Online or On-Campus? The Ins and Outs of Online Degrees
By Dixie S.
Congratulations on being accepted to a college! Now it’s time to decide how you’re going to earn your degree. With today’s technology, there’s more than one way to go to school. It’s up to you. If you’re considering an online course, you’re not alone. In 2013, it was reported that the number of students taking at least one online course had nearly doubled from 23% to 45%. That number is only expected to rise in coming years.
The question is, what is the difference between, say, an online public administration degree and one from a physical campus? Though the end result and credibility of a degree are the same, the means of obtaining it depends on your preferences. Online degrees offer a flexibility that on campus studies do not. The flexibility may not work for everyone. How can you tell if an online degree is right for you? Consider the following points:
Do You Like Flexibility?
If the idea of studying on a tight schedule makes you uncomfortable, then an online degree may be what you need. Online programs allow for students to work on a schedule that’s good for them. Students have the option to submit assignments anytime during a specified period. Since there is no class meeting time, professors can be less strict with deadlines.
When it comes to student support, online programs often have support services with hours beyond the typical 9 to 5, as many students study in the evenings. The flexibility of online programs is perfect for anyone that doesn’t want to put their life on hold to go to school.
Are You Organized?
Since online programs are so flexible, you as a student have more accountability enrolling in them. There’s no professor reminding you of assignment deadlines or making sure you’re on task. Part of going to college is taking responsibility for yourself, but it’s even more so with an online program. It is up to the student to know when assignments are due and complete them. A lack of organization will make it easy to fall behind.
Do You Have Problems Working Alone?
If you need to have the company of others, an online program may not be for you. While online professors do assign team projects, it’s often difficult for students to meet each other in person. Skype or phone conferencing replaces studying in the library. If you’re a face-to-face kind of person, you may get lonely.
Also, online forums replace class discussions. Participation points are sometimes counted by how often you take part in these forums. Writing is a big part of working online. While online forums are interesting, they’re not the same as a lively class discussion. Skip the online program if you think you’ll miss these.
If you’ve considered all these points and decide that an online program is a good fit, then you have to create a plan to make sure you succeed in your online studies. On the first day of classes, log in to your course and study the syllabus. Take out your calendar and mark all due dates, and put reminders in your phone as well.
Introduce yourself in the online forum. Include a picture if you’re comfortable. Don’t hesitate to email your professor with questions. The important thing is not to be a stranger. Since there is no face-to-face contact, you need to be assertive on group discussions and emails. If you’re struggling with the course content, let the professor know right away so you can get the help you need.
A common misconception is that online courses lack the quality of traditional courses, but online courses are no less effective than traditional studies in the long run. The truth is, if the student puts in the time and effort, they will get the same benefits as an on-campus student. An employer may even be impressed with the discipline you had to show to succeed in online studies.