Shopping for Online Master’s Degrees
I’ve spent many months of my life mystery shopping online master’s degree program details via university websites.
It is an important aspect of my work and it can be both rewarding and frustrating. I can say, unequivocally, it takes me more time to get the information I need than it should.
There is a wealth of information available to universities on user preferences and needs that could be used to improve this situation. University websites, which are among their most valuable brand assets, can be confusing, poorly designed, and not helpful to the very individuals universities value the most – their existing and prospective students.
Here are some examples of what I see on a daily basis as I search for details for online master’s degrees via the web:
The most important online program details are the most difficult to find
- What is the total cost of the program?
- When is the next possible opportunity to begin the
- How long will it take to complete the online master’s degree?
- What concentrations are available to students who enroll in
the online vs. campus-based program?
- What are the prerequisite requirements for the program?
Sometimes, after a 15 or 20-minute hunting session, you can find all of this information – it’s all there on the website, it’s just not where you would expect it or want it to be. It may be dispersed across various pages, or it may be hiding down at the bottom of the page on a link called “Program Details” in tiny print. Sometimes, it’s just not there…
The information about the online master’s degree program is clearly out-of-date
- Tuition for previous school years is one of my favorites – I visited a website yesterday that had its tuition for the 2013-2014 school year listed on the website! (in September of 2016)
- Links to relevant information are not working properly (the dreaded 404 error message and the ensuing cycle of frustration it creates)
It can feel like some universities don’t understand the value of their program websites as an effective communication platform for prospective online students. I know of truly excellent online programs that likely lose more than a few prospective students because they are underestimating the cost of not keeping their websites up-to-date and functioning fully.
The ‘call to action’ is to call an enrollment adviser for more information
Really? How about providing the basic information so that I can do some side-by-side comparison shopping before I decide who I want to call on the phone?
As an adult learner who uses the Internet daily for information-gathering, shopping, directions, and more, I expect to see at least the basics of what I’m looking for on the website. This approach feels a little too high-pressure for me. I’d rather know more before I willingly subject myself to a sales call.
Online degree shoppers also have to contend with marketing aggregator websites. These sites rise to the top of the google listing most often (as paid searches) when I’m searching for a specific, popular online master’s degree program, say ‘online MBAs’.
These sites make big claims, such as offering valuable rankings, the most complete information available for online programs, etc. However, they generally lack substance and are designed to get you to give them personal information about yourself so they can sell your information to only a handful of schools that buy their leads or with whom they have marketing deals. These are completely unhelpful (at best – at worst, they are misleading us) to anyone who is searching for substantive information about online master’s degree programs.
There is a better way
The Online Degree Database has collected these details about online master’s degrees for you. You can search for the degree types that are most relevant to you, and download your Free Report. The Free Report gives you the location, degree names, concentrations available for the online program, and the online program’s cost per credit – key data points you can use to think through what’s most important as you make decisions about which programs are best for you. You can use this Free Report to see the universe of available programs and make more informed decisions about what your final shopping list should look like. And you don’t need to give away your personal information to get it!
Then, you can use our Interactive Tool to cull your list to those programs of most interest and buy the remaining relevant details for your final shopping list. Most students who use our database spend as little as $2 to $5 for their final shopping list of prospective online master’s degree programs.
Considering the tens of thousands of dollars in total tuition you will spend for a master’s degree, we think this is exactly the right tool to enable you to do your due-diligence shopping. Students tell us that its well worth their investment, saving them weeks of time and effort trying to get these same details on their own through frustratingly difficult internet searches.
Using the Online Degree Database is the smart way to go when shopping for the right online master’s degree, like using Carfax before you buy your used car, or joining Angie’s List to find a reputable contractor for major home improvements!