Advantages to an On-Campus Program
Despite the growing number of schools offering complete online degree programs for undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral studies, and despite the number of students pursuing a degree online, many students still wonder about the advantages of a campus-based degree program.
And let’s face it – earning a degree can be not only expensive but time-consuming as well.
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Students who are earning the degree want to be assured that their commitment and investments are worth it. They want to know they’re getting the best possible education. As beneficial and convenient as online schools are, there are still some benefits to attending school on campus that you simply do not get to the same extent (if at all) when studying online.
Here are some of the advantages of a campus-based degree program.
You Can Get Actual Facetime With Instructors on Campus
One of the main reasons why many students prefer campus-based degree programs is the interaction they get with teachers and instructors.
Although most online schools advertise that students have 24/7 access to instructors, it’s not always that easy, especially with differences in location and time zone.
For example, while you might be in the Pacific time zone in the United States, your instructor might be on Greenwich Mean Time, eight hours ahead. With such a significant difference in time, it might be difficult for you to connect with your professor in real-time online.
Some students may prefer to communicate with instructors through emails or message boards, but others prefer face-to-face interaction. This is especially the case if a student is having difficulties in a certain subject.
This isn’t to say that professors and students can work together well online and that professors can’t provide the assistance a student needs to make progress in class via video chat or similar technology.
But at the same time, traditional face-to-face interaction can prove to be more beneficial when you’re struggling to grasp a particular concept.
Campus-based degree programs also offer you the ability to schedule meetings to discuss projects, class performance, or grades. Having the ability to sit down with your professor and talk about how things are going in class can be an invaluable tool for getting the most out of your education.
Availability of Facilities is Better on Campus
Campus-based degree programs offer students a variety of facilities and resources that online students may not be able to access.
Laboratories, libraries, athletic facilities, or places to work on projects and research papers. Are just a few examples of these facilities.
Additionally, tutoring programs and homework help are often available on campus to students that need it. This type of help may or may not be offered to online learners.
In fact, online students typically have to find their own facilities for extending their learning or go to their local library, which can be inconvenient.
For example, in an on-campus program, going to the library is a simple matter of walking there from class. But online, it might involve leaving home, driving across town to the public library, finding parking, and so forth. This can make it difficult to reach your full potential academically because of the extra time and effort you have to spend to access resources. That’s time and effort that you can’t spend on your actual assignments.
There is something to be said for being able to work on projects and do research in an academic setting as well.
Think about it like this – if you have a research paper for your psychology class, being able to go to the university library, review research materials, meet with classmates, and discuss what you’re learning together will perhaps be much more valuable to you than sitting at your dining room table conducting online research on your own.
This isn’t to say that online research, or, more broadly, online learning, aren’t valuable means of getting an education. It’s just that some students will find that being able to access physical learning tools and resources is more helpful to them in their pursuit of higher education.
You Get More Social Interaction on Campus
When graduates of campus-based degree programs reminisce about their college years, social interaction is usually at or near the top of their list of what they enjoyed most while in college.
Campus students can interact not just with instructors but also with fellow students and peers. This might include living in the dorms freshman year, moving into an apartment with friends sophomore and junior year, or rushing a sorority or fraternity and living in the sorority house or frat house.
Furthermore, on-campus students can participate in clubs and organizations, attend homecoming, sporting events, and other student activities, and generally be part of the campus community.
Of course, there are many interactions with one’s fellow students and peers that are focused on education as well, like interactions in class or in study groups.
Being on campus also gives you networking opportunities that are not only helpful while you’re in college but also beyond college. Many graduates often find that the people they went to school with end up being valuable professional contacts down the road. The same goes for professors who might provide you with a letter of recommendation or might connect you with someone they know that allows you to get your first job out of college.
Just about every college and university has career fairs for this specific purpose. Schools aren’t just judged on factors like graduation rates, but they are also judged on the percentage of graduates that get jobs. Job fairs and other networking events on campus are designed to boost those rates, and, unfortunately, online learners seldom have the opportunity to take advantage of these kinds of on-campus events.
More Degrees are Offered on Campus
When online education originated, students had access to a precious few online courses in a variety of different subjects. These became so successful and popular that many schools began offering complete degree programs.
At first, you might have been able to get a bachelor’s degree online. But today, you can also get master’s degrees and doctorates, depending on the field of study. You can literally go to college from undergraduate to post-doctoral work and never set foot on campus if you like.
Despite the growing number of online programs available today, in some instances, there are still a limited number of degree programs offered through online education. Again, this depends on your major area of study – getting a medical degree, for example, cannot be done online – and it depends on the specific school you choose to attend. Some colleges and universities have very robust online degree programs while others might offer just a few.
Additionally, some degree programs cannot be offered 100% online. Psychology programs, for instance, often have internship components as part of the degree requirement. So, for example, if you’re getting a master’s degree in counseling online, you will likely have to complete an internship in order to get actual real-world practice working with clients.
In some cases, internship or practicum experiences are arranged with local organizations, that way you can complete those requirements in or near where you live. But this is not always a possibility, so on-campus visits or getting internship experience with organizations outside your general area might be required.
The point is that if you attend school on campus, these types of experiences are built into the curriculum. You aren’t restricted by being a remote learner – whatever on-campus major you choose, you will be able to fulfill the graduation requirements with little (if any) travel required.
On-Campus Learning is More Structured
When online students are asked what most attracted them to an online college, many state that it’s the flexibility to do the schoolwork where and when they want. Others state it was not having to travel to school every day. Still, others liked the idea that they could continue to work at their job without worrying about class time getting in the way.
Despite the fact that many online students enjoy the option to “work at your own pace,” many others feel that they need the structure of having someone guide their learning each and every day. Not everyone has the willpower and self-motivation needed to sit down and work on class assignments without the keen eye of a professor or the encouragement of study partners.
This is one reason why even online programs set guidelines on when a degree program should be completed. Although online degree programs often allow students to complete coursework at their own pace, as U.S. News & World Report reports, online students do still have a deadline in which the work must be completed. It’s just that it’s more lenient than in a campus-based degree program.
So, where assignments for an on-campus class might be collected and graded on a daily or weekly basis, in an online setting, assignments might only be due every few weeks.
Aside from this, some students need the set class meeting time offered with on-campus courses in order to “get in the groove” of learning. Online students typically don’t have class meeting times, so instead of getting geared up to head to class, you might find yourself thinking “oh, I’ll do that work later.”
Needless to say, if you’re a student that requires structured learning, on-campus degree programs might be a better choice for you.
On-Campus Learning is a Multi-Modal Experience
When you attend a class on campus, you’re able to learn in a way that draws on many different modalities.
For example, you hear the professor speaking as they give their lecture. You get to see the interaction of a professor and a student as they discuss a question. You get to write down notes and smell the chemicals involved in doing an experiment, too. Granted, not all on-campus courses involve doing experiments in class, but the argument still holds true: when you’re in a classroom with other students, you simply get more sensory information about that which you are learning than you do staring at a computer screen at home.
Of course, not everyone learns in the same way, so for some people, reading information off a screen is a perfectly fine way to learn. But for others, the more immersive learning experience of an on-campus degree program offers a richer environment for learning and retaining new information.
At the same time, a college lecture hall is often much more focused on the task at hand than the environment you have at home. So, while 200 freshmen can sit quietly and listen to a professor’s lecture, your family might have trouble keeping the noise down when you’re trying to do your schoolwork at home on a Friday night.
If you have trouble focusing, there are certainly things you can do to enhance your ability to learn online. However, nothing quite beats the quiet and focused on-campus classroom environment.
On-Campus Learning Offers a Challenge
Earning a degree online or on-campus is certainly a challenge. But in some ways, the challenge is greater when you learn with other students in person.
The intellectual stimulation that occurs when you learn with others might challenge you to step up your game. You might work harder, study longer, and explore more in order to elevate your engagement to match that of your peers. This isn’t to say that this can’t be done online too, but it might be more difficult without the face-to-face interaction of on-campus learning.
There is also something to be said for diving into the college experience with both feet. The experience of being on campus, living in the dorms, meeting all sorts of new people, and managing the social and educational requirements of being on campus can really prepare you for entering adulthood. This “trial by fire” experience is not something you get when learning online.
Ultimately, the key is to do a lot of research before enrolling in college. Deciding whether to study online or in-person is just a fraction of the decisions you’ll need to make about your educational future. As with so many things, the more time and effort you put into planning and goal-setting, the better off you will be.
B.A. Social Studies Education | University of Wyoming
M.S. Counseling | University of Wyoming
B.S. Information Technology | University of Massachusetts
Updated June 2021