May 15, 2018  |  Purdue Global  |  Updated March 10, 2023

Both online learning and on-campus learning have pros and cons. The real question you might ask is: Which is better for me?

There are many factors to consider when determining which style of learning will fit you. Online learning has grown significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic, leading more students to embrace it.

Find out more about online vs. classroom education, what factors to consider, and how to choose.

What to Consider When Weighing Online vs. Classroom Learning

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether to attend an on-campus or an online program. Among the things to examine are:

Your Work Status

If you are balancing a full-time job and going to school, you may need a degree program that suits your busy schedule. On the other hand, a flexible schedule may be less important for full-time students. Which statement is most true for you?

I work full time and need a flexible program that fits with my schedule.

Online education may be right for you.

I work part time and have a more flexible schedule.

Either online or on-campus will work well for you. For students who have deep ties to where they live—due to work, family, or other reasons—distance learning provides access to programs virtually all over the world.

Where You Live

Which statement is most true for you?

Moving isn’t an option.

Online may be a better option, especially if your local university doesn’t offer a program that interests you.

I can live anywhere.

Either online or on-campus will work well for you.

Your Family Situation

Add family into the mix of balancing work, life, and school, and you need a program that allows you to study on your schedule:

I have a family, so I need to take classes when my house is quiet.

Online education may be better for you.

Family obligations aren’t a big issue for me.

Either online or on-campus will work well for you.

Your Learning Style

Online learning provides many channels through which students and instructors interact with each other, including email, online chat, and video conferences. On-campus education provides communication through the same channels with the addition of in-person, in-classroom opportunities. Which statement is most true for you?

I am comfortable communicating through email, chat, and video conferencing.

Either online or on-campus will work well for you.

I prefer in-person communication.

On-campus will probably suit you better.

There are many more factors to consider as you explore your options. Most importantly, you’ll want to find a college that offers a variety of programs so that you can find a degree that lines up with your career goals. For example, Purdue Global offers more than 175 online programs.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the drive toward virtual learning, the trend has been building. That trend doesn’t mean that one option is better than the other; rather, technology has made it possible for universities to reach a wider audience. And the wider audience is responding to increased opportunities.

>> Read “3 Benefits of Online Learning

Quality of Online Learning vs. In-Class Learning

Before the pandemic, postgraduate online students tended to be older and studying part-time; they had to balance jobs and family, and they were ready for the rigors of distance learning.

Studies of post-pandemic learning are just now being done. One study indicates that online instruction appears effective in large introductory classes since students can use chats and virtual feedback to raise questions and connect in a more intimate format than giant lecture halls.

Another study indicates that online learning confers degrees more quickly than traditional classroom learning.

>> Read “The Online College Student's Guide to Success: Tips, Tools, and Resources

Online Programs Can Provide Greater Convenience

The convenience and flexibility of online learning allows you to study any time, virtually anywhere you have an internet connection. It's an ideal solution for people with demanding work schedules and family obligations. In many situations, you can pause the content or go back to a portion to refresh your memory. This is incredibly helpful when you need to spend extra time on a challenging topic.

>> Read “Time Management Tips for Busy College Students

Only you can decide whether online education or an on-campus college is best for you.

Visit our FAQ page for answers to common questions about the online learning experience, or request more information.

About the Author

Purdue Global

Purdue Global delivers a fully personalized, world-class education online that's tailored for adults. We offer 175 programs, including associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees as well as certificates, in areas such as business, IT, education, health sciences, nursing, criminal justice, and more.

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