How to Decide Between an Online and Onsite Degree

One of the biggest questions facing prospective students today is whether to earn a degree in a traditional, on-campus setting or through an online program.

By: Emily Dexter & Jake Hreha

One of the biggest questions facing prospective students today is whether to earn a degree in a traditional, on-campus setting or through an online program. A growing number of colleges and universities are offering online degree programs, giving you more options than ever. How do you decide between online schooling vs in-person?

Both the virtual and in-person learning experience can have advantages and disadvantages, and what works well for one person might not work as well for the next. With the right information and planning, you can decide which option fits you and your needs the best. Online classes and in-person learning both provide a great learning environment for students.

Why Should You Choose an Online Degree?

Choosing an online program comes with many benefits. Below are some of the main reasons you might decide to study online:

  • Work at your own pace. Online learning is often more flexible than in-person education, without commitments to rigid class schedules and meeting times. Online courses can be done at the pace you choose.
  • Take classes from anywhere. The flexibility of an online degree means you won’t have to commute to in-person classes, saving you both time and money. You get to choose where your online class takes place.
  • Focus on one class at a time. Instead of juggling assignments for multiple classes at once, you can complete one online course at a time, helping you stay in charge of your education. Many students benefit from the more focused learning this provides.
  • Balance school, work, and life. Many people choose remote learning so they can earn a degree without having to sacrifice their existing commitments, whether to work, family, or other important areas of life. In fact, in a recent survey of college students, two-thirds of current online students reported working part- or full-time while earning their degrees. The vast majority also reported having children under the age of 18 at home. These numbers show that you don’t have to choose between continuing your education and staying true to what matters most to you. Online classes allow you to have successful learning outcomes that fit your own schedule.
  • Explore new opportunities. With the possibilities of online education, you can study at a college or university far from home, maybe even one in another country, without having to travel or relocate. You may also have the opportunity to network with students and professionals from around the globe. An online learning environment might be the perfect opportunity for you to make connections with people in your field compared to networking in a traditional classroom setting.
  • Enjoy lower tuition costs. Online learners often have lower tuition costs, especially for those attending private colleges and universities. While public schools more often list comparable tuition costs for online and onsite students, the average cost of tuition per credit hour for online students at private institutions was $752 lower than the average cost for onsite students during the 2019-2020 academic year. That’s a difference that can bring you closer to turning your vision for the future into reality. Additionally, traditional in person learning typically means paying for housing whether that's on campus or renting off campus.

Today, most employers see online degrees as just as valuable as degrees earned onsite, as long as they come from regionally or nationally accredited institutions. With greater flexibility and easier access to education, online learning could be the right path to help you achieve your goals.

Why Should You Choose an Onsite Degree?

There are plenty of reasons why someone might decide to attend an onsite program instead of studying online. Here are some of the main benefits of learning in-person:

  • Experience community. If you value face-to-face interaction, onsite learning may be the better option for you. While online programs can still involve a sense of community, you may not feel as surrounded by a supportive and encouraging group of students and instructors as you would in-person.
  • Enjoy a traditional campus experience. Learning in-person means you may have greater access to onsite resources than online students. Hands on learning is a great way for students to truly immerse themselves in the material they are learning. In-person classes also provide a structured learning environment which may work better for students who don't thrive in an independent environment. When you attend in-person classes you also have the ability to directly ask your professor questions. You do not have to wait for them to reply or check their messages.
  • Avoid technological challenges. Online programs often come with learning curves, including technological ones. Earning your degree onsite may allow you to avoid some of these challenges.

In the end, the choice between an online and onsite degree is up to you and what best suits your needs. Some students like having a structured course schedule and the ability to attend class with other students while others thrive creating their own schedule and learning independently. If you’re set on an online education, Indiana Wesleyan University has more than 160 online programs to explore, with plenty of opportunities for career advancement. Or if you think onsite learning is the best fit for you, enroll in one of our regional or hybrid programs at our educational centers across Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio.

Whatever you choose, you’ll get the same level of investment and attention from your professors, and you’ll be one step closer to achieving your goals. To learn more about our program options, click here.

Emily Dexter

Copywriting and Marketing Assistant, IWU-National and Global

Emily Dexter is currently a senior at Indiana Wesleyan University, where she majors in English and writing. She is passionate about all things literary, and in her free time enjoys reading good books, attempting new art projects, and exploring the natural world.

Jake Hreha

SEO Copywriter, IWU

Jake Hreha is a graduate of Ball State University, where he majored in advertising with a concentration in media presentation and design. He is passionate about design, and in his free time he enjoys cycling, traveling, and reading.

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