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How are On-Campus and Online Master’s Programs Different?

online masters vs on campus

The decision to choose an online or residential Master’s program depends largely on the institution and your own lifestyle. Experts agree that online learning is not for everyone, so it is important to compare the differences in these programs before deciding. Ask yourself the following questions while researching your options.

What Are the Differences in Flexibility?

Many students with other priorities, such as work and family, choose online Master’s programs. With on-campus learning, you have to attend courses and lectures at scheduled times while factoring in the commute. Online programs allow you to study on your own time while still meeting semester deadlines. The only flexibility you get from residential programs is choosing between morning or evening classes. With online training, you could study at 3:00 a.m. if it suited your schedule.

How Accessible Are Student Services?

One apprehension of students considering online degrees is the accessibility of student services. On campus, you are within walking distance of the library, administrative offices, tutoring facilities and faculty offices. Many schools appease the apprehension by extending their office hours past the traditional 5:00 closing time. Online professors make themselves available through chat and email to assist students. University libraries also offer online resources like downloadable PDF files to help students in their studies.

Is Networking the Same?

Networking with fellow students and faculty is different when comparing online and residential Master’s programs. Face-to-face social interaction is limited when attending online courses, but there are other ways to make connections. Schools with online programs try to offer more networking opportunities, such as stronger alumni programs. US News offers several tips for students to follow when enrolled online. Networking is not eliminated with online programs; it just requires a different approach.

How Does the Difficulty Vary?

The curricula for online and residential Master’s programs are the same. Students are expected to learn specific material within a predetermined amount of time. Those who perform better under stricter supervision may find residential programs to be easier. Self-motivated individuals with good time-management skills will probably not have any trouble adapting to an online learning environment.

What Is the Cost Comparison?

This question is one to be answered after thorough research. In some cases, schools charge the same amount for both program types. According to Get Educated, online programs may cost significantly more for out-of-state residents. This practice is not uncommon even for residential programs, but there may be additional fees for online learning.

How do the Degrees Compare?

When employers look at Master’s degrees, they generally consider three main criteria. They look at accreditation first. The most valuable degrees come from accredited schools on at least a regional level. The next consideration is whether or not the school has a physical campus. Most importantly, employers determine if the school is recognizable as a brand. If you obtained a Master’s degree from a well-known and prestigious institute, they do not care if you studied online or on campus. Basically, you get the same degree no matter which program you choose.

Overall Comparison

Online and residential Master’s programs are different in terms of flexibility, social interactions and learning styles; however, they provide the same end result of an educational degree. These two programs are options that give students the opportunity to earn a degree in a way that works with their personality and lifestyle. One program may be just as rewarding as the other depending on the individual student.

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Michael Templeton
Managing Editor

Kacey Reynolds Schedler
Contributing Editor