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Article: Advantages of Online Schools vs. Campus-based Schools

Figures from the National Center for Education Statistics show that there were more than 2800 distance education college degree programs in 2001. (Most of those programs were online programs.) And those programs had more than 3 million enrollments.

There is a good reason for these big numbers. Online schools offer advantages over their campus-based counterparts. If you are looking for convenience, program choice, and a more satisfying classroom experience, you may find that online schools are superior to traditional college campuses.

First, online schools offer a level of convenience that campus-based schools can't match. With online classes, there is no commuting long distances, looking for parking, then rushing across campus to a lecture hall only to find that all the good seats are taken. Instead, you can take courses in the comfort of your home or office. All you need is a computer with an Internet connection, and, in some cases, easily-obtainable software for classroom discussions and for communicating with your instructor. What's more, many courses have an asynchronous discussion format. This means that you can post questions and respond to other students' comments at your own convenience, rather than being forced to attend a discussion section at a scheduled time. So if you are busy with work, or tasks such as caring for children, your classroom discussions won't interfere with those responsibilities.

Second, online schools offer you many more degree programs than what your local campus-based college can probably offer. Because the Internet connects you to the world, you can pursue programs offered by schools in other states, or even other countries. You can get degrees ranging from associate's, to bachelor's, to the Ph.D. And the subjects you study can range from business, to nursing, to criminal justice, to Web design, to culinary management, to name just a few examples. To get the same variety of choices via campus-based programs, chances are you might have to move. And finally, if you happen to be living in another country where there are few educational opportunities, online programs can open up a world of educational possibilities.

Third, online schools can provide you with a more satisfying classroom experience than what you would get from a campus-based school. If you are shy, and find that it's hard to make comments or ask questions in a lecture hall, you may find that it's easier to communicate with students and your instructor by e-mail and message boards. In fact, since course formats often require participation in discussion groups, you may interact with others much more extensively than you would in a traditional classroom. And you may find yourself frequently e-mailing your instructor, where in a large lecture hall you might not once talk with your professor. Students with handicaps can also find that the online format can make communication much easier. Another advantage is that since materials are delivered electronically, you'll be able to scroll back to reread something you didn't understand. It's hard to rewind a professor in a lecture hall!

Your classroom experience can also be enhanced by the international availability of the Internet. Your local community college probably enrolls mostly local students. Not so online schools. In many cases, students from several other countries might be your classmates. Coming from other cultures and countries, they can offer perspectives and ideas that you might not be exposed to in your home town.

If you've hesitated to enroll in a degree program because of the limitations of your local campus-based college, why not try online schools? Their convenience, program choices, and unique classroom experiences can mean a great route to a college degree.

-David Cleary


. National Center for Education Statistics, "Distance Education at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions: 2000-2001,"