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Alternative Options for Attending College

Updated on July 14, 2014

Digital Education Versus Brick and Mortar Learning: A comparison between online and traditional learning


There are many things to consider when continuing your education, these factors may include time, expense, location, and type of school. One option is online colleges, many students choose this method for very different reasons. Some reasons are financial, some scheduling related, some are transportation and mobility specific, and some choose online school for the freedom from normal classroom interactions. On the down side, online education isn’t for everyone. It takes a lot of self discipline and patience, students must always have a computer with internet access, and need to have a clear understanding of what the assignments entail or contact instructors to get clarification. (Globe University, 2011)

For some returning to college, a traditional school setting in a physical building is best. They may need face to face interaction with instructors and other students, and the need for in class discussion to clarify or elaborate on the material they read on their own. Another reason for a traditional school is student’s ability to see a tutor in person, for many, this means a better understanding of the curriculum.

The choice between the two is usually based on the learning style of the student. For a student that can read the material once, comprehend it and never have to review it again, online school is a definite plus; since the pace is set by the student after assignments are given. The contact with other students and instructors is controlled by the student as well, even in the discussion boards commonly found in online schools the student can pick and choose who they respond to. Online schooling makes it a lot harder for personalities to clash as well because all of the communication is done via email or chat.

In a traditional setting, many times the teacher will call on students or assign them into groups for projects, which can lead to all kinds of disasters, especially if some of the students are anti-social or have learning disabilities. It may also be a challenge for students to get back and forth to campus especially if they don’t have a car, or no public transportation is available. Traditional schooling also has a rigid time to attend and strict attendance policies. For instance at Globe University, the students on campus may have a 5 day -a-week schedule for 4-8 hours a day, and if they even miss one class they lose their perfect attendance award, where as if they attended an online class at the same school , check-in three times a week for perfect attendance. (Globe University, 2009) With online courses you don’t have to worry about being sick or late, because you check in a few times a week and you can check in your pajamas or lying in bed, and do your assignments in the same manner. In an online setting you have more freedom in scheduling so you don’t have to squeeze school in to your schedule only to be rushing to work, daycare, and other obligations after class.

There are similarities in the online versus brick and mortar educational processes. The same course material is taught, however the timing of the teaching may vary. There is still class discussions and interaction with others online, just not face to face. The most important similarity is that you still have to read and use books, and the cost is still astronomical.

One difference in the two learning forums is the hands on activities differ greatly. In a traditional school student would physically do the experiment or assignment with equipment where as in the e-learning environment these activities are run through simulation programs, such as LabSim, or from watching videos of the physical activity. A major difference is the length of time to complete a degree can vary, based on the type of school. A student who goes online may choose to go year round with little to no breaks, where as a student attending a physical school has to adhere to the preset schedule by the education board and staff.

As a result of pursuing my education online, I have been able to work towards my degree around my work, volunteer, and step children’s schedules and been able to maintain good attendance and better grades than I would have normally because I can choose to do my assignments when I am not distracted, and that is why I recommend online schooling to anyone who has the drive and determination to finish school, but who doesn’t have the time.


Here are some tips for attending online college.

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