Today’s high school seniors and recent graduates have a variety of options when choosing their next steps in education. The traditional college experience of an on-campus education with classes in lecture halls, dorm life and campus activities remain a draw for many students. However, advances in technology have made it possible for students to gain an equal education through distance learning or online undergraduate programs. So, how do you determine which learning style is the best choice for you?
Students must consider their needs and abilities in terms of flexibility, discipline and self-motivation and finances.
One of the key factors to consider when weighing college options is the amount of time you have every day to dedicate to course work. Are you ready and able to attend college full-time or do you want or need more flexibility?
Online programs offer a distinct advantage when it comes to flexibility. Online classes can be designed to fit around your schedule. This format allows you to log in to do your coursework at a time and place that works best for you, as opposed to having to attend a lecture at a specific time and designated location.
However, in online courses, students are still expected to log in weekly, read course materials, contribute to online class discussions and complete assignments by designated weekly due dates.
A traditional college or university setting is a preferred option for students who have the ability to dedicate time to a full-time education experience. Traditional students often have flexibility when it comes to scheduling courses. Students must consider commute time if living or working off campus and how that may affect time for course work.
Discipline & Self-Motivation
Both traditional and online education require self-discipline to succeed. But, there are significant differences in how learning is structured in these two environments, which can affect motivation and your ability to stay on track.
Online learning requires a high-level of self-motivation because flexibility comes with responsibility. Students need to be organized to keep up coursework, participate in online class discussions and do the required reading and assignments without getting off track by procrastination. The best online students develop strategies for success such as setting aside time every week for studying and creating an area designed for study with minimal distractions. Also, the American workforce is increasingly adopting the virtual work environment, so students who have success with online education will have a leg up on others who will need to adjust to working remotely.
When it comes to discipline and motivation, traditional education does have an advantage for students who may be less organized, those prone to procrastination or distraction and for those who need more structure and would benefit from hands-on guidance. The structure and accountability of attending classes at a specific location and time a few of times per week and having routine face-to-face interactions with classmates and instructors can help keep students on task. Students in traditional, on-campus settings also have more opportunities to be reminded of upcoming assignments.
Lastly, financial considerations can play a big role in the decision to choose on online experience or a traditional experience.
Online programs are typically less expensive than the traditional counterparts. A student pays for tuition and program materials but does not have to cover living or commuting expenses. Students in this program have more availability to work full time and cover the costs of online education.
Often times, a traditional college education is more expensive than an online program. A student must consider in-state or out-of-state tuition fees, books and materials, room and board and travel expenses. There are many ways to reduce or offset these costs through scholarships, grants and student loans.
In the case of online versus traditional education, there is no right or wrong answer. Much of it comes down to learning style and needs. It’s important to consider all the options and how each can help you meet your personal goals before deciding.