Distance Learning vs. Traditional College

By: Eileen Mulloy

A first-hand look at one student's decision to study online vs. at a traditional campus degree program.

Distance Learning vs. Traditional College

Finding Resources and Time to Attend College was a Challenge

I was terrified to go to college. It wasn’t just that I was a bit older than most freshmen. Let’s be frank. That is a lot of money to put out there with no guarantee of a degree.

I started my educational pursuit at the age of 35. I am lucky enough to live in an area with several Universities to choose from. I thought long and hard about attending a traditional brick and mortar college. And in the end, distance learning won my vote, for now.

Our world is changing so fast, there are not enough hours in the day to do it all. Or at least, I struggle to work full time, have a relationship, take care of my dog, visit my family, find some religion, run errands and visit friends. Where do my personal educational goals fit in? How can I better myself when I have run out of time to attend a class?

An Accredited Online University was the Answer

My answer came in the form of a regionally accredited online university. While the choice to continue my education was for the most part a no-brainer, finding a school that fit what I wanted was a tough choice.

The first hurdle I came to was, would my B.S. in Management and Leadership be looked upon as a “cracker jack” prize or would I be respected by my peers and superiors? Would I have to put up with the snickers of the naysayer?

What I may give up by attending an online college, perhaps the expensive sweatshirt or maybe a pom-pom or two, I gain ten-fold by streamlining my education to what I want and need as a working adult.

What are Online Classes Like?

My classes have around 15-20 people in them. We are all from different parts of the country or world. We have different backgrounds, experiences and life goals. You say that sounds a little like traditional college…you’re right. The benefit of this vast experience is that we learn from each other, not just from the professor.

My classes run in 10 week quarters with a two week break between quarters. Rather than taking tests, I have to write a paper every week.

In lieu of tests we write, we critique our fellow students and post lots of comments in general. This has created a learning environment which is not only less stressful, but gives me time to work on my assignments and papers for an hour or so each night and still work full-time.

With online or distance learning, you do not have to login to the school at a certain time or day, per se. However, you do need to have your assignments completed and posted by the due dates. There is little room for slackers or folks that think that this will just be a walk in the park because it is not campus learning.

My professors have allowed me (under special circumstances), a late entry for a paper. This is not something that can happen week to week.

One of the drawbacks of online learning is that I miss out on the energy that I would get from a traditional class. I sometimes find it hard to make myself write the ten page paper when I know that I do not have to physically face the professor if it is not done.

What makes up for that with me is that I pay $1800 per class, each class being 6 credits. The last thing I want to do is waste my money by not completing the assignments necessary to get credit for a class!

What Ultimately Makes the Difference?

As a working adult, it is my money, my time, my effort and ultimately my degree. While in my own hands, my future looks bright. It is not the traditional college, but I don’t fret, it is college nonetheless.

After completing one year of studies online, I would like to try a brick and mortar school to really compare. The price of my online school is considerably more, while the time commitment for traditional college would in fact double or triple what I put in now.

By Eileen Mulloy, a writer at Helium.com