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Online vs. university courses

Learn the differences between going online or on-campus.

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Do you prefer to work at your own pace, in your own space? Or are you motivated to sit in a classroom and interact with your peers? Online classes are more popular than ever, but can they replace the classroom experience?

What’s the difference between online and in-person classes?

The face of education has changed over time. The woman typing on her computer in the coffee shop could be participating in an online discussion for a master’s degree. The man on the train looking at his phone could be watching course content for an advanced diploma.

Here is a snapshot of the main differences between online and campus courses:

Online courses

  • Flexible schedule
  • Greater school choice
  • Degree accreditation
  • Self discipline
  • Job prospects
  • Flexible pace

In-person courses

  • Social interaction
  • Make professional connections
  • more accountability
  • Access to university resources
  • More access to professors

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How do employers weigh online vs. in-person courses?

Many people take courses to benefit their career and bring them closer to a job they love. But do online courses carry the same weight as in-person classes?

“We don’t view online courses any differently than campus-based courses,” said Melanie Gibson, a senior recruiter at Keegan Adams, “If anything, we can sometimes view online courses as more positive because it shows that the candidate is managing their commitments and time often with the goal of finding full-time employment to support themselves, which can be desirable qualities to employers.”

Online classes are weighed equally by some employers, but some say they like to see those courses completed from a brick-and-mortar school. Also, attending classes in-person gives you opportunity to build connections for recommendations and job opportunities.

Is there a cost benefit to online classes?

It depends. If you’re taking university-level courses, and are working towards a degree, it’s not likely you’ll get a cost break. Online education offers the same high standards and is taught by equally qualified professors, so expect similar costs.

You could find savings from travel and materials, but brick-and-mortar schools offers resources like libraries, science labs, computer labs and lectures that are difficult to access if you stick to online courses.

What you do save with online courses is time. The flexibility in how long it takes to complete a course, and when and where you take it is priceless.

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Which is best for me?

This depends on your circumstances and your lifestyle. With added flexibility, online courses might be for you if you have a family, a job — or both. But if you’re graduating high school, or just starting a career, it might be beneficial to attend in-person courses. Attending classes gives you an opportunity to meet other people in your profession, make connections with professors and other experts in your field that you might not get elsewhere.

If you’re looking for the best of both worlds, some universities offer blended courses — you attend class part time and access online materials too.

Bottom line

Deciding to return to school, or just beginning your study is exciting. Analyze your lifestyle and needs to find out if you should attend in-person classes, or if you’re better prepared and motivated to get your degree online. Compare your online options before deciding.

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