Deciding Between An Online or On-Campus EducationBy Ernest Hamilton, UniversityHerald Reporter
Continuing your education can lead to many fantastic opportunities, but deciding whether to do so on campus or remotely via the internet can be complicated and confusing. It used to be that there was only one path to follow if you wanted to take a course or get a qualification and would have to be physically present to do so. However, in the digital age, there are now several online courses accessible that provide high-quality education, real qualifications, a supportive web community, and the freedom and flexibility to learn at your own pace.
Both options have their benefits and drawbacks, and much depends on the kind of qualification you hope to pursue. You should also consider how much free time you have and how you like to learn. Below we have outlined the pros and cons of each to help you decide which option is best for you.
The traditional classroom experience means that you'll have to attend classes in a specific location according to a set timetable. You will learn alongside other classmates and will typically be taught by a professor or equivalent who will guide you by giving presentations and working through the course material. There may also be requirements to meet with a tutor or your professor on a one to one basis on occasion to help ensure you progress through the course at the right pace. The course will have a specific start and end date as well as deadlines for coursework and examinations (if applicable).
The benefits of on-campus learning include:
A ready-made community of peers who you can interact with, bounce ideas off, study with and socialize with too
A more vibrant and dynamic learning environment
Structured time and deadlines which mean it is easier for you to plan around your study time, as well as help you stay focused
Questions can be asked and answered in real-time, and discussions and conversations can be held more easily within the classroom.
If you are a verbal learner, you will find it easier to digest the course information
The negatives of on-campus learning include:
A restrictive, inflexible schedule. You must attend classes and meet pre-set deadlines if you want to gain your qualifications or pass your course. You can't delay or reschedule if you aren't able to attend.
Travel time and expense. You'll need to be prepared to get to where your classes take place. This means factoring in travel time and expenses.
You have to keep up. Because you are learning alongside others, you have to be able to learn at the same pace as them. If you fall behind, it will be difficult for the professor to give you the individual attention you need to catch up.
For those who find speaking out or social situations difficult, a bustling classroom environment may feel intimidating and prohibit effective learning.
Advances in modern technology have enabled educational bodies to offer many other courses and qualifications as online, distance learning packages. Students can enroll in these courses without physically being present. An online course is typically delivered in modules, with access to online forums for discussions and a tutor to whom you can direct any questions, probably via email. Online courses are generally assessed via coursework, though usually there is some flexibility around due dates.
The benefits of online learning include:
An ability to work remotely, from the comfort of your own home, or anywhere else you choose!
The freedom and flexibility to work at your own pace, including when you decide to undertake and deliver coursework or test material
The satisfaction of being self-motivated and practicing good self-discipline to ensure you complete your course
The option to engage with others on the course, but also the ability to work alone if you prefer
Value for money. Online courses tend to be cheaper than those where you have to be physically present because education providers don't have to spend money on classrooms and non-digital resources.
The negatives of online learning include:
Some knowledge of technology will be necessary to undertake the course, so this may not be a good option for technophobes!
Lack of structure and deadlines means that some may find that other priorities keep getting in the way, and they don't have the self-discipline or motivation to complete the course.
More restrictive in the types of education you can pursue. Some qualifications require attendees to be physically present.
Deciding between an on-campus and online learning environment is a choice that requires some research and consideration. Before you enroll in one or another, it's a good idea to think about your personal learning style. Then you can use the above tips to help you make the right choice and get you one step closer to achieving your educational goals.