While there is always a lot of debate as to whether an online college education is as good as a traditional college education, the answer is really very simple; there are good institutions that offer an online college education and there are bad establishments that offer an online college education. The same holds true for traditional college degree programs.
So, just as when you are looking for an offline course, you need to do the same kind of your research when you are looking for the best place to pursue an online college education.
Of course, you normally won't care where the college is located unless part of the online program involves off-line meetings. Usually the physical location just doesn't matter. However, a lot of the other points that you would consider before attending a traditional offline college or university should also be considered before you enroll with any organization offering an online college education.
The growth in the numbers of people pursuing an online college education has led to increased competition among institutions to attract students. The best way to assess the credibility of a site advertising that they have the best online college education is to ask about the accreditation of its courses. Accreditation means that some governing body for a particular field has endorsed the course. This can be extremely important in helping you to decide who to trust with your online college education. If a course is not accredited then you need to find out why.
There may be a number of courses that have not yet received accreditation from an appropriate association or governing body but still offer a good online college education. For example, the establishment may have applied for accreditation but not yet been assessed. In that case you can actually check with the particular accrediting agency to be certain that they actually are in the process of assessing the application for accreditation. Another reason may be that there is no appropriate accrediting body for a course. This is less likely but, nevertheless, could be a valid reason and doesn't necessarily indicate that the course offered is not going to be worth taking to advance your online college education.
If, however, you find that the online college education institution has been refused accreditation, then they are likely to try to tell you that accreditation is not important. And that simply isn't true. An online college education from a non-accredited institution is not going to be viewed as positively as one from an accredited establishment. Choose where you go to get your online college education with care to ensure that you are not wasting your time and money by having a nearly worthless qualification.
Another factor related to accreditation has to do with professions requiring some form of governmental license or certification. You need to be certain that any college degree or other course certification will be acceptable to whatever licensing body has authority over the profession in the location you live and work in. For example, a course which is accepted in one state, may not be accepted by the authorities in another state.
You need to think of the online college education arena as a marketplace. You are the consumer and as in any marketplace, you need to check the quality of the product and the 'merchant' according to the circumstances that apply to you and your area of study. While this may seem like a lot of work at times, it is your future, your time and your money that are involved. So take a little extra time and verify the value of any online college program (or any type of online learning) that you are considering.