Based on a paper titled “Educational Choices Pros and Cons” by Misty Smith. Originally published on May 26, 2014, for COM 170 at the University of Phoenix.
Educational Choices Pros and Cons
What type of education is a better fit for today’s students, traditional or online? It was not too long ago this question was unheard of in the student’s planning process of their educational journey. However, with the advancement of technology, educational choices are numerous and no longer confined to a brick and mortar building where the student must attend according to a set schedule in front of a professor in a packed lecture hall. Students now have numerous options and must research the pros and cons of each. Benefits of online over traditional education include flexible scheduling and quality instruction; though higher costs and a heavier workload can be negatives.
One of the first areas a student must investigate while deciding which educational path to pursue is time management. Traditional educational institutions require students to attend classes on a set schedule. Students who are fresh out of high school may not have the scheduling conflicts that working adults have. However, an online educational setting allows the student to work their course material into a schedule that fits their needs. Therefore, online education may of a bigger benefit to working adults with hectic schedules and families under their care. As a result, busy adults can attend online classes by working them into personal and work schedules. Scheduling conflicts between work and college often mean that many adults do not consider continuing their education a possibility. According to Cornell College (2014), students who attend a traditional college or university may spend 2-4 hours per day in a classroom and then 4-8 hours per day reading and reviewing course material (General Time Management Tips). Therefore, a potential student must ask, do I have enough spare time in each day to complete everything that is required?
The cost of education is always a top concern for any student. Educational costs vary from institution and degree program; however, most online programs can be more expensive than traditional education as they can require software and technology purchases. For example, Motlow State Community College located in Tennessee list the costs per credit hour as $173.50 for in-state students and $608.50 for out-of-state students (Motlow State Community College, 2013). Whereas, the costs of comparable undergraduate courses at an online university such as the University of Phoenix can run $395 per credit hour no matter the location of the student (University of Phoenix, 2014). Furthermore, students need to calculate the costs of materials and software. Most traditional brick and mortar colleges and universities require that students purchase hard copy books for the courses that can range from $25 to $400 per book. However, most online colleges and universities provide e-books to their students at a flat rate, which is added into tuition costs. An example of this can be seen with the tuition rates at The University of Phoenix in which they add a $95 electronic materials fee per course (University of Phoenix, 2014). Technology is another consideration that students must include when deciding the cost benefits of online versus tradition education. Online education demands that students have both internet access, a dependable personal computer, and office software, whereas, traditional brick and mortar institutions may give the student access to an on-site learning center or library, which makes at home computers or software optional.
Another topic that students need to consider when selecting the course of their continuing education is the accreditation status of the institution. First, students need to investigate the accreditation of any institution they are considering attending, traditional or online. According to Military.com (n.d), “Accrediting agencies, are private regional or national educational associations that develop evaluation criteria and conduct peer evaluations to ensure schools meet their established standards.” (n.d). The type of accreditation that an educational institution is also critical when deciding which educational path to follow. In addition, according to Military.com (n.d), “A nationally accredited school must meet the requirements to be accredited by a national organization like the Distance Education and Training Council, Accrediting Commission (DETC). Many schools are accredited by both regional and national organizations.” (n.d). If a student is interested in transferring credits earned at one institution to another or planning to pursue professional licenses in a particular field they need to check what type of accreditation is required.
The quality of the education is also paramount in students decision-making process; an online education is equal to that of traditional education if not more involved. According to U.S. Department of Education, “… on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.” (U.S. Department of Education, 2010). Furthermore, online instructors tend to be employed full-time in the field that they teach and can bring real-life solutions into the curriculum along with their educational qualifications. For example, to become a faculty member of the University of Phoenix an individual must hold at a minimum a Master’s degree in the area in which they wish to teach and have a five-year minimum of work-related experience in the field of choice (University of Phoenix, 2014). In contrast, instructors at traditional brick and mortar colleges and universities tend to be full-time educators, many not having work related experience in the fields they teach. An example of this type of hiring policy can be seen at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), which states,“The applicant must: 1) Hold the terminal degree in the teaching field. If the terminal degree is not a doctorate, the applicant must provide external evidence that the degree is considered terminal or sufficient by the discipline. 2) Prove evidence of qualifications to teach the assigned graduate course(s). 3) Be recommended by the department chair and the undergraduate college dean. 4) Be recommended by the Graduate Council. 5) Be recommended by the dean of the College of Graduate Studies.” (MTSU, 2014).
The decision of which educational path a student should take is not one that can be rushed into without research and consideration of numerous factors. Would it better fit a schedule to attend courses online? Are the costs of traditional education more in line with the student’s financial situation? Students need to do their due diligence in researching all of the available options and compare each of those options with lifestyle factors, employment obligations, finances, degree credibility, and time management. Overall, the decision to continue one’s education is massive and affects their future. Therefore, an individual must consider the benefits and negatives of both online and traditional education models before committing.
Cornell College. (2014). How Much Time Should You Devote to Studying?. Retrieved from
Military.com. (n.d.). Why You Should Care About Accreditation. Retrieved from http://www.military.com/education/finding-a-school/understanding-accreditation.html
Motlow State Community College. (2013). Tuition Costs for 2013-2014. Retrieved from http://www.mscc.edu/fees.pdf
MTSU. (2014). Faculty Handbook. Retrieved from http://www.mtsu.edu/provost/fac_handbook/mt_personnel_pt.php
The University of Phoenix. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.phoenix.edu/programs/degree-programs/arts-and-sciences/bachelors/bs-evs.html#tab=tuition
The University of Phoenix. (2014). Become a faculty member. Retrieved from http://www.phoenix.edu/faculty/become-a-faculty-member.html
U.S. Department of Education. (2010). Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies. Retrieved
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