As we move further into the 21st century, more and more universities are offering classes online. In fact, many colleges allow you to earn your entire degree without ever setting foot inside a classroom.
While online colleges have become more commonplace, many students are still unclear on the benefits to earning credits or a degree online.
Are online colleges comparable to traditional campus-based colleges?
Types of Online Education
Most universities in the United States offer students some form of online coursework. There are several different types of online education to choose from:
- Online Only: Some colleges do not have a physical campus. A degree can only be earned online.
- Distance Learning Programs: These programs are affiliated with a university that has a campus somewhere in the United States (such as the University of Kentucky).
- Online Courses: If you are a student on a college campus, your university may offer certain classes online. Many of the most prestigious colleges in the country – MIT, Carnegie Mellon and Stanford – even offer a number of online classes for free. (However, you can’t get credit for these courses.)
Online Education vs. Campus Education
How you choose to earn your degree depends on your personal situation. Both forms of education have their strengths and weaknesses.
The biggest benefit to online college is the flexibility it offers. Many programs do not require attendance at a specific time. (Some programs require viewing of a lecture or other content at a specified time.) This can be a real benefit for people with a full time job or other responsibilities. With online education, you won’t need to commute – much less move anywhere to go to school. You can do your coursework at the local coffee shop.
However, all this flexibility does have its downside. You’ll need to be able to focus in whatever environment you choose to do your studying. You’ll also need to ensure that you carve out the time required to complete your school work.
Cost and Convenience
The costs of online degrees vary – just as the costs of campus programs do. The particular costs of an online education will depend on what type of institution you attend, your program and other factors.
You may save some money in an online program because you won’t have to commute or live on campus.
However, living on a college campus does have its benefits. You’ll be able to meet new people, take on more responsibilities than you would living at home, and you’ll be able to interact face-to-face with your instructors – providing a more hands-on learning experience and easier access to them, should you have any questions about your coursework.
For more on online education, read our article on what to expect from an online school or distance learning program.
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