How to Decide Between an Online and On-Campus Education

By Ellie Walburg on May 22, 2018

Today's classroom is not like it used to be.

Long are the days of breathing in chalkboard dust or squinting your eyes to see the overhead projector. Today's curriculum usually isn't based off memorizing a textbook and spurting back the answers.

And, in today's educational environment, you also have the choice of gaining knowledge and experience through an online or on-campus classroom.

What may have been thought of as impossible before the rise of technology, online classrooms provide greater freedom and flexibility to pursue your goals on your schedule.

The decision in choosing between an on-ground, in-person classroom and one connected via video conferencing and the internet is one that should be made intentionally. While each option can equip you for success, one learning style may suit you better than the other.

Here, we compare what it's like to be in an online and on-campus learning environment to help you decide which option is best for you.

On-campus Learning

Adult learners attending class in a classroom

The traditional classroom experience is one where you attend classes in person, in a physical location. You meet face-to-face with your professor and classmates. This is the education setting that most people are used to. Since most elementary through high schools are set up where students attend class in-person, this type of environment requires the least amount of adjustment in learning.

Benefits of On-campus Learning

There are reasons why on-campus learning has remained the traditional classroom experience. Check out these important benefits of on-campus learning that may make it the best option for you.

1. Easily Build Community

When you meet face-to-face with people and hear their stories and insights in person, it is often easy to begin to develop relationships and build community with your classmates and professors. While community can absolutely be built and strengthened in an online environment, on-campus classrooms make this building of relationships easier and more natural.

An article by Will Estrad (2017) from Rasmussen notes that the traditional classroom experience is still the best option for students who thrive with face-to-face interaction. With this personal interaction, you can be better able to ask spur-of-the-moment questions and connect with your classmates and professor.

2. Keep a Structured Time

Especially in programs with classes only once a week, such as the convenient format of Cornerstone University's Professional & Graduate Studies division, helps you keep a consistent schedule.

Meeting for class helps you set your planner and know that on Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., you are in class. While you'll need to take some additional time out of your week for assignments and readings, having that consistent time set aside can help you plan and manage your time more wisely.

If you're someone who likes having that consistent time set aside to simplify your hectic schedule, an on-campus learning environment may just be for you.

3. Get Your Questions Answered Right Then and There

Two adult students discussing content on a laptop screen

With a traditional classroom setup, you have greater opportunities to have an in-person conversation with your professor or classmate to better understanding something you've learned or been wondering about.

Although most instructors in an online classroom do stay up on all their communication and questions from students, having the opportunity to ask a question in class, in person, may be beneficial for your learning style.

4. Appeal to All Your Senses

We know that not everyone learns the same way. In a traditional classroom, you have greater freedom to experience learning in a variety of ways. An article from Purdue University Global (2018) mentions how the in-person classroom allows you to listen to the instructor's lecture, engage in a verbal discussion with your classmates, write out your reflections on what you've learned and have greater opportunity to ask questions. The article from Purdue adds that especially in situations where you have trouble focusing in class, the in-person communication can help you stay engaged in what you're learning.

Disadvantages of On-campus Learning

While on-campus learning offers abundant benefits, there are some disadvantages to be aware of in deciding if online or on campus is best for you.

1. Restrictions on Your Schedule

Perhaps the most obvious disadvantage of engaging in on-campus learning is the set schedule you're required to follow every week. When your class is only offered on one night, such as Wednesday nights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., you have to make sure you have that day set aside to go to class. This means you may need to miss out on some things in order to commit to achieving your goals. With an on-campus location, you'll also need to factor in travel time from work or home to where your class is held.

2. Enforces More Structure

Connected to a set schedule is how class time is spent. In an on-campus classroom setting, your professor will plan out how the time in class will be spent, whether that be lecture, group discussions or peer reviewing your papers. Such set schedule may feel restricting if you're someone who would rather do their own thing on their own time.

While on-campus education may have a few disadvantages, it remains an impactful learning experience that helps you build better relationships with your peers, keep a set schedule, engage in meaningful discussions and cater to your unique learning style.

But on-campus education isn't the only way to learn.

Online Education

Person typing on their laptop computer

The innovation of modern technology has had a profound effect on the opportunities students are now offered for how they learn. And this type of learning has grown in popularity.

According to an article from the University of the Potomac on comparing online vs traditional learning, online education has shown to be very effective. The article, based on 2014 findings, notes that 77% of educators believe that online learning is just as good as traditional learning.

With resources such as online learning management systems, video conference, online forums and constant communication, students have more ways to learn than ever before.

Benefits of Online Learning

The online classroom offers a range of benefits for you to succeed in pursuing your goals with a degree.

1. More Flexibility in Your Schedule

One of the most prominent benefits of engaging in an online education is experiencing more flexibility with your schedule. With an online classroom, you can set your own schedule. You plan out when you engage in class, as long as you meet those important deadlines.

This also means that you don't have to make it to a physical classroom in order to meet up with your professor or classmates. With resources like online discussion forums and videos, you can have meaningful discussions whenever you can and wherever you are. There's no need to commute to a physical building, so that can save on your transportation costs, too.

2. Deepen Your Self-Discipline and Motivation Skills

Engaging in an online program encourages you to be self-disciplined and focused on your task at hand. With more freedom comes more responsibility. That boost in responsibility can help you refine your skills of self-discipline and motivation.

3. Connect with Classmates From All Over

Another benefit of being a part of an online classroom is the opportunity to meet and learn from students who may not live in the same area as you. Online, you're not restricted to being in the same city at the same time. So, in an online classroom, you may have a classmate who's sitting in the air conditioning in Florida while you are bundled up in snowy Michigan.

Adult looking at a laptop screen while seated at a desk

Disadvantages of Online Education

Online education is a great option for those with chaotic schedules who cannot devote a consistent time to be in class. However, there are also some disadvantages that come along with being a part of an online classroom.

1. You Need to Be Disciplined

With no, or limited, face-to-face discussions, you must be motivated in your education. While you will have check-ins with your professor and classmates, the lack of in-person interaction has the potential to make it more difficult to stay motivated.

Especially for online students, it's important to find your group of supporters who will encourage you as you pursue your education. Surround yourself with people who will help you succeed and stay focused on your goals.

2. You'll Need to Know or Learn Technology

Especially in an online classroom, technology is fairly essential. While most online programs, such as those at CU, are user-friendly and are accompanied by helpful faculty, staff and tech support who can help, you'll need technology.

If you don't consider yourself tech-savvy or don't have a basic understanding of best practices of resources such as a learning management system or Microsoft Office, you'll need to learn. But at a university with numerous helpful tutorials and resources, you'll be able to learn quickly and get on your way to thriving in the digital world.

On Campus or Online: Your Choice

Deciding between an on-campus and online learning environment is not a choice to be made lightly. Before you dive into a program, discover which method suits your learning style and personality best. With these helpful tips, you can be closer to achieving your goals with a degree program, whether you study in a classroom or in the comfort of your home.

And at Cornerstone University's Professional & Graduate Studies division, you can choose either an on-campus or online classroom. Check out our degree programs and find the format that fits you.

Category: Why College