Online Versus Traditional Education

I have recently discussed the pros and cons of traditional versus online education, particularly as it relates to college and other certification programs. There are a lot of people who have ideas and have performed research about varying effects going through either. Some underlying thoughts I have regarding these two topics have spurred more and more internal questions and debate about online versus traditional education. I started making a pro/con list and it somehow turned into a question and thought session. Here is what I have so far:

Online Education Pro:

  • Affordability: online learning can be a lot more affordable than going to traditional colleges.
  • Time: depending on the discipline of the student, they could finish a degree a lot faster than if they attended online
  • Flexibility: Students can hop online anytime they want to complete their work

Online Education Con:

  • In-person learning and instruction: Classroom learning provides in person teaching instruction, online classes (though interactive) may not have the interpersonal dynamic a student needs in order to learn. Back in my research assistant and Master’s days, I conducted research on the 7 different ways that people learn. I would hope that graduating students would know what kind of learner they are before committing to one sole way of learning. I am a kinesthetic and visual learner and find that being in a classroom helps my attention. It provides a physical space that is dynamic, and allows me to seek opinions and advice real time, which I realized in my early years is important in order for me to have an effective learning experience. There is something about being in person that helps me learn better. Again, everyone learns differently. So traditional education might not be valid for someone who learns better without these in-classroom distractions.
  • Credibility of the online programs: there are certain employment positions that require certain certifications and certain types of education background. Is online learning becoming the norm? If someone attended online learning from a known university, what are the chances of them getting a job versus someone who received a similar degree from somewhere a little more unknown?

Here are some articles I found that might be useful:

Online: a convenient alternative, talks more about the Pros of online learning, and has outlined far more good stuff than I have.

Traditional Education versus Online Learning – Should you switch?, provides some pros and argues that the perception of graduating from an online university may have an impact on the way the marketplace looks at the student. My father and I disagree about this quite often. I tend to argue that if there are two candidates with similar experience, and one graduated from Harvard and one graduated from a state university, that the appeal and perception of the Harvard grad is looked at differently. My father tends to believe that any student with a valid credential can be given the same opportunities as someone from a high-priced university. While this is also true (I see his point), I tend to lean toward the argument that perception plays a big role making hiring decisions.

Difference between online education versus traditional education, focuses on the trend and movement of students to online learning and universities. It also discusses pros and cons and argues that there are really no distinct differences between online versus traditional learning.

An Investigation of Traditional Learning versus Fully On-line Education in Information Technology. For all you data geeks out there, I found this article…which I personally have not read thoroughly, that provides some variance analysis on mean GPA of students who learn traditionally versus students enrolled in an online university. Intriguing! And I am sure there are other papers out there with similar data. Feel free to share.

The Trouble With Online Classes, written as an editorial in the The New York Times provides a stimulating argument against online learning, charismatically arguing about attrition rates, and gives some insight into a five-year study that tracked 51,000 students enrolled in Washington State University and other technical colleges. This is a suggested read. I love the NYTimes.

On a smaller scale, Success Rates of Online Versus Traditional College Students, gives a glance into a smaller population and begs the question “Are students setting themselves up for failure by taking online classes?”

While I am still a little underdeveloped in my personal research, I am glad for the traditional education system that provided a valuable experience for me. While I consider my experience unique to myself, I am tickeld that the online versus traditional controversy is strong. As I stated earlier in this post, there are many different types of learners out there. The more options we have available for our different learners, the better. Trying to decipher which one is the ‘best’ option should be primarily individual.

You are the only one who can show your success whether you choose an online degree, or go down the traditional education path.