Here’s the deal – when we think of an online equivalent or alternative to something, we often see it as an inferior version to the real thing. Voice-over-Internet protocol? It’s nice, but nothing beats seeing your parents or children face-to-face. Online dating? Cute, sure, but it’s the physical meetings where people can really hit it off most of the time. Watching the game over your live streaming online subscription? Most people would rather be at the stadium, if they could.

The same principles don’t apply to all things, however. Online shopping is superior in almost every way, save for clothing where fitting rooms are still an integral part of buying process. And college, when done online, will net you a degree that is worth just as much as it would have been if you took your course on-campus instead of through the Internet.

How Online Colleges Work

But while that may be true, the general perception is that it isn’t. And that’s a sad mistake that originated with a wave of bad colleges in the mid-2000s. While distance learning has been around for decades, it took a turn for the better with the introduction of the Internet into the mainstream, alongside face-to-face video conferencing and, more recently, cloud technology.

But for-profit private institutions with an eye on student loan money – so called “diploma mills”, as per the World Education Services – made it harder for reputable colleges to get their foot in the door as employers increasingly looked at online degrees with skepticism.

That changed when larger, elite colleges began offering online courses as an improvement to existing distance learning programs – and since then, reputable colleges have been offering flexible courses to busy students looking for a way to cut their tuition fees and still get that career-changing degree, such as an Organizational Leadership Masters online degree, through a college like CBU Online.

In an online college, you have to apply and enroll just as you would into any other higher education institution. Once you’ve been accepted and have paid your tuition fees – either out-of-pocket or through federal help – you can begin exploring and completing your course at your own pace, attending live webinars and lectures or viewing recorded versions, and taking tests either online or on-campus through a hybrid program.

Once you complete your course and pass, you’re awarded an accreditation – your very own diploma. Some majors can take as little as 24 months, and others, as much as six years. Yet while you learn, you have the option of working part-time or full-time and doing your studies in your own time.

Given the required time management, self-discipline and motivation, online learning is not easy at all – and the degree you get is worth just as much as a classroom experience could provide you.

How Employers See Online Programs

While an online degree may indeed be as legitimate as can be, your employer may not necessarily think so. And as per Wired, they shouldn’t – online learning, with or without degrees, is a valid and valuable form of education – and one that shows ambition and auto-didactic responsibility.

Many HR departments focus more on the reputation of a given tertiary education institution rather than the method in which your education was delivered to you, as per US News, giving students and graduates hope for the future that online colleges will become a more viable form of higher education.