Online vs In-person

Student watching online lesson

Online vs In Person

Below follows a quick synopsis that can help when comparing or signing up for an online course or an in-person (also known as ground school). Both modalities have advantages and drawbacks.

What should you do? That really depends on what you are looking for in a program and what criteria are most important to you. 

What Are the Benefits of an Online Education?

Distance education, also known as online learning, is becoming more popular among college students across the U.S., with 11.8 million undergraduates enrolled in online classes in 2020 compared to just 6 million — only about half as many — in 2019. Here are just a few of the reasons why so many students prefer online coursework.

  • Scheduling Flexibility

In a hectic, busy world, online courses offer unmatched convenience and flexibility. Online classes allow you to log in and complete your work anywhere, anytime. Study on your schedule, without the need for a stressful, time-wasting commute.

  • Lower Tuition and Boarding Costs

Online students do not have to pay for student housing, gas for commuting, or on-campus meal programs. That can translate to substantial savings, which is a major advantage for cost-conscious students. 

  • Increased Networking Opportunities

Online courses let you interact with students in remote locations all over the world. 

  • Perfect for Busy Parents and Workers

Online courses let you build an education around your routine so that you can have more quality family time, limit expensive babysitters, or control your hours at work (either in-office or at-home). Distance education is ideal for anyone with a hectic or unpredictable calendar, from stay-at-home parents to busy freelancers. For example, many students attend online college while working full-time.

  • More Equitable, Accessible Learning

Another advantage of online classes is that they can open up more learning opportunities for students with disabilities, making postsecondary education more accessible and inclusive. 

Online courses allow students to learn at their own pace on their own schedule, which is an approach to studying known as asynchronous learning. This format empowers students to take notes, review lectures, and go over other course materials in a way that works best for them.

What Are the Benefits of Taking Courses in Person? 

  • Distraction-Free Environment

A successful education demands focus and concentration. Classrooms, laboratories, and lecture halls create tightly focused, distraction-free learning environments with all the tools and space you need, so that you can dedicate yourself to the lesson — not to that annoying car alarm, barking dog, or ringing phone in the background.

  • Hands-On Learning

Not every student learns the same way. Some individuals are visual learners, some individuals like to take detailed notes, and other individuals learn best from first-hand experience. Additionally, there are some disciplines that require hands-on experience, such as learning how to repair a machine or perform a medical procedure. If direct, hands-on learning opportunities are important to you, an on-campus degree program might make the better fit.

Some Potential Considerations of Attending College Online

Here are a few challenges and considerations to prepare for if you are pursuing an online degree, credential, or certificate program.

  • Tougher Technical Requirements

If you consider yourself more tech-challenged than tech-savvy, online learning might pose a few obstacles due to its heavy reliance on computer programs, which can be expensive to purchase and tough to navigate. Fortunately, countless resources help you master the software you will need to succeed. In fact, many schools have dedicated IT departments and help desk services for students who may have issues with online learning portals, as well as troubleshooting guides.

  • Greater Need for Self-Motivation

For self-paced programs, you will need to employ some serious self-discipline to ensure you complete your work in a timely fashion. Without a rigid class schedule to push you to attend a class at a designated time and place every week, it may be harder to reap the full benefits that distance education has to offer if you tend to procrastinate.

  • Possible Distractions at Home

If your home environment is chaotic and full, it might be a challenge to stay focused on your coursework.

  • Less Cooperation and Interaction with Peers

You have to work at communicating and building relationships with peers when taking an online program.