General Education

e-Distance University vs. On-Campus Learning

e-Distance University vs. On-Campus Learning
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Hannah Miller February 8, 2019

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The option to attend university remotely is something that should be considered, whether you’re a high school graduate getting ready to attend university, a third-year student with some postsecondary education experience under your belt, or an adult looking to go back to school.

With the use of technology on the rise, universities around the world are adapting to the demands of students who prefer taking online courses to on-campus learning. As the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) stated in 2012, 13.2 percent of students at the postsecondary level were taking some distance courses in supplement to their on-campus courses, while 12.5 percent were enrolled exclusively in e-distance courses. This is the latest data available. Presumably, these numbers are on the rise, as the previous statement by NCES (in 2007-2008) reported that just 4 percent of graduate students were enrolled exclusively in e-distance courses. When it comes down to it, e-distance learning is ever more accessible, affordable, and convenient. Of course, there are still great benefits to the on-campus experience as well. Before you make a decision, take a look at some of the pros and cons of each method to discover the option that’s best for you.

Traditional Education:

If you are looking for the full “university experience," on-campus education is best for you. There will be many more chances to join clubs, fraternities/sororities, and associations if you’re living on or near campus. Networking can be a huge part of your time at university, not just with your peers, but with the professors and professionals who you’ll be interacting in. There’s no arguing the fact that this networking is much easier when you are face to face with a contact than it is via the internet.

If you happen to be someone whose learning style requires a good deal of hands-on application of knowledge, plenty of guidance, and who prefers to study in a group setting, e-distance might not be best for you. Assistance from peers, professors, and TAs is often easily accessible on-campus, and can be more difficult to navigate off-campus.

Check your major to see if e-distance courses are even an option for you. Some majors, such as nursing, engineering, con-ed and more, will require that you spend at least a portion of your time taking on-campus courses. This often has to do with the hours of hands-on experience you’ll need to complete the major, whether in teaching experience or lab work. Occasionally, the courses you’re looking for just won’t be available, as e-distance learning is still a relatively new method.

Although traditional on-campus education offers more resources and can be ideal for many, it does have its downsides. It lacks the flexibility that e-campus courses offer, there is a commute, and the lecture style teaching methods don’t suit everyone. The choice to attend on-campus or off has everything to do with your individual learning style and convenience.

Online Education:

Online education is quickly becoming a preferred method for many students. Universities are offering more and more courses online on a wide range of topics. The ease of access is one of the biggest benefits to this method of learning. You can attend lectures, do your readings, speak with your fellow students and professor, and take tests from the comfort of your own home. Another benefit is the ability to do work on your own time. These two advantages of e-distance learning are making it ever more popular among students who are going back to school while continuing to pursue a career, or among students who wish to travel and participate in a degree program simultaneously.

E-distance learning is best for those who are capable of managing their own schedules and do not need a great deal of guidance from the instructor. Students who can self-manage their learning process and are more or less tech-savvy will have a far greater chance of success with online education than students who are not.

That said, as before mentioned, e-distance students do not have the benefit of on-campus facilities such as the gym or libraries, and will find it more difficult to network with their peers and professors. Joining clubs and other social events is extremely difficult if not impossible.


After reviewing the pros and cons of each option, there are a few things you’ll want to consider before you make your choice.

Are there colleges or universities near you which are easily accessible and offer high-quality degree programs? If so, take into consideration the benefits of attending them. If not, check to see if the courses you’re interested in taking are readily available online elsewhere.

What department are you interested in going into, and will your potential employers see your online degree as a benefit or a setback? This will differ widely based on what you plan to go into, so take the time to research the pros and cons of pursuing your specific major online. Again, double check that classes relating to your major are actually available before getting too set on online education.

Do you have a good grasp on what your learning style is? This is the most important part of choosing on-campus or e-distance courses. Accessibility can be worked around, scholarships can help with affordability, but ultimately there is no way to change your learning style. If you learn better in a classroom setting, prefer lectures to readings, and have a hard time managing your time without frequent reminders, the on-campus university experience is probably best for you. All the better if you would also like to experience the social aspect of university life, and have easy access to a high-quality school! But if you feel comfortable managing your own time, learn best at odd hours, and won’t miss the social aspect of university (or the commute), e-distance learning could be perfect for you. You’ll be able to work on your own time, at your own rate, will ultimately spend less on your university experience, and (if you’re good at time management!) will find that you have more free time than the average on-campus university student.

Making the decision:

Ultimately, there are so many factors to consider when deciding how you plan to go about your degree that no one can give you a step by step answer. Choosing a degree and learning method is a highly personal process that you will have to make on your own. Do your research, consider your options, and don’t forget that it’s possible to mix and match online courses with on-campus courses. With so many resources out there, you will find the perfect fit eventually.

Distance Learning: Fast Facts. (2012). Retrieved October 18, 2015, from


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