Deciding to pursue a degree is a huge professional step that can potentially transform one’s life journey. For those who wish to take this exciting next step, it’s important to consider the factors involved in choosing to go to college in person or online. Online classes have only become more popular over time, completely shifting the way we view earning a degree and attending classes for a higher level of education. That being said, the debate between online vs. traditional classes is a timeless one as there are numerous advantages and potential disadvantages to each. Every student is different, so making the right call on going to classes in-person or online is always a personal choice that is based on career goals and general lifestyle.
In this article, we’ll explore both sides of the online classes vs. traditional classes argument and cover how to begin to take those big steps toward professional development. Whether you think online classes are your best option or prefer the in-person engagement of on-campus instruction, this article will fully expand the intricacies of each.
Pros of Online Classes
What better way to begin than by detailing some of the biggest advantages of taking online classes. Online classes tend to lend themselves effortlessly toward those with busy personal lives that may need to embrace a flexible class structure to get their degree. Some of the biggest advantages of pursuing a degree online include:
Widely regarded as one of the biggest advantages of choosing to take online classes is their accessibility. By choosing to take online classes, the options for school and programs can easily double or triple simply because online classes can be taken anywhere. For those that may not live close to a college or university, this may come as a huge advantage because the student doesn’t need to relocate to earn a degree. Classes are also taken while having downtime at home, work, etc. which is great for students that need to embrace a more flexible work-school-life balance.
We’ll dive into pricing a bit more later on, but another major benefit of choosing to take classes online is that these courses tend to be more affordable. Online classes are typically based on individual credit hours, while in-person courses are usually based on an accumulation of courses taken that semester. The pricing structure for online classes is different overall and allows for students to take classes based not only on their interests but also based on their financial needs. Price and financial ability play a major role in not only the school we attend but the way we attend it, so it’s imperative to consider all the moving parts that lead to a degree. Many who choose a traditional approach to their education also need to factor in housing, commute, and boarding costs before being able to even choose a school.
While many students consider online programs due to financial need or accessibility, it’s also a great option for students that are looking for a less traditional and more streamlined approach toward their education. Many online students take courses virtually to have time outside of their studies to pursue professional opportunities or attend to other matters within their schedule. On the flip side, many students choose to take online classes vs. traditional classes because they can potentially graduate even faster than they would have if they attended school in person.
Many online programs allow students to streamline their course structure and minimize their time spent earning the degree. For example, Regis University in Denver, CO offers numerous accelerated degrees options that allow students to complete courses in a much faster format than a traditional brick-and-mortar situation.
Cons of Online Classes
Before making any major decision regarding online classes vs. traditional classes, it’s key to consider the drawbacks of pursuing a degree or taking college courses online. Every student is different, so understanding both the advantages and the disadvantages of online classes is the only fair way to make an educated choice. Some of the most prominent cons of choosing to take classes online include:
There are certain majors and areas of study that are fundamentally difficult to learn online. For example, someone who is interested in marine biology because they want to spend time within the field may want to consider the lack of immersion that online classes offer. Because of this, there are generally not as many major options available for online degree programs. Online classes offer all of the same insight into an area of study, but sometimes these interests require in-person experience to lead to prosperity down the line.
This may go without saying, but the largest potential con of online classes is the lack of face-to-face interaction and engagement while taking online courses. While this can be an appealing factor for some students, others may struggle with the lack of community that comes with taking classes online. It’s natural while taking any college courses to have questions arise every so often. Online students need to take the reins regarding communication a bit more than students taking in-person classes to feel an appropriate connection to their learning materials.
When taking in-person courses, there is always a professor within earshot that is present to encourage consistent productivity and ensure the students are paying attention to their lectures. With online courses, one of the biggest disadvantages is that they require the student to log in to their classes on their own, do the work required for the course independently, and set aside time within their own schedule to study and prepare for exams.
While this freedom is often welcomed by those choosing to take online classes vs. traditional classes, this independence can be a slippery slope if the student struggles with self-motivation. Online classes require a higher level of discipline than traditional classes, which is important to consider before signing up for classes online. Students who know that they may struggle with these factors should consider taking one or two online classes to test the waters and see if diving into a fully online degree program is a good choice.
Pros of Traditional Classes
Now that we understand both sides of the coin for taking online classes, let’s explore how taking classes traditionally on-campus largely varies. When people think of college, the images that come to mind are often of a sprawling college campus active with student engagement and activity. While the general mindset toward earning a degree has shifted and online classes are more popular, this focus on the college itself tends to drive many of the largest advantages of taking classes in person. Some of the biggest pros of traditional classes vs. online classes include:
At the end of the day, virtual learning simply isn’t for everyone. If students know that they tend to thrive within an active classroom environment, they may want to think twice before taking classes online. When taking courses traditionally, communication is much more simplified, and gaining real working experience within a field of study is much more accessible. These hands-on experiences often propel students to fall in love with their major or even reconsider their area of study based on these real-world scenarios and experiences.
Easily the biggest advantage of choosing to take classes on-campus in a traditional manner is the educational headspace that’s inherently experienced when taking classes at an accredited college or university. This streamlined focus and immersive environment caters well to having limited distractions, increased personal responsibilities within the classroom, and paves the way toward countless in-person opportunities for professional development and networking.
Online classes often feature many of these same benefits and opportunities, but for those with a part-time online schedule or who have a harder time commuting to campus, this can prove to be more difficult. The core of on-campus instruction is immediate access to an educational community at all times.
Cons of Traditional Classes
The popularity of online classes and the increase in collegiate virtual learning has become popular in recent years for many reasons. Online classes directly address the challenges faced within a traditional degree path. As for the debate between online classes vs. traditional classes, these tend to be the largest disadvantages of taking classes on-campus:
Attending college in person is virtually always the most expensive option for those who wish to pursue a degree. Especially for those who wish to pursue degrees that require students to invest in textbooks and learning materials, attending school in person has a substantial portion of the fees involved. While most schools will offer a certain level of grants or scholarships to qualified students, when attending college in-person there are housing fees, meal costs, commuting factors, and many other costs that need to be weighed before choosing to pursue a degree.
The most obvious requirement of on-campus instruction is attending classes on campus. For those that may need to travel often, this can be a huge burden compared to the remote nature of online classes. Having a fixed location causes two major things to occur: either the student needs to live close enough to the campus that they can attend classes regularly or they should consider relocating to live on-campus in a dormitory situation. As we covered in our prior point, living on campus features many financial liabilities that may or may not factor into this decision.
Cost of Online Classes vs Traditional Classes
Easily the largest factor when choosing between online classes vs. traditional classes is pricing. Before even considering this students will usually begin with a list of colleges and tuition amounts. Online classes and in-person courses can vary drastically from one another financially, each featuring unique costs outside of the classes themselves. For example, those taking online courses need to ensure they have a working computer and appropriate technology to be able to access these classes reliably, which may require some much-needed investments. And on the other hand, traditional classes typically cost more money on average as well as often requiring students to commute or even relocate to pursue their degree comfortably, which can be a huge monetary expense.
On average, a typical online course requires the student to pay approximately $100-400 per credit hour. The price of tuition for a brick-and-mortar institution will virtually always be higher, but can largely vary based on if it’s a private or public school, the school’s size, as well as the amount of financial aid that may be available. Online class prices can vary, but can’t hold a candle to the potential costs of an in-person college experience. In 2020-2021 the average tuition for in-state public college was $10,560 but climbed up to $37,650 for students who choose to attend a private college or university. These are all very important things to consider when choosing between online classes vs. traditional classes.
Online Classes vs Traditional Classes – Which Is the Better Choice for You?
At the end of the day, deciding between a traditional brick-and-mortar experience or opting for virtual learning instead will depend mostly on the student’s needs and professional goals. There are countless reasons to consider pursuing a degree, and ultimately earning a degree should be done in a manner that best ensures the student’s success post-graduation. So whether students feel they need hands-on engagement in a consistent manner or instead want a flexible course structure that allows increased freedom outside of their studies, being able to earn a degree in the way you desire is what matters most.
Taking online classes through an accredited college is a great way to learn quickly if pursuing an online education is the right choice for you. To explore a list of colleges that boast reputable and enriching online degree programs, explore Bible College Online’s list of faith-based online degree programs today!