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When Kyle Frederick of Allentown, Pa., finished his master’s degree in business administration, he didn’t participate in the typical pomp-and-circumstance graduation.

Frederick instead logged onto the Jones International University Web site, clicked on the words "Graduation 2003" and listened to a PowerPoint presentation of commencement.

Frederick and 85 other Jones students graduated earlier this year with their virtual degrees after two years of online classes, according to The Allentown Morning Call.

Frederick was able to balance working as an industrial engineer and taking care of his young son. He interacted with his professors through e-mail and telephone.

"There was no other way I could do this," Frederick told the Morning Call. “"It took more self-discipline [than his undergraduate degree].”

An estimated 350,000 students are in enrolled in fully online degree programs, the Wall Street Journal reported. But despite the rising propensity for these degrees, some employers are skeptical about whether these diplomas should substitute for traditional degrees.


CHALLENGES TO WEB-BASED PROGRAMS
"Some recruiting managers say that the online degree doesn't weigh as heavily as the more traditional degrees," Michael Brennan, manager of corporate learning and performance research at IDC Inc., a Massachusetts marketing intelligence and consulting firm, told the Journal. "That has been the challenge of online-degree programs either launched by schools or in the process of being developed. They haven't built up the brand equity to warrant the accolades."

Gary Miller, executive director of Penn State's World Campus, told the Morning Call that students need to be able to determine which schools offer legitimate Web-based programs.

The Distance Education and Training Council, a nonprofit educational assistance organization based in Washington, D.C., accredits about 40 universities with online degree programs, according to the Morning Call. But only 3.3 percent of the schools accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business have significant online programs, USA Today reported.


CHOOSING ACCREDITATION
Duke University's Fuqua School of Business is one of these accredited programs. The business school had 155 students in its Fall 2002 Global Executive MBA program that blends e-learning with conventional classroom sessions held every eight weeks around the world. The Duke degree cost upwards of $100,000 counting tuition and books.

Sub-par degrees can be purchased online for about $200, according to USA Today.

“It's making a degree much more of a commodity. It's something you buy off the shelf rather than achieve through a process in which you are transformed by what you are experiencing," Miller told the Morning Call. "The heart of a university education is the interaction between the faculty and students and among the students."

But an Internet degree allowed Frederick to fit his education in between work and a full-time family. He even received a promotion because of his master’s degree.

“They are still in their infancy," Frederick told the Morning Call. "But I think we will see more of them in the future and they will become more accepted."


WHAT DO THE EXPERTS SAY?
Read the transcript of a chat with Andrew Rosen, provost of Concord Law School, about online education on cnn.com.

Joyce Lain Kennedy: "Online Degrees Gaining More Acceptance".

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