Choosing a college is perhaps one of the most significant decisions we can make in our lifetime-one that is likely to give shape to our professional life and have a long-term impact on our overall happiness. And now, with the increasing availability of distance learning and online degrees, the decision has become harder than ever before. For those on the brink of making a choice between an online degree program and an on-campus degree program, here’s a candid look at how the two compare with each other, to help ease the decision-making process so that it’s more stress-free for you.
Online vs. On-Campus Accreditation: This is perhaps the single most important factor when choosing between online degree programs and on-campus degrees. While accreditation is seldom a problem with well-established brick and mortar colleges, online degree programs don’t have it that easy, thanks to the diploma mills that masquerade as online colleges and sell fake degrees to those who are willing to pay. So if you choose to go to an online school, you have to be absolutely certain that it is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency. A tell-tale sign is whether they accept federal financial aid or not.
Delivery: When it comes to on-campus degrees, education is mainly delivered through classroom lectures. The education delivery system for online degree programs, on the other hand, is a lot more robust. Technological aids like video conferences, live web casts, online discussion boards, instant messaging, email, CD-ROMs, etc., are routinely used for delivering lessons to students. An advantage of delivering education this way is that it can provide more in-depth learning for students-plus, it can make students that much more technologically savvy, a quality that’s not going to go unnoticed by employers.
Schedule: On-campus degrees usually have a fixed schedule that students need to follow. Classes take place according to a timetable and you have to show up for them at that particular time. As opposed to this, online degree programs usually don’t have such rigid schedules. You are free to set your own schedule according to your convenience. No more worrying about skipping classes and missing out on important lessons because of an emergency.
Flexibility: The flexibility offered by online degree programs is simply unparalleled. Not only do you have the option to study at a time that’s convenient to you, but you can also set your own pace of learning and work on your lessons from anywhere. It’s because of this flexibility that many online students are able to successfully manage school simultaneously with full time jobs or personal commitments such as taking care of a baby or a sick loved one.
Interaction: Clearly the level of face-to-face interaction is a lot higher in on-campus programs. Classroom interaction, in its most traditional sense, is virtually absent in online education. Online students may also miss out on building the personal, face-to-face relationships that form such an important part of the overall college experience. So if you are big on participating in classroom discussions and real-time heated debates with your peers and professors; making lifelong friends over endless cups of coffee; and expanding your social network, then you should probably opt for an on-campus degree program.
Location: Location is an important criterion when selecting a brick and mortar school. Whether you want to be close to home or move to a far off state, enjoy the tranquility of a small town or get a taste of big city life, everything has to be factored in when choosing a school. But the world is at your feet when it comes to online schools. Because there are no physical classrooms to sit in, you can enroll for virtually any school in any part of the country or the globe.
Cost: While there may not be a lot of difference in the actual tuition and fees of on-campus and online degrees, an online degree program often turns out to be cheaper in the long run, with savings on associated costs like fuel, parking, books, accommodation, etc.