Online vs Brick & Mortar: Which Is Better? | Student Reviews & University Rankings EDUopinions

Online vs Brick & Mortar: Which Is Better?


Almost everybody who decided to go to college after finishing high school has wondered whether it would be better to attend university classes in person or choose to study remotely, by choosing an online course. Even though the best choice depends almost exclusively in one’s own personal circumstances, it is true that both options have their pros and cons, which will be developed a little further in this article in order for you to choose which would be the better alternative for you!

First things first: Before deciding for one option or the other, ask yourself some questions, in order to catch a better glimpse of what could be your best choice.

  • Do you already have a university degree, and are wishing to extend your opportunities a little with a second one?
  • Do you live too far away from any universities and can’t really afford to rent a flat or pay for a student residence for your studies?
  • Do you receive any special government loans which could help you pay for your degree?
  • Do you have a job with a fixed schedule which could interfere with your studies?
  • Do you have a family to support?

Depending on your answers to these questions, you may be able to determine for yourself whether it would be better for you to study in person at a university or do it online. For instance, if you’re an older student who already has a family and a stable job, you may prefer the commodity and flexibility of studying online, so that your courses and lectures don’t interfere with your other obligations. However, if you already have a university degree and want to study something similar and still savour a little the university ambience, you can always ask if you could get some of the subjects of your old degree validated and have a lighter workload. Just make sure to ask the right people and fill in all official forms! Students should always take into account the option that would make them feel more comfortable. Now we will explore which are the advantages and disadvantages of both alternatives so that you can make up your mind more easily!

Pros of studying in person at a university

Going to college is always a memorable experience, even if you’ll still be living in your hometown or with your family. Possibly one of the main advantages of physically going to university is that it will provide you with the chance of broadening your social circles by meeting new people and making new friends. If you’re studying a degree you like, chances are you will become acquainted with people who have similar interests to yours and with whom you’ll most likely end up getting along great with. But there are other important factors as well!

Also, the learning system is usually much closer, since it’s based on direct interaction with professors who teach different classes. This, in turn, offers students the chance of rapprochement with how a future working environment might be and allows them to improve on their social skills and grasp certain abilities such as working in teams, studying daily and meeting deadlines. Thus, one may say that studying in person in a specific place provides students with the opportunity of not only growing up intellectually but also personally.

Cons of physically studying at university

Possibly some of the main disadvantages of going in person to college are the price of your lodgings (if you’re living in a college dormitory or sharing a rented flat with other people) or the time you take to get there plus the cost of gasoline or bus/train/tramway tickets (if you live far away and must rely on your car or public transport to get to university). Another drawback would be having specific timetables which can limit working flexibility if you already have a job or are looking for one (if your schedule includes college classes from 10:30 AM to 17:00 PM on Mondays and Tuesdays and more lectures from 15:00 PM to 19:00 PM on Wednesdays and Thursdays, chances are you’ll struggle to fit a part-time job in). Furthermore, university lectures can sometimes be very crowded; and the bigger the number of students, the more difficulty a professor might have to teach his or her subject. While this factor also depends a lot on the professors themselves, it is much more difficult in general to control a group of 100 people than a group of just 20 students.

Advantages of following an online degree

The greatest advantage of studying online is probably the academic flexibility you’ll enjoy, which will allow you to combine more easily your study life with your work or family responsibilities. On the other hand, this will also help you become more independent and autonomous concerning your learning; and you’ll also get to choose your own studying schedule, taking into account your own preferences and taking a better advantage of the hours in which you are more efficient and productive

Furthermore, you’ll also most likely still have a “tutor” assigned, with whom you can speak in case you have any concerns or doubts (even if it’s by phone or email). And you’ll certainly save some money by the end of every month since you won’t have had to pay for several public transport tickets or for the car’s gasoline in order to get to college!

Disadvantages of studying online

Even though studying a degree online can be much more comfortable in the sense that you don’t have to invest time by getting to a physical institution and relatively cheaper than studying in person, it also implies a series of drawbacks. One of the main complaints of those who choose to study online is the lack of human interaction that this learning method entails. Indeed, it may even be difficult to reach out to professors and ask them for advice concerning your studies, since doubt-solving and tutoring is often not as effective by email and phone calls as it is face to face.

Furthermore, online learning also implies a great deal of self-discipline on the student’s side: since you won’t have a professor or tutor to assess you and monitor your activities, it is easier to succumb to procrastination and failing to meet your deadlines. An online student must be really engaged and committed to the course he or she is following. If you find yourself constantly leaving things for later, you’ll most likely end up finding yourself overwhelmed at the quantity of work you’ll have to do in the end.

But possibly the biggest downside is that some institutions don’t recognize online degrees. The fact that there are many organizations down there who claim to be offering online university courses that aren’t really licensed to do so doesn’t help. These type of scams are not uncommon, and therefore there are many employers who frown upon seeing an online degree in a CV and automatically discard you for the job. If you’re taking up an online course, be sure to check whether the institution that is offering it is official and accredited to do so.

What would be better?

The truth is… it really depends! It depends on your family, your working life, your money and the place you live. Therefore it is best for you to consider all these circumstances before you make up your mind. As we have previously stated, both options have their advantages as well as their disadvantages. Sure, academically speaking, education in person tends to be more valued when applying for a job, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be like that if you have done some research and enrolled at a recognized institution. Nevertheless, if you’d really like to experiment how university lifelike, then going physically to college is undoubtedly the best option for you. On the other hand, if you’d like to pursue further education but find yourself constantly struggling to balance a job and your personal life with academic performance, your best bet would be an online degree.

What about you? Do you go to university or do you follow an online degree and study at home? Feel welcome to share your experiences with us in the comment section

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Sarah is a student of Modern Languages. She loves literature, ice-skating and cooking (especially ice-creams and sweets!). She's also a huge fan of Celtic and Baltic cultures and enjoys travelling abroad to learn more about different traditions and customs.

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