What will you get out of an online degree, and how does it compare to a degree earned on a traditional campus? When evaluating online degrees vs. traditional degrees, careful consideration is required. Knowing the benefits and trade-offs of the institutions you are appraising, both on-campus and online, is your best bet for making the right decision
Commonalities of Online Degrees vs. Traditional Degrees
From both online degrees and traditional campus programs, you can expect the same certain basics. Provided that you choose a reputable, accredited institution, you should receive comprehensive instruction from qualified professors that will result in you earning a degree that is professionally and academically recognized. Both campus and online programs will also typically offer academic and career counseling, as well as access to financial aid for students to help cover tuition.
Online programs are increasingly making efforts to provide options for study groups and social interaction that mirror traditional campuses, and blended online education programs can also bring many of the benefits of campus programs to students earning online degrees.
On-Campus Programs: Face-to-Face Learning and an Invigorating Atmosphere
Campuses are face-to-face communities, where intellectual exchange can occur in the cafeteria, after class in the hall, in a dorm elevator or through social events. Working in a department may lead you to be involved in a professor’s research and help you move forward with publications of your own. Campuses are rich in clubs and causes and political and social involvements.
They offer facilities like gyms and libraries for recreation and study, as well as health services and housing. Traditional universities often help to support a local economy of associated businesses that create a unique social environment of bookstores, coffee shops, bars, and arts venues. Campuses are also usually associated with other cultural institutions, like local symphonies and museums.
Compared to their younger online cousins, traditional schools have histories, reputations, larger and older established alumni networks, and greater name recognition. Any traditional school will use all of these features as a selling point, encouraging visitors to get a taste of the local flavor.
Online Degrees: Flexibility and Independent Learning
Online degree programs strive to offer analogues to some of these on-campus features, but they also have their own unique advantages. Campus life can be alienating for non-traditional students, filled as it is with younger students with less experience and focus.
Instead of scheduled classes and a potentially long commute, online degrees offer much more flexibility in terms of when you invest your time in instruction and how quickly you work through your degree. Additionally, online programs are often career-oriented, with fewer general education requirements than traditional schools, especially those with heavy and rigid core curriculums.
Campus degree programs provide facilitated course discussions, while online degrees often require students to be disciplined, independent learners. Some online degree schools lack the vitality of an active student body, but blended online programs bring many of the benefits of campus education to more mature students, targeted to the needs of working adults.
Although there is less face-to-face contact, many online schools offer walk-in help and coordinate local study groups for people working on a professional schedule. With online degrees, you do not have to relocate, put your career on hold or radically alter your life to complete your education.
Weigh Your Needs
As with so much in education, the choice between online degrees vs. traditional degrees comes down to particulars of specific programs and your own individual needs. Every institution and type of degree has information available on the Internet and getting a variety of perspectives is important–talk to people you know who have pursued the different options before making your decision about your future degree program.