ONLINE VS ON CAMPUS - WHAT MODE OF STUDY SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?
Better technology in our homes and ease of communication over long distances mean it’s easy to take a flexible approach to learning. We can organise our working, social and study commitments in a way that suits us and still manage to fit everything in successfully. However, this freedom also leads to difficult decisions when it comes to taking a course in further education. Not all universities have an off-campus option for every topic, but if the faculty you’re interested in does, it’s certainly worth considering. Here are some factors to think about before applying.
Advantages of online study
1. You get to plan your day
If you go for a distance learning course, you’ll be doing exactly the same modules as you would on campus, but without the need to visit the university and have your time structured by someone else. Studying for 15 hours one week and five the next is fine, so long as you keep up with the study program.
2. Everything you need arrives in the post
Most off-campus learners don’t visit their university's library during the course, unless they live close by. That means all the course materials you need will arrive in the post before the start of each semester. This can include DVDs, computer software, books and experimentation kits, but you also have access to a wealth of online resources that your university can recommend. It’s far easier and more convenient than trying to borrow what you need from a busy campus library.
3. There’s minimal disruption to your life
Rather than you struggling to make a lecture on time or finding it hard to keep up with fellow students, an off-campus course fits in around your life. Flexibility is key, so you can choose the times you’ll study, set your own deadlines, and tackle the course material in a way that suits you.
4. Everything happens at your own pace
If you’re the kind of person who prefers to work alone, with minimal external input, then off-campus studying is perfect for you. We all have different learning styles, some students prefer to engage with online lectures, texts, and DVDs, without any distractions.
Considerations when choosing online study:
1. You need to be a self-starter:
To make a success of off-campus study, you’ll have to be motivated and have a strong sense of self-discipline. When you’ve had a busy day you might not feel like sitting down to work, but a regular study schedule is vital.
2. You may feel isolated:
Off-campus study makes it harder to meet people who are in the same situation as you and that can be a challenge for some. There are online study forums and you can communicate with your tutor via email, but it may not make up for the richness and vitality of campus life.
Advantages of choosing to study on-campus
1. The organisation is done for you:
If you study on a university campus, you’ll be given a timetable with lectures, tutorials and practical lessons planned out way in advance – all you need to do is be there on time. Your hours will usually total between 8-12 per week, leaving you free to spend the rest of your time studying, revising or socialising. When you know what’s expected of you in terms of study hours, you could even pick up a part-time job that fits around your course during the semester.
2. It’s a sociable situation
Campus life is highly social and the atmosphere lends itself well to students forming friendships and connections that endure. You’ll also have personal access to doctors, professors and lecturers who are experts on their subject; during tutorials your understanding of each topic will be hugely enhanced by one on one conversations with them.
3. Members of your cohort group are also study partners
Once you’ve made friends with other people on your course, you’ll benefit from studying together. Bouncing ideas off other students who may feel differently about an issue is an excellent way of exploring your beliefs and expanding your knowledge.
Considerations when choosing on-campus study:
1. The costs can be significantly higher
The cost of long-distance study, per semester, is far cheaper than attending a physical university. For that reason alone, you’ll have more debt if you study on campus than if you study at home. However, when you factor in transport costs, the cost of moving to a university town, and not being able to work full time, the financial impact is even more significant.
2. It’s more demanding of your time
Travelling to a university three days a week can leave you with a somewhat disrupted home life, especially if you have young children or other relatives who depend on you. Moreover, as your lecture times change each semester, you cannot have a strategy for juggling your domestic life that will last throughout the year.
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