Online Education? Or Brick and Mortar College?

When exploring college options, an increasing number of students are opting for online educational options.  As college tuition continues to rise and colleges continue to add more and more majors for students to choose from, deciding which college to attend is becoming harder and harder.  But is college education presented online a good option and does it provide the same quality educational environment as its brick and mortar counterpart?  It turns out, the presentation of course material and messaging options may make all the difference.

In one study, students were found to be far more likely to participate regularly with the professor as well as other students in an online environment when the interface made doing so more efficient (Shin and Chan, 2004).  This includes showing on the main page of the students’ login page whether new messages exist.  Student with this type of interface were found to generate far more messages to their teacher and peers than did students who participated in colleges with a less message-friendly interface (2004).  Also important to the educational environment is the presentation of the course material.  As is to be expected, students performed better when audio messages were present from their professor and increased their level of participation (2004).  This is important because students were more likely to be successful in an online college environment the more they participated in the online learning environment (2004).  In addition, students who participate more in their college environment, be it online or in person, are more likely to associate closely with the college attended and to feel pride in the college itself (2004).  When students participate whole-heartedly in a college environment that is designed to increase communication and student participation, a distance learning environment should produce the same quality education as a brick and mortar college.  The choice between attending college on campus or online will likely always come down to lifestyle, not necessarily the educational options or majors available.  For many students, obtaining a degree online may be the only feasible possibility.

Overall, it is likely the case that student preparedness and dedication is the largest deciding factor as far as educational success is concerned.  A student who is not prepared to put in the appropriate amount of time and effort required to succeed will likely not be any more successful in a traditional college environment as they would be in an online learning environment.  However, it is also important that colleges recognize what course format works best for students and design the distance learning environment to provide the best possible chance of success for all students.

Shin, N. and Chan, J. (2004).  Direct and indirect effects of online learning on distance education. British Journal of Educational Technology, 35, 275-288


  1. Sadaka Maisah Archie

    When I began college, I started at Penn State – Berks. Then, I did not know online education was even an option. After completing two years at the campus and working a full-time job, commuting became difficult; I was late to class, behind on my work, and ultimately, withdrew from my courses. I spent a year exploring. I was uncertain if I wanted to try another campus, somewhere in Philadelphia. Then, I heard my sister was an online teacher and that’s when it clicked: online education will be the best for. Now, I’m strictly an online student. My schedule is less hectic; I can go at my own pace, yet keep up on my work. I must admit, I underestimated the hard-work and dedication it took to take online classes; it literally took a full year to get the “hang” of it. Finally, I consider taking online courses one of the best decisions I have made.

    Some may view online education as the “easy” way of earning am education, but it’s the complete opposite. Online education provides equivalent work-load to being in the classroom, maybe more, professors are easy to access as if you are in the classroom, and overall, takes much personal discipline. Now, online education has evolved tremendously. It appears every major university offers an online education and it’s become popular among the older generations wanting a degree, as well. Thus far, I have not observed any negative aspect of taking online courses and would encourage wanting to take online courses to do so.

  2. Keli Elaine Barnes

    When I started college I went to a small liberal arts college then switched over to a local community college that was a branch from penn state and now I am strictly a world campus student. I never thought that online classes would be the correct route of learning for me, however I feel that it was the best choice I made. When going to the liberal arts college we were considered small but I felt that it was a lot bigger than what I wanted to attend because of how small my high school was. I tended to shy away in class because of the amount of students that I was with. I was really happy when I moved to the community college because it was full with a lot of kids that I knew from my high school and others around us. Also even though most of my classes I only knew a few people in, I excelled when it came to in class learning. I never felt shy when talking and I did not mind working with other students. I do believe this was because of the size of the classes being so small. Now that I do online classes I have no problems communicating with teachers or other students. Online classes make it easy to have interaction without having the face to face fear of judgment.
    I think that I choose doing online classes because of my lifestyle not because of the education I would be receiving. I believe that I got a better education at my liberal arts college, however my lifestyle had changed and I needed something that worked better for my changed life style. I have a 2 year old daughter and I work full time at my job. Recently I got married and now have two step children as well. I picked to do online school because it is basically impossible to attend class, spend time with my child, and work full time. Thankfully online class gives me the opportunity to do my work while my kid is sleeping and while I have spare time at work. I do not think that online education is a bad and I do not feel that going to a campus is giving you a lot better of an education. As you said, if someone is not going to put the appropriate effort into class it doesn’t matter if they are online or on campus, they are still not going to do well.

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