4 Questions to Ask When You're Deciding Between Online and On-Campus Courses

Online vs. On-Campus

by Kevin Currie

Kevin Currie

Kevin R. Currie is the executive director of Northeastern University Online. He has nearly 30 years of experience in higher education, management consulting, sales, and training.

You've decided it’s time to go back to school. You’re ready physically, mentally, and financially. But as you start to compare programs, you notice that some are offered online, and some are offered on campus, and some even offer a mix.

 Since the quality of your education at the College of Professional Studies will be the same however you access the program, what, then, are the factors you should consider when choosing between online and on-campus?

Here are some of the most important questions to ask yourself as you make your decision.

1. Proximity to Campus

If you live or work right next to a college campus, and your schedule allows the flexibility, it might be easy for you to go the two blocks or two hours you need to take a course on-campus. For some people, there's nothing like the face-to-face interaction for what they prefer and what they feel more comfortable with. 

Sometimes, this question is a no-brainer. Let's say you live in France, but want to take classes in Boston because of the high-quality colleges and its reputation for education. Short of flying back-and-forth across the country every week, you should look into programs you can complete online. 

2. Lifestyle

For some people, even if they are close to campus, their home or work life doesn't allow them the flexibility of time to be able to commit several hours each week getting to class, sitting through class, and getting home.

Maybe you're the type of person whose work life keeps you traveling and on-the-go, and even though you live in a certain city, it's not where you spend most of your time. 

Maybe although you live close to the college now, you might want to move across the country in six months, and don't want to be tied to a certain place to be able to finish your degree. 

Maybe your family just welcomed a new child, and it's just too much for you to find childcare that will work for your schedule.

Or maybe you have the time and energy to make it to class every week, and you prefer the routine. 

The main point is that you look critically at yourself and your current life and work situation, and make the best decision for yourself. 

3. Personal Skills

Let's say English isn't your first language. Do you want to come into a classroom setting to practice your language skills? Or would you be more comfortable participating in an online discussion board setting where you have the time you need to think through your responses? 

Let's say you deal with virtual teams at work on a daily basis, and you're used to and comfortable with interacting with others online. Would you want to also do your coursework online, or would you prefer to get some face-to-face interaction during on-campus classes?

Do you get nervous having to stand up in front of a class and give a presentation? Is this an area in which you'd like to force yourself to improve? Or would you rather complete and submit your coursework virtually after you have had the opportunity to record a few practice sessions? 

4. Your Community

Ask yourself - what kinds of connections are you looking to make through your program? Maybe you're looking to meet others who live and work nearby where you do to improve your network of professionals in your city. Maybe you just moved to an entirely new place and you're looking to make some new friends. 

Or if you are looking to make connections with classmates and professors who live all over the country, it could be an added networking benefit for you to take your courses online in order to meet new and different people from all over the world.  Since everyone is logging in remotely, there’s no limit to where your classmates could live.

In all of these, examples, we see that learning online versus learning on-campus has little to do with your learning style, and has more to do with your lifestyle, where you live, and what you are hoping to gain out of the program. Remember that the educational rigor and value will be the same regardless of your decision, so be sure to choose the program that best fits into your life. 

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Northeastern University is a top-tier research university that offers high-demand graduate programs aligned with the needs of industries around the globe. With a combination of online, hybrid, and on-campus degree programs in BostonSeattle, and Charlotte, Northeastern gives you the best of classroom and online experience while providing you the freedom and flexibility to learn on your schedule.  

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