Online vs. Traditional Education | Owlcation


Updated on December 13, 2017

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The job market has become much more competitive in the last few years. As companies cut back on labor to stay in business, education has become extremely important for employees who want to be more competitive in their current positions or want to transition into a new career. The level of competition for good jobs has made obtaining a certification or degree an absolute necessity. More people are returning to school than ever before. Many are choosing to obtain degrees online while others are returning to the campus to further their education. So which option is better? Let’s explore the pros and cons of both.

Trends in Education

Education has become one of the fastest growing “businesses” in recent years. It seems like there is a new commercial every week for a new online university, technical, or school of business. Online education has become more popular in today’s fast paced society. Online courses allow students to take courses from different states and even from different countries. I personally received my MPA from Troy University (Alabama) from the comfort of my home in Virginia. Some schools offer in-class courses, online courses, or hybrid courses. Hybrid courses are both in-class and online. These courses often have online classes one week and in-class sessions the next week. Some schools offer hybrid programs which include a mix of in-class courses, online courses, and hybrid classes. More Traditional schools or so called “brick and mortar” institutions are offering more online courses in response to the surge of online universities. I was a little resistant to online courses. However, my job and family responsibilities made it a necessity to take online courses and it turned out to be the best option for me.

The Case for Traditional Education

The traditional college experience consists of attending classes in person on a campus. Younger students who are attending college for the first time could benefit from the traditional learning environment. Younger students may need more guidance and more direct contact with professors and academic advisors. Traditional classes may also be a better fit for students with limited resources and limited computer access. If you’re living on campus, it only makes sense to take classes on campus.

For the more “mature” student, the traditional educational setting in the classroom may be a more comfortable fit. This option may also be better if the student is returning to school for the first time in many years. Although this is not always the case, older students tend to be a little less tech savvy and might prefer a more traditional setting.

Students who value the campus experience may also find the traditional campus atmosphere more desirable than just an online experience. There are more opportunities to engage in student activities such as fraternities/sororities as well as concerts and sporting events that typically occur on campus.

The classroom setting is also the most appropriate setting for technical or trade schools. Education on campus is also needed in professions that specifically require “hands on” training in laboratories, clinics, and shops. These schools consist of but are not limited to the following areas of study:

Automobile Mechanic/Technician

Computer Science/ Engineering

Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning Technician (HVAC)

Welder/ Machinist

Nursing/ Medical Professions

Chef/ Food Service

The Case for Online Education

Online education, also referred to as distance learning involves taking courses over the internet as opposed to in the classroom setting. Online education has become more popular in recent years. This popularity is largely due to the flexibility and convenience that an online educational experience provides. Online education provides an opportunity to take classes from the convenience of home. In addition, online education provides more flexibility by allowing students to work at their own pace without the confines of a strict class schedule.

Online classes tend to be more beneficial for students who work full-time and have additional family responsibilities. Online course assignments can be completed at work (don’t tell my boss), home, or anywhere you can carry your laptop. This form of learning makes it ideal for students on the go.

In addition to flexibly and convenience, online courses can also be more cost effective. Classes are taken online so there is no need to drive to class. This saves gas as well as additional wear and tear on your vehicle. Each school is different so you may be required to take certain tests in person at “proctor” sites. These sites are approved by the university and work directly with the school to ensure that students are taking tests as instructed (i.e., no books, notes, etc).

Online schools are also ideal for students in the military or have jobs that require frequent travel. Courses can be taken from anywhere in the world. When I was at Troy University, I took classes with students in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. It was really interesting to interact with students from all over the country. I have listed a few pros and cons of online education and the traditional campus experience.

Advantages of Online Education

1. More flexibility for students who work full-time

2. The ability to complete assignments at times when it is most convenient

3. The ability to obtain a degree from a school in another state without moving

4. This form of education is ideal for military students

5. Less Travel

Disadvantages of Online Education

1. Less direct contact with students and professors

2. Limited opportunities for student and campus activities

3. Subject to “technical difficulties” and software crashes

Advantages of Traditional Education

1. Direct contact with teachers, students, and advisors

2. More access to campus activities

3. More suitable for hands on training

Disadvantages of Traditional Education

1. Less flexibility in class scheduling

2. Less cost effective

3. More travel to and from class


Despite the surge in online universities, I believe there is more than enough room for both options. The key is to find the best fit for your personal needs. Education has proven to be the key to success and it really doesn’t matter which method you choose. There is nothing like the campus experience. However, there is no disputing the flexibility and convenience of distance learning.

Which form of education do you prefer?

© 2013 Martin D Gardner


Online vs. Traditional Education | Owlcation

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