So you have decided you want to earn a degree and now you face the big question: do you take your classes on campus or online? One thing you should know is that the meteoric rise in learning institutions offering online degrees has suddenly made online degrees a very real option for many prospective students. There is now a wide variety of courses and degrees available via distance learning. Degrees earned online are accepted by more and more employers. These courses have in fact proven to be just as challenging as campus degrees what with academic standards being enforced across the nation.
But the question remains: online degree or campus degree – which is best for you? Below are some items to consider before coming to a final decision.
Do you have the time to finish a degree on campus? A degree earned in the school itself will usually take four years to complete. Online degrees on the other hand often take much less time — anywhere from two years onward.
Why the difference? With online degrees, you don’t have to wait for the semester to begin — you can simply log on and start. With campus degrees, you have to find a class schedule that fits yours and then complete all coursework within the strict boundaries of a semester. With online courses, you can access the materials and lectures anytime and can generally set your own pace. Plus, online coursework is usually due anywhere from six months to a year after taking the class, making submissions much more flexible.
Keep in mind that campus degrees may end up costing you more. There are many hidden costs that you may not have factored in such as: how much the commute to and from the school will cost, or how much relocation might cost if it’s a school that’s outside of your home area, how much time it will take to travel between home and school, plus the cost of books, laboratory fees and materials.
This is not to say that online degrees are inexpensive. They can cost as much as any education. Many online schools also offer financial aid to qualified students. You can apply for financial aid whether you’re doing coursework on-campus or online.
Another difference is that online schools often allow you to pay by the course as opposed to on-campus schools that may require you to pay for a minimum number of credits.
The biggest difference between an online degree and a campus degree is the flexibility it gives to students. On-campus degrees have rigid schedules – for example, show up for class at 6:30 p.m. and leave at 9:30 p.m. Online degrees allow you to take in the lecture whenever you please — after a hard day’s work, in the early morning, during your lunch break. With on-campus classes, your participation is confined to the class schedule and happens in real time. With online classes, your class discussions can happen at any time. This means that you could potentially attend a lecture a day after it was posted and still be able to contribute to the discussion.
Remember that studying for your online degree will demand more self-discipline and time management skills than an on-campus degree. Since you are in charge of your schedule and all submissions without a teacher reminding you of deadlines every week, you need to be able to prioritize tasks, motivate yourself to work, and do consistent coursework on your own. An honest self-evaluation should reveal whether this is right for you.