The quality of a degree from an online university vs campus based
Online schools offer a range of advantages over their campus based counterparts. Online schools allow students to attend remotely, fitting in school with their busy schedules and allowing them to progress at their own pace. As well, online degrees are accomplished, on average, quicker by a year or two than campus based degrees. But can the advantages of online universities make up for the experience of a campus based learning environment? Campus based universities offer physical face time with professors, as well as lively class discussions which can further comprehension of subjects. Many students-to-be fear that with an online campus they will not have resources to turn to when they run into problems, and that it will be difficult to motivate themselves without having the helpful infrastructure that campuses have built up, such as writing centers and peer mentors. Comparing online institutions to their campus counterparts is not going to provide a clear winner on which offers a better education. What it will show is which option is best for your learning style and personality.
In campus based universities, many professors will teach in the lecture discussion style. The students will do the readings at home, come to class for the lecture, and then either discuss the concepts organically as topics and questions arise, or in discussion groups. Online universities are often unable to offer physical discussion groups, but have the alternative of discussion boards. These boards can be less intimidating than speaking out loud in a large class, and allow students to take time to understand each point before answering and lowering the social barrier for students who may be shy about asking questions in a physical classroom. The difference between online and physical discussion boards is most felt in the length. Online discussions can be ongoing throughout the term, not limited to a quick session at the end of class, allowing the topic to be fleshed out and to respond to current events that are sometimes happening as the course develops.
A 2010 study, entitled “Student Perspectives on Campus-based versus online courses”, by AH Humphreys, offers insight into the different experiences offered by each option. Students of campus based education almost invariably found the face-to-face nature of physical learning to be beneficial, as it allowed them to bond with their professors and clarify questions about their assignments. However, they found that campus based learning was largely inflexible and much more time consuming, which was a huge issue for students who had either work or families.
Online courses won out on flexibility and convenience. The online format also allowed for ease of multi-tasking. These benefits did come at a price, as the discussion boards, while a tool which was helpful for learning, did not work as a motivational or social tool. On the other hand, students voiced favorable opinions on the discussion boards as a tool in general. There were also concerns with technical difficulties, as well as confusion about specifics of assignments. As well, online courses took more time for professors to implement, raising concerns about whether busy professors were able to take the time to provide a quality learning experience.
Concern over the quality of online education lead to a 2012 study by Joy L. M. Brown titled “Online Learning: A Comparison of Web-based and land-based courses”. This study found that while differences in grades were negligible, there was a difference in drop-out rates. The study found that “The web-based courses averaged 2.15 students per semester dropping while the land-based courses averaged .57 students per semester.” (Brown p.41). This drop-out rate supports the theory that online courses require more discipline than physical courses.
So, how does online school vs campus based education compare? If you are a highly motivated, self-reliant person with a knack for time organization and adept with technology, online universities are perfect for you. On the other hand, if you are a social learner who works well with others to work towards knowledge, and who thrives on physical discussions, campus based universities are probably the best choice. As always, however, online universities will win out on flexibility and convenience- as well as the speed of getting the degree done.