On Campus Vs Online Degree

Which is Better?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics – NCES (2007/2008), approximately 20% of all undergraduate students in the United States took at least one distance learning course. Out of these, nearly a million students (4% undergraduates) completed their entire degree program online. Online enrollments are seeing an upward trend, which is expected to continue for at least the next 10 years.  And while on-campus education remains the preferred mode of higher learning for many, distance education programs are fast catching up with their counterpart.

To analyze these two modes of education, let’s compare the two and analyze strengths and weaknesses of both.


One of the factors you need to compare between online and on-campus programs is the cost. Many people make the mistake of assuming that online courses are somewhat cheaper than traditional on-campus programs. This is not always the case. In certain cases, the cost of providing a course at a distant location might be more than its on-campus version, subsequently increasing the tuition fees as well.

So when you begin comparing the two modes of instruction, make sure you are well aware of the cost. Some online courses will be more expensive, while others will be less expensive.

Difficulty Level

Some people end up assuming that somehow online courses would be easier than on-campus courses, even if the course content is exactly the same. This assumption is flawed. Online education can be easier for those who are self-motivated and highly disciplined but for those who wish to just sit at home and not make an effort to learn, online education might actually turn out to be more difficult.

The level of difficulty of the program would depend upon the student’s personality traits. For self-disciplined students with a strong drive to excel, an online program might be a good option. For students who lack motivation, a rigid, traditional form of education would be better, where there is a teacher monitoring progress.


This is another important factor to consider. One of the biggest advantages of studying on-campus is the availability of resources at one single place. For instance, if you are taking a chemistry class, you will have access to a laboratory and a library with numerous books on the relevant topic.

For students looking for online programs with a high level of accessibility to student services, make sure you explore the programs that offer tutoring, advising, career counseling, library services, online discussion boards, office hours and online student-teacher interactions. For courses that require campus visits, make sure the university facilitates such visits.


A university might retain two sets of teachers – one for on-campus classes and other for online classes.  This is done to make sure that the faculty is not over-burdened and that the student-teacher ratio remains ideal. Many universities hire adjunct faculty for either of their programs. These are professionals in their fields who have all the relevant experience, but may not hold a doctorate degree. Some students actually prefer being taught by adjunct professors because they tend to be more up-to-date with the latest workplace trends and have the relevant industry experience and connections.

Whatever the credentials of the faculty, make sure they add to your knowledge. Ask about them from those who have taken classes with them before. This will give you a genuine insight into the teaching methods used and the overall attitude of the instructors.


The most commonly cited benefit of an online program is the amount of flexibility it offers. Like on-campus programs, students are still given deadlines to meet but what is different is how students interact with the faculty, course content and their fellow students. Most online courses do not require students to log in at one time. Instead, they can view the prerecorded lectures at any time that suits them best – after work, after putting the kids to sleep, during lunch, before bed and so on.

Another benefit of online education is lesser on-campus commute. This can help a student save on transportation cost, as well as physical energy. The time and energy can be applied in studying instead.


The biggest question, however, remains the employability value of an online degree. Employers’ reactions to online degrees may vary according to the field in question. For this purpose, before enrolling in an online program, make sure you do some research on the prevailing attitudes towards distance learning programs in your preferred field.

With online and on-campus degrees, it is not always a question of which program is better. The answer to this question will vary based on all of the above factors. Once you have taken the above mentioned into account and researched the types of online courses available, what holds the determinative value is your own attitude towards a particular educational mode.


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