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Potential students shopping undergraduate degree programs are presented with more options than ever before. The wide array of traditional and online choices currently available to students poses the challenge of deciding whether the online or the traditional degree is “better.” Here are some points to consider when comparing the advantages of the online versus the traditional campus-based undergraduate programs.

Advantages of Traditional Programs

Online learning is not for everyone. Face to face regular classroom meetings add an element of structured discipline that differs from the online environment. Many students in their 20’s with social distractions may choose the traditional programs because of the regular class meetings and for the opportunity to work in groups that also mingle socially.

Some students who prefer the traditional classroom setting:

  • Need a traditional format with face to face student and professor interactions in order to personally invest in a course and do well.
  • Like the on campus group work format that is popular in many campus-based programs and enjoy being a part of a group that meets and socializes regularly.
  • Enjoy the competitive factor of a traditional classroom experience.
  • Rely on career placement services which can be more abundant in traditional settings and may offer events with recruiters or sponsor business topic related brown bag lunch talks and meet and greets.
  • Desire the traditional setting for the experience of being a part of the college community in a formal way.

Advantages of Online Undergraduate Programs

Traditional classroom learning is not for everyone. Returning students who are also juggling careers, families and other responsibilities appreciate the flexibility of the online learning environment. While peer interaction is available on class discussion boards, students do not need to leave their home or juggle schedules to interact with classmates the same way a traditional student would.

Some students who prefer the online classroom setting:

  • Need the flexibility to attend to their course assignments with a much more flexible schedule.
  • Like the geographic flexibility so they can attend a highly ranked school even though they may be several states away.
  • Enjoy the customized schedule and wide array of specialized courses.
  • Achieve better results because they are in control of their workload and can complete the work in larger or smaller chunks; there is email access to instructors for personal clarification which builds better retention of knowledge as they move along in the course.
  • Desire a program that is personally tailored to specific needs and specialties that the traditional courses don’t offer as readily.

Currently students comparing traditional campus-based versus online programs have choices that seem to increase every day. While it is important to evaluate each program individually, it is also important to know who you are as a student and pick the program that will allow you to excel. Admission requirements to online undergraduate programs will vary from school to school, just as traditional programs requirements will differ. Many distance learning programs do not require face-to-face interviews, however. Students report that the most desirable quality of a traditional program is direct availability for student interactions while the most desirable quality of an online program is the flexibility and ability to dictate work pace.

Ironically, the disadvantages of traditional programs are inherently the advantages of online programs and vice versa. As the popularity, reputation, and affordability of online programs increase so will its advantages. Online programs will compete for students; programs will begin developing and using newer and more interactive technology including webinars, video conferencing, online discussion, and project sharing software that provides a more holistic educational experience for online learners. Fully accredited and highly ranked undergraduate programs are respected across the business sector and can be just as rigorous as traditional degree programs. For students choosing undergraduate programs, the choices have never been better - and with online learning the choices are more flexible and accessible.

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