Online College or Campus Learning?
These days, earning a college degree online is an option as readily available as traditional, on-campus living and learning. So what's the better choice? There are many pros and cons of online college. Here's a guide to deciding...
Online College - The Right Choice?
Many people are turning to online college courses for personal improvement and professional development. I've written before about the variety of Free Online College Courses that are available, but it's also quite possible to get a complete college degree by taking online college courses.
Cost is a big issue. Online college tuition, course materials, and fees tend to be much lower than classroom-based equivalents. You don't have to pay for a desk, or a locker. There are no dorm rental fees (or sloppy dorm mates). Eating at home is cheaper (and healthier) than cafeteria food and delivered pizza. Everyone knows why they call it the "Freshman 15" right? Transportation costs are also a consideration, including parking fees if you have a car.
See my companion article Financial Aid for Online College to get the scoop on getting financial aid, grants and scholarships for online college. You should also read Don't Fall For Online Financial Aid Scams to pick up some tips on the best places to find financial aid, and which to avoid.
Temptation is also a consideration. Many students find the frenzy of campus life distracts them from their studies, to put it mildly. Fraternity rush parties; football season; "keggers" and other bacchanalian debaucheries... you know, the parts of college your parents remember fondly but never discuss with you! Some students have the discipline to shut themselves up with books while toga-clad coeds are frolicking through the dorm hallway. But if you are not such a Zen master, then the solitude of online, at-home study may be better for your grades.
Accreditation and Face Time
The reputation and accreditation of an online school is another factor to consider. You should do your due diligence to ensure that the degree you receive will be honored by employers in your field of endeavor. I've written more about this in my article Are Online Colleges Accredited?
What about face to face interaction with professors? You'd think that might be a big plus for the traditional campus-based education, But in most large universities, you don't get much of that in the classroom. Most professors read their lectures; call upon a fraction of the students present; and students take notes, text each other, and check their Facebook pages. And in many cases, a grad student teaching assistant gives the instruction, further removing the professor from the student's reach.
Sometimes you do need the full interaction of a personal meeting to phrase questions and re-phrase them properly; obtain immediate clarification of points you do not understand; and just impress yourself upon a teacher's consciousness. "Out of sight, out of mind" is a tried-and-true proverb. Like it or not, students who "make face" with professors tend to get better grades. (Incidentally, the same is true of telecommuting jobs; people who are rarely seen by their bosses get promoted less.)
The academic resources of a campus may be a consideration for certain fields of study. It's rather difficult, if not outright illegal, to set up an adequate chemistry lab in one's home. Campus libraries may contain books and other materials that are not on a public library's shelves. Often, though, you can find specialized library materials online, request them through interlibrary loan, pick up and return them through your local public library branch.
If you plan to pay for your degree with an athletic scholarship, you're pretty much stuck with living and learning on campus. Unless your "sport" is online gaming, maybe. But there aren't a lot of job openings for World of Warcraft mavens.
Much is made of the "diversity of the college experience," by which proponents of campus life mean that you get to meet lots of different people from different cultures, and somehow this exposure makes you a better-educated individual. Others argue that college campuses are the most insular, intolerant, conformity-enforcing gated communities in existence. The "ivory tower" is a symbol for a community that is shut off from the real world, and for academia in general.
But of course there's another big reason why young people go off to college -- to socialize with members of the opposite sex where their parents can't see them. That consideration alone keeps dorm rooms at full capacity. If you're an adult student with a job and a family, the social aspects of campus life are not as important.
For most students just leaving high school, the chances of succeeding in online college are slim, because they lack the maturity and discipline to stick with a challenging course of study. There's something to be said for the campus experience of "being in college" that makes it clear to a student that his or her JOB for the next few years is to learn a trade or acquire the knowledge that will lead to a rewarding career.
But if you just want to learn for fun or curiousity's sake, there many excellent online college courses you can take. Many prestigious universities, such as MIT, Stanford, Yale and Notre Dame, offer free online courses, and in some cases, you can earn actual college credits. See my articles Free Online College Courses, Free Online College Courses - Part Deux and Free Online College Courses - Part Three to see the variety of online college courses that are avaialble.
Have you gotten a degree by taking online college courses? Post your experience here...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 23 Aug 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Online College or Campus Learning? (Posted: 23 Aug 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved