Traditional studies vs. Online studies - Which is better?

This week, I’d like to talk about one of the most important parts of everyone’s life: Education. Without education you will never get far in life and especially nowadays it’s more important than ever to be knowledgeable in at least one major, in order to find a good job in today’s competitive Job-market. So, education is one of the keys to success. Most universities also offer online courses and some universities are solely teaching online. I’ve done both: studying everyday the traditional way for my bachelors and later I had classes that are solely online. If you are one of those struggling to decide between studying in a traditional way by going to the classroom every day or studying online, this perspective might help you with your decision.


Comparison

empty classroom in school
Apple MacBook on a table

Socialisation

Let’s talk about the most obvious part: socialisation. First of all, you get to socialise with people and you get to make friends, if you decide to study the traditional way. I think that’s the biggest reason that would make you decide to study the traditional way. Friends you make at university usually become friends for life. Studying online will make it much more difficult to make friends, as you build up trust for each other mostly if you are physically together. I mean it’s not impossible for you to make friends while studying online, but it’s definitely more difficult. In most cases, online classes will have opportunities to chat or call with other students so that you can overcome the distance by just asking around for a hangout. Depending on how proactive you are, you can also manage to make friends. However, as being said, the experience is not going to be as vivid as real life interaction.


Questions

The next positive aspect is that you can ask your teacher during your class at any point if you have questions and also with your friends, or classmates if the questions come up or you need to listen to what the teacher have to explain in a deeper level of knowledge. You can also do that in your online classes, but you’ll need to keep in mind that you won’t be always likely to receive the answers immediately. It might, in some cases, take hours for your questions to be answered. It’s advisable not to start working on your assignments at the last minute. Make sure that you review the assignment with a couple days left until the deadline and make sure you understand what you have to do.


Travel Time

I really dislike if I have to travel for a long time just to get to school. Especially if it involves using public transportation. You are more likely to pick up diseases if there is a flu season flying around in the air. Moreover, you also waste a considerate amount of time depending on how far away from school you are. I also usually don’t do much on the bus. Maybe sometimes reading some news, maybe catching up with a friend, but I really feel unproductive and also think I could have used my time much more efficiently. This is the aspect that I ’d favor online classes over traditional classes. It’s certainly dependent on your own personality. Maybe you are that kind of person who enjoys listening to an audiobook or podcast whilst being on public transportation.


Freedom

My bachelor’s studies were rather special, it’s the German dual-study system (please google it - it’s difficult to explain within a few words), which meant that I basically had courses everyday. Those courses were also mandatory, so it was not possible to just skip here and there. I had to be there day by day. If you ask me now, how much from those classes I still know now, I think I’d have to admit that it’s less than 20 percent. If you sit in those classes and the Prof does not deliver the content in an interesting way, it’s easy to get distracted by your phone or whatever else you might be using or thinking of. You might get bored and zone out and suddenly you missed a lot as well on things you can‘t ask the teacher to repeat.

My Profs always expected us to go read in the library after the classes, but how are you supposed to do that after almost falling asleep during your whole day of classes?! Yes, I know, many Asians must think “What a whimp!”, but you also need to understand that the school system in Germany is just different.

Let’s get to what I love about online classes. You will have assignments. You will have to read. You will have to get active. It’s not just sitting there in a classroom listening to someone talk trying to understand what that person is saying because you cannot focus. You actually need to get active, read and try to understand. While you are the one getting active, you will remember much better what you are actually reading and learning. And the best part, you can do it whenever you have the time for it. You don’t have a schedule that tells you to be somewhere at a specific time. No, there is a deadline and until the you can do it whenever you feel like it. There will also be distractions like your phone or the last exciting Netflix show you started, but finally I always felt the use of time is much more efficient than the having to go to school.


Discipline

This is a great transition, because I’ve already mentioned common distractions when you are working on an online course. There is your phone, the latest Netflix show, the room needs to be cleaned, Eminem’s new album (yes, I am a huge Eminem-fan), etc.. Also, you always have to make sure to deliver your work in time. That’s crucial when taking online classes. And don’t forget that you’ll need that kind of discipline for a specific amount of time - Usually courses take up to 3 month. You should plan a couple of hours of work each week per course. Keep that in mind.

Going to school doesn’t seem to much of a discipline, at least for Western environment I guess. Maybe it’s strict that you have to show up in time, but if you know your friends are waiting there for you or it’s obligatory to be there, it’s usually easier to drag yourself to show up. If the course is actually efficient and teaches you much, then it gets even easier.


Costs

Well, I mean this really depends on where you are studying, what you are studying, and where you are from. For example, in Germany, schools that provide online degrees are mostly pretty expensive. Compared to universities or universities of applied sciences, which are free in most cases (at least for EU citizens), it doesn’t really make sense to actually sign up for that online school. There are always exceptions though! Just remember the online school might be tougher on your bank account than universities or other schools if you are EU citizens; and the other way around if you are not. Because I understand for non-EU citizens, it is another case and story. Online schools can appear to be more affordable, especially when you cannot afford the living costs on top of it.


Quality

I almost forgot to talk about the most important part. The quality of the class you are taking. If it comes to the traditional classes, I think it depends more on the skills of the teacher than in online classes. It’s been less likely for me to sit down after a class and go through the content again, if I haven’t understood the content of the class.

For online classes, the teacher has the possibility to provide great content, which you might not have found yourself. The content provided can also be very diversified (videos, blog articles, podcasts, etc.). However, if the teacher does not provide content that provides all the information you need to answer the question or write an essay, you’ll have to start doing your own research and try to find content that will help you understand the topic, that you have to write about.

That’s why I think the quality of online classes is less dependant on the teacher’s skills of delivering information. You will be the one ending up doing research, figuring answers out and finally understanding topics, even if the teacher’s provided materials are not good.

The future is mobile education and that is why we have witnessed loads of development for online programmes. There is still skeptic and prejudice about online degrees but I believe one day the unlimited future will open up to anything, especially with such advanced technology.


Conclusion

I guess most of you could already tell from the previous points that I rather opt for online classes nowadays. However, if I was at a university again, I would try to ensure that there is a possibility for online classes and traditional classes together. Especially if you are going for your bachelor’s degree it’s great to be able to go to school maybe once a week to hang out with class mates and take the rest as online classes. It makes it much easier for you to go travel or to work or whatever else is your passion. Maybe you even wanna become a famous athlete.

For those cases I am convinced that online classes are great. Also, you might have started working after your bachelors and wouldn’t like to quit that job for your masters. Remember that there are online universities, where you could also get that degree and keep your job. In that case it will be a lot of work and will need your dedication!

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