Online Colleges vs Traditional College

The word “college” might make you think of students hanging out in dorm rooms or the gathering in enormous lecture halls. But that depiction is becoming increasingly out-of-date as technology provides more ways to learn. That's the the start of this never-ending debate of Online vs Traditional Colleges.

Posted by Sushma C on 9th May 2018

Online College vs Traditional College- A Battle for Quality Education

It is challenging to decide whether to pursue a career from a traditional college or follow the trends to choose a best online college.

The variations between online and traditional college programs extend so much beyond either being in a classroom or being at home in front of your laptop.

Before selecting one or the other, take the time to learn regarding the necessary variations between online and traditional education so that you'll find the perfect collegiate experience that works best for you and your lifestyle

Non-Traditional College or Online College

Today's world is all about internet, generally Online Colleges aims at providing an online education to the students through the internet, rather than going and attending colleges in traditional campus setting with proper infrastructure.

An online college refers to an online degree programmes offered by colleges and universities, where the students have the liberty to learn each and everything through online. 

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Some of the features of Non-Traditional College are:

  • Must have adequate resources and no fixed schedule.                                       

  • There is no need to travel back and forth.

  • No need to sit in class and you cannot directly interact with professors.

  • To do this one must be self-motivated.

So What is basically a Traditional College?

A traditional college degree meant a degree earned in a traditional academic field through full-time attendance at a college or university.

The traditional college comprises proper physical infrastructure, canned lecturers and assignments etc.

 Now, the definition sometimes includes part-time, n-campus college study, However, a traditional college degree does not currently include online degree programs.

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Some of the features of Traditional College are:

  • Structured Curriculum

  • One can directly communicate with professor and classmates.

  • One can make use of libraries, health center, computer lab, fitness center, etc.

  • Inconvience to commute.

Online degree: A plethora of choices


Bachelor of Science in Accounting Master of Science in Information Technology
Bachelor of Science in Business Administration  Associate of Arts in Education
Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice  Associate in Applied Science
Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences  Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies

Comparison between Online Colleges and Traditional Colleges

Both online education and its traditional counterpart have pros and cons, therefore it’s necessary for students to know what to expect before they step foot, or log in to their classroom.

This article will be Comparing their Flexibility, Discipline and Self-Motivation, and Social Interaction. Also, focus on each aspect side by side so that you can have a clear view of what to choose.


One of the key elements to consider once weighing the choices is the amount of your time you have each day to dedicate to schoolwork.

Are you willing and will be able to attend college full-time or do you want more flexibility to work around your busy schedule?

Online Colleges

Traditional Colleges

Weekly Format

Daily Format

Attendance is not a part of the grade

Attendance is a part of the grade

Have more time for self-development

Have less time for self-development.

Discipline and Self-Motivation

Something else to think about while weighing your college choices is your level of self-discipline.

Both traditional and online education definitely need some discipline to succeed, however, there may be vital differences in how learning is structured.

These structural variations will have a big impact on your ability to remain on track.

Online Colleges

Traditional Colleges

You need to be highly motivated to do the work without being monitored

The structure of the college keeps you motivated, with face to face interaction with instructors and students

Stay up to date on the course 

On Campus setting has more possibility of staying up to date on the course.

Social Interaction

One of the largest concerns that students have about online education is interaction with other students.

Students even have a large range of choices in this area.

Some students would like interaction from with peers and instructors to succeed and keep motivated, whereas some thrive in an independent study environment.

Online Colleges

Traditional Colleges

Very less or no Interaction among students

Daily Interaction among students

Very less direct interaction with Instructors

Regular interaction with Instructors

Best Online Colleges 

Capella University

Drexel University

Colorado State University-Global Campus

American Public University System

Colorado Technical University

Keiser University

Walden University

Grantham University

Arizona State University

University of Phoenix


Stalwarts who pursued their education through Online Learning

 1.Shaquille O’Neal

 When one of the greatest basketball players of all time, he did his BA through distance mode at LSU in 2000. In 2005, he went on to earn a Master’s in Business Administration through the online course offered at the University of Phoenix.That’s not all, he also holds a PhD. in Leadership and Education from Barry University.

 2.Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize awardee, could not get access face-to-face education due to his prison confinement. However, it did not discourage him from getting a degree. While in prison, Mandela went on to get a Bachelor in Law degree from the University of London through distance learning.

3.Narendra Modi

The Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi too is a distance learner. He holds a degree in Political Science from the reputed Delhi University, which he pursued through distance education while working on his political career.

4.Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg the way out of the California State University in 1968, However, he never underestimated the value of education and enrolled himself with Charles Sturt University (CSU) to complete his Bachelor’s through their distance learning mode.


It's up to you what course you want and how much time you can allocate for it.

As, online learning is easy, affordable, comfortable, but the catch is that for online colleges students have to be highly organized, motivated, and enjoy learning at their own pace, it can be an excellent option.

But, if I have to decide on any one of the two, I would say it would purely depend on the course that we are planning to take.


  Cost of Online College vs Traditional College?

 Undergraduate   On-Campus                                                           


Tuition and fees

$28,588*Includes fees such as $52.62 per credit hour

Books and supplies

















Undergraduate Online


Tuition and fees

$16,580*Includes fees such as $52.62 per credit hour

Books and supplies














  Is a degree from an online school as good as an online degree from a traditional school?

Degrees earned from online institutions are just as valid as degrees earned from traditional colleges. Many traditional colleges and universities (Yale, Harvard, Columbia, USC, Ohio State, etc.) utilize online education to provide classes when the student can’t attend class on campus or who work far away from the campus.

  Is it faster to get an online degree than a traditional campus-based degree?

In some cases, it is faster to receive a degree from an online college or university than it is from a traditional college. The reason for this is that students are allowed to take classes on their own schedule. Some students learn faster than others and because they don’t have to attend a traditional campus classroom to learn from a professor on a set schedule of classes, the online student can complete, take the exams for, and pass their classes at their own speed.

  Do employers discriminate against online educated graduates?

Most employers do not discriminate against graduates of online colleges. In fact, many employers are now providing scholarships to employees who wish to attend an online school to better their education and to move up in employment opportunities. Distance learning, in large part, started because companies wanted a way to educate large numbers of employees at the same time. Many employers offer online students internships and work closely with the career placement offices at online colleges and universities.

  Can credits from a traditional college be transferred to an online school?

For the most part, credits earned at traditional colleges can be transferred to an online school. Each case is unique and it is up to the receiving institution to determine how many hours will be accepted but because the majority of traditional colleges are accredited by regional accreditation agencies, the credits earned at the traditional college will be accepted by an online college.

  How do students know if the online school is good or not?

Students have to be their own advocate when it comes to determining the quality of an online school. Students should always determine the online college’s accreditation and they can further investigate a potential school by contacting the accrediting agency’s offices or going online to search for negative articles or recent problems with a potential school. The US government maintains a website which lists accredited institutions and their current standing.


  Do any online schools have classrooms for teaching?

Some schools do use classroom instruction as a part of their curriculum, others don’t. Students who need to meet with an instructor or advisor can do so with some online colleges who maintain campuses or offices in cities throughout the United States. However, most online colleges do not use classrooms for teaching.

  Can students receive advanced degrees from online schools?

 Master’s and Doctoral degrees are available from many schools online. Doctoral candidates normally must meet with faculty advisors as a part of their degree program, but most Master’s programs do not hold this requirement.

  Are students on their own when they sign up for online classes?

Not by a long shot! Online schools have long seen the need for admissions counselors, academic advisors, student support staff and the other important student-centric activities in which all colleges engage. In many respects, for online students, these support staff are more accessible and available than at a traditional campus. Advisors and counselors are available by telephone or online to help students deal with any issues that might arise.

  Are there scholarships and grants available to online students?

Yes, there are many scholarships and grants available.

  If a student stops taking classes at an online school, do they have start at the beginning when they go back?

No, many online schools expect a student to have interruptions in their education and make provisions to assist students during these times.