Online vs in-person college courses are one of the hottest discussions right now in the education field, more specifically which one is the easiest. And there are solid arguments on each side, which we will be discussing here shortly.
However, there is always one thing that people usually miss to mention. One of the biggest factors that actually impact the course’s difficulty, regardless of it being online or in-person, is the teacher and/or university.
Why the bad rep?
Online college courses got a bad rep due to the spree of degrees they were handing out many years ago. The first online universities were making the syllabus “apparently” difficult but, in reality, the students did not have to do much.
The thing is, when someone or something gets a bad rep, it is really hard to clean off the stench, which is what happened here. Since then, online colleges have gone through several audits and evaluations, and can now be considered a real alternative for people pursuing further education.
In fact, I would argue the scale started to tip to the opposite side. Online college courses have been getting harder and harder for several reasons.
Difference in syllabus
All courses have an established curriculum right from the start, and they rarely change it throughout the years. However, there is one huge gap between online and in-person in this matter.
In online courses, the syllabus is decided and the exams are already ready to go. It does not matter the number of hours or study you have put in; the entire syllabus is being crammed into your test. On the other side, in-person courses are extremely flexible. If the teacher is a rambler and wastes most of his classes talking nonstop, he is not going to test his students on subjects he did not address in class.
You see, online education demands students to be responsible for their own education, while in-person classes are a lot more flexible since individual teachers have greater power.
Classmates versus no classmates
When attending college, we rarely notice how important classmates can be to our academic development. Having other people to discuss our questions, work in groups, organize brainstorming sessions, remind us of important assignment dates, among other things, can be the difference between academic success or failure.
In an online college there is no such thing as classmates, well, there are but you are not socializing with them aside from a message or two. We can’t discuss ideas, rely on them to help us out when the topics are particularly difficult or simply vent to blow some steam off. The lack of social support can be a huge hurdle for many, especially for people that work better in a group.
Most people that took an in-person college degree certainly remembers their academic environment very fondly. However, online courses do not have such environment. There is no transition between the “old life” and the new.
On top of that, it is far easier to turn on our brain in a working space rather than at home or something of the sort. Our brain knows that when we are at school, it is time to focus. The campus, the people, they activate our sense of learning. With online classes, we are more prone to procrastinate and slack off, considering we are pursuing further education in the comfort of our own home most likely.
Anonymity and disconnection
Even though an online university and teachers have all our information, it is still an environment of anonymity. We are not connecting to the teacher or our classmates, especially if the classes are asynchronous. Depending on the type of online classes, a whole semester can go by without actually seeing anyone aside from the teacher, who does not see us!
When attending in-person classes, we can all be alone at first but after a while everyone starts to become acquainted with each other. New connections are created. The teacher begins to slowly recognize our face and name. A few months later, we already have friends and can hold nice conversations with our teachers. It is a whole different world.
In short, there are pros and cons to both types of colleges but it is very clear that online courses are in no way easier than in-person courses. In fact, I really do think that online universities end up being harder and not as engaging and defining. University is one of the most defining periods in our lives and most of it comes from the academic environment that can only be experienced in-person. Nevertheless, online colleges help people pursue further qualifications without having to relocate, a huge gamechanger for everyone.