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Online vs. Traditional Education: What You Need to Know

The term “college” may conjure up images of students socializing in dorm rooms or congregating for lectures in massive lecture halls. However, since technology allows for more and more methods to study, such image is becoming more out of date.

Indeed, online and remote learning has risen in popularity among college students, but does that imply it’s the best option for you? Take some time to examine and contrast conventional vs online schooling to assist you to answer that issue.

contrasting online and conventional schooling
Both online education and conventional education have advantages and disadvantages, so students should be aware of what to anticipate before entering the classroom. This side-by-side comparison focuses on three essential elements that influence a student’s experience. We’ll also look at what a “blended learning” paradigm has to offer.

Flexibility of online vs. conventional schooling
One of the most important factors to consider while assessing your selections is the amount of time you have available each day for education. Are you ready and prepared to attend college full-time, or do you want more flexibility to accommodate your hectic schedule?

Online education: One advantage of taking online courses is that they provide students with freedom. This is an excellent alternative for folks who already have family and career obligations. Online courses will fit into your schedule and enable you to check in at a time that is convenient for you, as opposed to having to attend a lecture at a set time.

Most online courses are scheduled every week, with students expected to check in, read course materials, participate in online class discussions, and complete assignments before the start of the following week. You’ll still have a lot to do for each class, but you’ll have more flexibility in scheduling this work around other obligations.

Traditional education: In general, this is the best option for students who have more flexibility in their schedules. Traditional students, on the other hand, have some scheduling flexibility because some schools offer night classes or classes that meet only once a week.

Travel time to campus is an easy factor to overlook when it comes to scheduling—a long commute can certainly make scheduling difficult, especially if you plan on working while in school.

Discipline and self-motivation in online vs. traditional education
Another factor to consider when weighing college options is your level of self-discipline. Traditional and online education both need some level of discipline to be successful, but there may be substantial disparities in how learning is conducted. These structural variations may have a substantial impact on your capacity to remain on track.

Online education: The extra flexibility of online learning comes at a cost—you must be very self-motivated. All college programs need students to complete necessary reading and assignments, but some students may struggle to remain motivated while studying from home.

The most successful online students devise ways for keeping on top of their assignments. Setting aside time each week for study and establishing a work environment with few interruptions may be quite beneficial.

Traditional education: Many people believe that traditional education has an edge when it comes to discipline and drive. An organized schedule that includes attending class a few times each week and having regular face-to-face contact with instructors may help students stay on track. Traditional, on-campus students have more chances to be reminded of future tasks, which might be beneficial if you tend to procrastinate on major, time-consuming projects.

Online vs. traditional education: Social interaction
One final area to consider is the level of social interaction you’re hoping to have as you earn your degree. Do you need interaction from your peers and instructors to succeed and stay motivated? Or do you thrive in an independent study environment?

Online education: Social interaction with instructors and other students, while not as common in online courses, still happens regularly. The biggest difference is in the form it takes, with many online student interactions happening via video chat or online discussion posts.

Some courses may also offer pre-recorded videos of the same lectures given to traditional, on-campus students. If you’re a social learner who likes to ask questions and pick the brains of your instructors, these video lectures can help you earn a deeper understanding of assigned reading materials.

Traditional education: Despite technological advances, traditional education is still likely the better option for those who thrive on face-to-face communication. Seeing and interacting with your instructors regularly can be motivating for some—it’s a little easier to go the extra mile if you know your instructor is likable and invested in your education. Traditional, in-class settings may also offer more opportunities for spur-of-the-moment questioning or interesting tangents that may help a concept “click” in the minds of students.


Online vs. traditional education: The blended education model
By now, it’s probably becoming clear to you that both online and traditional education have their perks. So is there a way to get the best of both worlds? One option that is increasing in popularity is called “blended learning.”

In this format, the curriculum is designed to implement both traditional, in-person learning and online coursework. The implementation of this can vary greatly, depending on the subject and instructor. But as an example, instructors may require only meeting once weekly for lectures, while assigning projects or other activities for students to complete online on their own time. This allows students to receive some of the positives from face-to-face social learning while still allowing for scheduling flexibility.

Another example would be a program that offers some courses on campus and others online. For example, a nursing program may include an online anatomy course and a nursing simulation lab on campus. The idea here is that certain courses involve material that is conducive to online learning, while other lessons can only be taught in a physical classroom or lab.

The decision is yours
In the case of online versus traditional education, there is no right or wrong answer. Much of it comes down to personal preference and knowing how you learn best. These learning formats can all be very effective, no matter your learning style and situation.

Ready to get started with a new college experience? Find a campus location near you or check out the online program offerings of Rasmussen University.


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