Do You Suffer From ODB?

ODB stands for Online Degree Bias. It’s defined by your preference for or against online degrees. If you’re not sure… let’s check.

This is a list of 30 accredited online degree institutions:

Allen School, Argosy University, Ashford University, Azusa Pacific University, Beltran University, Blackstone Career Institute, Blue Ocean Institute, Bryan University, Drury University, ECPI University, Gladwell University, Grand Canyon University, ICDC College, Jack Welch Management Institute, Johnson University, Lawrence Tech, Liberty University, Marist College, Miller-Motte College, Paper Mate Center Of Higher Learning, Penn Foster College, Roundtable College, Southern American Central National University, The Carter Institute, The Mooney Institute, TIXE University, Vista College, Walden University, Waldorf College, and William Howard Taft University.

Well, how many of the online degree brands have you heard of before? Moreover, did most—if not all—of them seem familiar?

I hope not as 10 of them were completely made up.

Beltran University (named after pornstar Yurizan Beltran), Blue Ocean Institute (named for the famous HBS article “Blue Ocean Strategy”), Gladwell University (named for Malcom Gladwell, like duh), Johnson University (named for my favorite dialogue in Blazing Saddles), Paper Mate Center Of Higher Learning (named for my favorite type of felt tip pens), Roundtable College (named for the Knights of the Roundtable a la Monty Python’s Holy Grail), Southern American Central National University (named for complete gibberish), The Carter Institute (named Dwayne Michael Carter & Shawn Corey Carter… Lil Wayne & Jay-Z respectively), The Mooney Institute (named for Paul Mooney, one of my favorite comics), and TIXE University (this is Exit spelled backwards).

What seems familiar isn’t. Let that settle in for a moment. Most of you did not ferret out the fake schools because I told you they were accredited AND because they seemed real enough. Real enough?

Online Degree Bias can be seen from at least four perspectives:

  • Those that have earned an online degree.
  • Those that have NOT earned an online degree.
  • Those that have earned both an online degree AND a traditional (offline) degree.
  • Those that have neither an online degree NOR a traditional (offline) degree.

Let’s explore each perspective.

If you’re a HR/recruiting pro and you’ve earned an online degree, then you probably know how hard it is complete an online degree. That said, two biases potentially exist… (1) you probably give more credit to those that have earned online degrees and, (2) you probably pay more attention to the institution where the candidate/employee studied. You know from experience that quality online degree experiences come from quality institutions. You know this firsthand.

If you’re a HR/recruiting pro that never attended nor completed an online degree… well, truth is… you probably really look down on people that do. If you are truly honest with yourself, you’ll never equate your 5 years earning your Bachelor of Business Administration from the Eli Broad School at Michigan State with someone that didn’t or couldn’t cut the mustard in East Lansing. Furthermore, you actually hate these Cracker Jack degrees and nothing will ever change your mind. Turns out, you’re biased.

If you’re a HR/recruiting pro that has earned BOTH an online and offline degree you are probably the least biased of the bunch. Because you’ve experienced both, you see the value in both types of experiences. You are less apt to judge candidates/employees that choose either or both. If any bias exists, it’s probably based on institution and/or grade point average.

If you’re a HR/recruiting pro that has neither an online nor an offline degree… well, why the hell are you in our profession? Please quit your job immediately. The thing is… you’re riddled with degree biases. Furthermore, I don’t trust a human being that doesn’t have the will power to complete a degree. Offline or online. Let’s face it… a bachelor’s degree is the new GED. In this day and age, there is just no credible excuse. Go earn a degree and wield your biases like everyone else.

So here’s the thing kids—ODB is real. We all suffer from it in some way or another. We’re snobs and slaves to our own experiences while being biased against those that didn’t earn their degrees the way we did, etc. Take a moment to reflect.

ODB… know thy biases.

FOT Background Check

William Tincup
William is the President of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He’s written over 200 HR articles, spoken at over 150 HR & recruiting conferences and he’s conducted over 1000 HR podcasts. William prides himself on being easy to find on The Internet, Google him and connect with him via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Not up to speed in the social media game? Reach out via email. William serves on the Board of Advisors for Talentegy, Wellocity, GlitchPath, Talent Ninja, Universum Americas, Engagedly, Echovate, VibeCatch, Continu, Hyphen, Bevy, Happie, RolePoint, Causecast, Work4Labs, Talent Tech Labs, and SmartRecruiters. He was previously an advisor to PeopleMatter (sold to Snagajob Q2 2016), Good.Co (sold to StepStone Q1 2016), Smarterer (sold to Pluralsight Q4 2014) and a board member of Chequed (merged to create OutMatch Q3 2015). William is a graduate of the University of Alabama of Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


  1. J. Newton says:

    “Furthermore, I don’t trust a human being that doesn’t have the will power to complete a degree.”

    A little harsh, don’t you think? Do you trust those who don’t have the money, resources, time, or willingness to go into debt to complete a degree?

    Out of the two most incompetent adults I’ve ever met (in my LIFE), one has a M.S. and the other has a B.S. All of us who have graduated from college know that the degree is used to weed people out of the candidate pool, not to show true intelligence.

  2. M. Howard says:

    I really hope that your comment on those without degrees need to get out of your profession was just an example of bias and not your actual opinion. I do not have my degree and I can assure you, it has not happered or held me back from doing well in my chosen profession, nor do I have any bias of anyone who have attended or not attended college, online or otherwise. I’ve attendd both traditional and online and understand the work and devotion both take and I also understand that those without degrees are as capable of anything anyone with a degree has – just takes a little elbow grease. A degree is not a true measure of intelligence or work ethic.

    If this really is your opinion, then you, my friend, are horribly biased and definetly in the wrong field. What are you doing sharing my profession? Quit immediatly and find yourself a job where you are allowed to be biased.

  3. Kris Dunn
    Kris Dunn says:

    Some free advice from those considering online degrees who will ultimately read this post in the years to come. If online is the way you are going to go, I’d encourage you to do one of two things:

    1. Get a online degree from an actual bricks and mortar institution – that way, the bias that WT is outlining will be minimized based on the connection with a “real” university.

    2. If you go pure online institution, make sure you do it with a top 2 or 3 institution (university of Phoenix, not sure what the others are), because the top online degree programs are increasingly accepted.

    Good post WJT.


  4. A.Black says:

    I am currently earning my online degree…I wish I had been fortunate enough to earn it earlier in life, however, it isn’t for lack of will power to complete it that this was not the case for me. Ever hear of LIFE? Well, it happened, in the form of having to care for ill parents, a sister with a young child out of wedlock and a grandparent with nowhere to live while recovering from major surgery. Time and money kept me from getting a degree sooner, not will power. And I doubt my story is any different than a lot of others out there.

    As for hampering my career, not really…I have been fortunate to work in large Fortune 500 companies as well as some great private and public institutions that have given me a great broad spectrum education in HR and business in general. I currently sit on the board for my local HRMA chapter and am PHR certified as well. Earning my degree will simply be the icing on the cake that shuts up people who think I don’t know what I’m talking about because I don’t have one of those nifty little pieces of paper that says I do know.

  5. Linda Haft says:

    I earned my BS at a well-known state university and my MS through an “online” program through a lesser known state university. Online really is a poor description since it conjures a picture of some diploma mill out there in cyberspace, but I will live with it. Of the two programs, the online version was far more difficult. And it is definitely not for the procrastinator. It did, however, suit my needs, our family’s relocation issues, and my schedule – particularly as a working adult. One of the benefits to this arrangement was the exposure to so many different backgrounds/industries. A second was the wonderful experience with time management (i.e. real-life issues). Some of my team were in the Pacific, some across time zones in the US, and some in Europe. Trying to get each member’s contribution in by the deadline was a feat in itself – especially when one of them was Colin Powell’s pilot and we had to wait for him to surface at some embassy.

    I’ve faced the bias (what I refer to as the snob factor) and it is annoying. My online degree is just as valuable (actually more valuable) to me as my traditional degree. Education is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor nor is the working world. The fact that someone took the initiative to learn and put in the hard work to earn a degree/diploma/certification should be of value to an employer. That the employee can apply that learning to their job should be the ultimate goal.

  6. CS Norcross says:

    I think Kris Dunn pretty much nails it. If your best option to get a degree is online, then by all means go through one of the traditional brick and mortar universities that now offer degree programs. Lots do, including schools such as Tulane University, Colorado State University, and Penn State.

    Online education is here to stay and will no doubt become more mainstream. Some of the anti-online bias will dissipate particularly against degrees earned online from traditional schools. But I suspect it’ll remain largely intact against the “for profit” online universities and, perhaps, with some justification.

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