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Going back to school and considering your online education options? You're not alone.

Over 5.6 million college students took at least one online course during the fall 2009 term, an increase of nearly one million over the previous year, according to the non-profit Sloan Consortium.

To put those numbers into context, nearly one out of three college students is currently enrolled in an online course or program, and those numbers are only expected to grow in coming years.

To help you make a decision about going to school online, we talked to college experts and compiled a list of 5 things to think about before you commit.

#1 - Accreditation
One of the most important factors to consider is whether a school that offers online programs is properly accredited, according to Brianna Bates, an information and accounts specialist at the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), a non-profit education association and accrediting agency in Washington, DC.

"We tell students to be very wary of accreditation claims," Bates says. "Just because a school says it is accredited doesn't mean it's true." Bates says it's not uncommon for so-called diploma mills to set up fake accrediting agencies with a phone number and voice mail message. She urges students to check with the Department of Education to see if the agency is approved by the U.S. government.

For a list of approved national and regional accrediting agencies, visit

#2 - Quality of Online Faculty
Every student knows that a good professor can mean the difference between a good and bad experience with a class.

Online programs are no different, so don't be shy about asking for a list of the working faculty and the classes they teach. Look up a faculty member's credentials and read testimonials from students on sites like

"I am from the school of thought that any course or program with the right teacher can be conducted well online," says Sam Govea, executive dean of distance learning at Brookhaven College in Texas. "While some programs and courses that require hands-on clinicals or labs are more challenging to run 100 percent online, there are always solutions when a creative, engaging teacher gets involved." (more)

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Article by CHRIS KYLE, Yahoo! Education  |  Read full article here