What is the Difference Between an Online Degree and a Traditional Degree?

It’s good to start the comparison with the following thing in mind – both online and traditional college degrees serve the same purpose, which is to provide students with an education and award certification. This, however, is all they have in common as they vary significantly in structure, assessment and progress tracking. One of the key distinctions between online and traditional college degrees lies in the Internet-based curriculum. Based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the definition of an online class is: “a formal education process in which the students and instructor are not in the same place.” In this sense all exams, lectures and much of the reading in online classes are done over the Web. Here lies the biggest difference in comparison to traditional classroom learning. Many students are able to overcome the challenge of online instruction and adapt well to the system.

Similar to traditional courses, online classes are taught by instructors and include multiple classmates. However, the correspondence between the participants is done via email, telephone or live chat. Some programs require on-campus visits or clinical work—for example nursing or occupational therapy—while in others the student will never meet his or her instructors and classmates face to face. Traditional college classes require your physical presence as you listen and take notes during professors’ lectures. While most traditional college classes make attendance mandatory and the grade suffers from frequent absence, online courses tend to be more flexible by introducing a lower ‘pass mark’ that is sufficient to advance to term exams.

The biggest difference is in the way students exchange information with their tutors over the Internet as opposed to in person. In order to guarantee a certain level of clarity of that material, instructors in a virtual environment are required to provide a more detailed feedback. This in turn leads to a higher frequency of mid-term tests and assessments. According to the Sloan Consortium, there are several additional types of feedback important to online classes, such as interaction in discussions, highlighting key ideas and creating follow-up questions. Feedback can also come in the form of audio clips and voice-supported chats. A good online instructor works hard to provide valuable assistance and interaction with his or her students, staying on top of everything they’ve achieved so far as well as struggling with.

As mentioned before, online classes have a decided advantage over traditional ones and it is that they offer more flexibility, making them convenient for many students – particularly those who need to juggle part-time work to put themselves through college. Online classes allow a student to build and shape their curriculum in a way that best fits their daily routine and availability. This has proven to be of invaluable help to a lot of young people to further their education while still fulfilling their family and work responsibilities.

In addition learning is also done at the pace of the individual student, which brings a certain sense of exclusivity to the whole experience. Not many traditional college students can say that about their schedules and curriculums.

Factors to Consider With an Online Education

Accreditation: With online education becoming increasingly popular and widespread, it is the student’s responsibility to ensure a certain college or university meets the necessary requirement through their curriculum, faculty, facilities, and competency. Accreditation is what makes a degree valid; thus any learning institution that is not properly accredited will not be credible or recognized as a reputable school. While researching online programs, this is the most important factor to look into to ensure the college degree will be accepted by prospective employers as well as recognized internationally.

Cost: Getting the most value for your money is important, and finding a program that best suits your budget is essential. The upside to online programs is that they are more affordable – both in tuition fees and on-going term expenses (commute, etc.). In addition many online institutions offer convenient payment plans to assist with breaking up the cost.

Financial Aid: Even at a lower cost, some students find it difficult to afford college; it is advisable to look into various forms of financial aid that can alleviate some of the burden. Some schools offer grants, scholarships, work-study options and loans while others work with non-government and government organizations that administer financial ait to students. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is among the most popular options for seeking financial assistance.

Courses: Online courses are characterized by high turnaround and largely depend on what’s in demand in the current year. Students are strongly advised to double check that the course they are interested in is still being offered at the selected college and if its format or curriculum has undergone any changes as of late. Some educational institutions that offer online programs provide the option of taking part of the coursework online and part – on campus.

Graduation Rate: One of the most important factors that should be taken into account when making an informed decision. The percentage of students who graduate from a particular school is an indicator for a number of things. This number gives the total number of degree-seeking students compared to the number of those who graduate. Low graduation and retention rates could be an indication that the school does not offer adequate support from teachers and staff. All prospective schools need to be subjected to a thorough background check to determine if they have the proper tools, support system, and faculty in place to assist their student base.