Online Degree vs. Traditional University: Pros and Cons

By University of Arkansas Grantham May 23, 2016

Now is the time many traditional college campuses are enrolling students for the fall semester. Maybe you’ve thought about going back to school, but aren’t sure how to make it work with your schedule. Perhaps an online degree program is the right choice to fit your life. There are pros and cons to weigh for both educational approaches. Here's a general list designed to get you started.



    • Convenience: Do you have a full-time job? Are you an active member in the military? Do you have family members, including children, at home for whom you care? Whatever the reason, not everyone can make time to sit in a lecture hall at 11 a.m. five days a week. If this sounds familiar, an online education would be ideal because of the flexible nature of classes offered. You complete your degree while balancing your work and family responsibilities.
    • Ability to Set Your Own Pace: Some online degree programs have frequent start dates - some even weekly (now monthly at Grantham). This allows you the opportunity to complete courses quickly.
    • Affordability: Not all online degrees are more affordable than traditional or community college rates, but some are. Enrolling in an online degree program ensures you don’t have to spend money on gas, parking or child care.
    • Cultural Diversity: Online students are in class with faculty members and students from around the globe.
    • Technology Benefits: Taking classes online and becoming more comfortable with technology will help you in your career. Been on a job interview lately? Employers will naturally like your professional demeanor and upbeat attitude, but a wide range of practical experience with computer software could set you apart from the competition.


    • Time management required: Sure, completing homework at your convenience and on your schedule is a nice perk of enrolling in an online course. But you still have to have the discipline to finish assignments with a deadline in place. If you work 40 hours a week, budgeting time for homework could present challenges. If discipline is a concern, we already mapped out five time management tips to help.
    • Limited face-to-face interaction: You’ll still get to meet other students in an online setting, but it will typically be via chat rooms or class discussion threads. If you don’t mind independent learning (conversely, built-in support systems through discussion boards exist in many online settings) with limited live interaction, this won’t be a problem.
    • Natural technology problems: Sometimes, you don’t have any control over a situation, such as when a computer experiences an operation failure. A huge storm may knock out your internet connection. Without the internet, you cannot complete your online course work. Make sure you have a backup plan in the event of a power issue. It always seems to happen during the most inopportune time.



    • Networking opportunities: Naturally, you meet more people face-to-face while attending a traditional university. As a result, your contacts will grow, and your networking opportunities will increase. (Of course, for employers paying for tuition reimbursement, this may mean that your employees are networking with future employers.)
    • Experience new places: This holds greater significance for out-of-state students who are not familiar with their university’s town. For some students, experiencing a different part of the country (or the world) is a valuable part of going to school that assists in areas of maturity, diversity and social opportunity.
    • On-site facilities: Students who enroll in a traditional university have the opportunity to take advantage of the institution’s many facilities, including the student union, gym, and athletic stadium.


    • Strict scheduling: Sometimes enrolling in a specific course at a traditional university can present scheduling challenges, particularly for non-traditional students. If a desired course is only offered during the day, it’s difficult for working adults to set aside their full-time job just to sign up.
    • Affordability: Cost will vary, but admission into a traditional university, especially if it’s out of state, won’t come cheap.
    • Limited personal attention: This is particularly true in bigger state universities, where undergraduate lecture halls packed to the brim with 400-500 students is commonplace. One-on-one instruction doesn’t exist as much in these types of settings.

Take some time to carefully prioritize what’s most important at this stage in your life. Of course, you should cater this list of pros and cons to your personal circumstances to decide what's best for you. Whatever you decide, UA Grantham wishes you every success in meeting your educational goals. View our "Why Choose Us" page.

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