The first key to note is that there are licensure and non-licensure early childhood programs. Non-licensure programs consist of fewer credits and take from two to four years. A licensure program for teaching early childhood in public schools takes four years.
There are several differences between the online and traditional Bachelors in Early Childhood Education. The most commonly compared areas are cost, flexibility, curriculum/accreditation, and time.
The two most significant factors driving the explosion of online learning are affordability and flexibility. The price of traditional learning is very high, and many would rather keep working and earning money while paying considerably less for an online degree they can complete at their own pace.
And it’s not just working professionals who are earning degrees online now. It is young people who can save money living at home, working, and taking courses online.
The online format may be asynchronous, which means you can take classes whenever you want at whatever pace you want. Asynchronous learning is the most flexible, though some schools have limits on how long a student can be in the program.
Typically asynchronous learning is through the web, email, or message boards to the student who then completes the work and turns it in. Synchronous learning is different in that it is through chat and video-conferencing technology. This kind of online learning is with others, not alone, and is a virtual classroom.
Many programs offer a combination of these two types of learning, and a lot of variety exists from school to school. Another key difference to note when researching the school of choice is the on-campus requirements.
There are many early childhood elementary programs entirely online with no campus visits. However, there are some that require a few days to a week. Some schools core classes are online, but specialization courses or courses rooted in clinical experience or practical knowledge are offered on-campus only.
As for curriculum, programs prepare students in courses such as:
- Foundations of Child Development
- Planning and Management
- Foundations of Multicultural Education
- Art for Teachers
- Equity and Diversity in Education
- Introduction to Exceptional Children
- Learner-Centered Assessment
We recommend accredited programs, and not all are, so be aware. Be sure to check as accreditation ensures the quality and credibility of the program, but even more to potential employers. Another aspect we include in many of rankings is the NCTQ (National Council on Teacher Quality) score.
The organization has been around for a while but puts on rankings for specific programs with rigorous criteria. They usually come down pretty hard on our universities, but earning the 99th percentile like some schools (Arizona State University, Purdue University, and the University of Nebraska) on our Top 35 Bachelor’s in Early Childhood in Education, for example, is something to note.
The on-campus bachelor’s two distinct advantages are the person-to-person classroom and the on-campus mentoring from faculty experts. This face-to-face contact and the communication inherent within a very relational field does provide a complete and un-measurable advantage.
Traditional on-campus bachelor’s ending in licenses takes four years. They involve core coursework and move into specialization with a practicum experience and a capstone student teaching experience. The biggest disadvantage to the on-campus degrees is cost. This is offset with the right housing arrangement, but living on campus can be quite expensive.