Western Carolina University, which offers a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, uses both synchronous and asynchronous communication in the form of chat rooms and discussion boards. The school's online criminal justice program also includes self-administered, timed online tests, and quizzes.

Click to Find the Right Online Criminal Justice Program.

Potential Career Paths & Average Earning Potential*
Security Guard: $26,870
Private Investigator: $47,830
Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officer: $55,620


Online Program #3 - Network Administration

Want to earn an information technology (IT) degree but not sure how you'll fit the coursework into your busy schedule? Online programs - in, say, network administration - can offer the flexibility you need to make it work.

Like many IT disciplines, network administration, which involves maintaining a computer network, is a specific marketable skill that employers want. In fact, network administration is the number one IT skill set in demand in today's job market, according to a June 2011 survey by staffing firm Robert Half International.

Western Governors University (WGU), which offers an online bachelor's degree in network administration, estimates that course work will take about 20 hours per week. It's up to the student to schedule their time accordingly, whether that means utilizing lunch breaks, nights, or weekends.

Earning an associate's degree in network administration, as opposed to the longer bachelor's degree, is possible online as well. Same goes for online certificates. For example, the University of Toledo in Ohio offers an online associate's degree in computer network administration that also helps prepare students for professional IT certifications from companies like Microsoft and Cisco.

Click to Find the Right Online Network Administration Program.

Potential Career Paths & Average Earning Potential*
Computer Support Specialist: $49,930
Network Administrator: $72,200
Computer Network Architect: $79,370


Online Program #4 - MBA

Want to move ahead in the business world without giving up your day job? While night and weekend MBA programs could help, online MBA programs provide yet a more modern outlet.

Aspen University Online offered the first accredited, online MBA degree in 1987. Nearly 25 years later, many more institutions have joined the online MBA movement, including the University of Florida, Kaplan University, and Indiana University.

Boston-based Suffolk University, for example, offers an online MBA program that features the same curriculum and faculty as the university's campus program. Weekly 90-minute live chats are required for each class. In the event you miss a class or want to review what was covered, chats are archived so the materials and discussions are available to students online 24/7.

Click to Find the Right Online Business Program.

Potential Career Paths & Average Earning Potential*
Administrative Services Manager: $84,390
General and Operations Manager: $113,100
Marketing Manager: $122,720


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