What's the Difference Between Traditional & Online Colleges?

An increasing number of students take Internet-based college courses instead of traditional college classes. This article explains the differences between traditional colleges and online colleges.

Online College and Traditional College Defined

An online college is a school that allows students to earn a degree over the Internet without actually attending a physical campus classroom. A traditional college, on the other hand, is one in which students are expected to attend physical classroom sessions and interact with each other in person. Admissions requirements are usually similar for both types of college. Both usually offer degrees at all levels, from 2-year associate's degrees to advanced doctoral degrees.

Important Facts About Traditional and Online Colleges

Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent; graduate degrees require undergrad degree and, in some cases, work experience
Degree Fields of Study Including but not limited to: Business Administration, History, Environmental Sciences
Common Courses Regardless of field of study, college curricula are most commonly divided into core courses, which are required for a major, and electives, which allow students to explore interests related to the program
Continuing Education In addition to degree programs, many schools also offer courses both on-campus and online that satisfy CE requirements

Differences Between Online Colleges and Traditional Colleges

While the degrees awarded by online and traditional colleges are similar, there are significant differences between the two types of schools, primarily in the teaching methods and class schedules.

Differences in Teaching Methods

Traditional colleges have more flexibility than online colleges in the teaching methods they can use. Instructors at traditional colleges can use teaching methods such as lectures, group assignments and hands-on demonstrations, but online professors cannot provide real-life class experience over the Internet. Group assignments are also slightly different than those in traditional classrooms, since students are interacting and collaborating from remote locations.

Differences in Class Schedules

In general, online colleges allow students more leeway with the times they can attend class than traditional colleges. With the exception of live online lectures, students can access online class materials on their own time and don't have to conform to a set schedule. Alternately, students at traditional colleges are expected to attend class on campus at specified times.

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