After a teacher makes the decision to apply for a graduate program, another decision quickly follows: Which format is the right fit? With online learning on the rise and traditional, face-to-face coursework still available, every potential graduate student should take time to assess the pros and cons of each classroom delivery method before submitting applications.
As the prevalence of online learning increases, on-campus learning can feel refreshing for some learners. Pursuing a graduate degree on-campus has its benefits – namely real-time instruction and answers to questions. Seeing professors consistently makes help more accessible. Furthermore, it promotes community among students, as face-to-face interactions help to build relationships. The structure of a consistent class schedule can facilitate effective time management, and some learners benefit from the accountability that comes with seeing your professors and classmates on a consistent basis.
The biggest disadvantage of on-campus learning is a lack of flexibility. While many colleges and universities offer classes during times that are typically convenient for teachers, those classes still require your physical presence on campus at certain times. This means that you must schedule family time, coaching sports or extracurriculars, and other responsibilities around classes.
The flexibility that on-campus learning lacks is found in online learning. In online programs, students can work at their own pace. Furthermore, students can literally work from anywhere if they have access to the necessary technology – there is usually no set time and place for learning. Because of this flexibility, many online programs can be completed at an accelerated pace. Another advantage is the ability to make connections with classmates from all over the country.
When flexibility is high, accountability often decreases – this can be a disadvantage of online learning. As an online student, there is no routine, in-person meeting with a professor to provide accountability. This can make motivation more difficult. Furthermore, you will need to have reliable technology and be comfortable using it. This may be a downfall for some who are not as acquainted with educational technology.
A hybrid program blends online and on-campus learning. This can be the best of both worlds, especially when schools plan face-to face-classes during convenient times for teachers. For a learner who needs some flexibility but also wants opportunities to build in-person relationships and receive immediate support, a hybrid graduate program can be perfect.
When choosing a hybrid program, it is important to research how the program is balanced between online and in-person learning. Hybrid programs can carry some of the same cons as its online or on-campus programs– for example, a hybrid program won’t always be flexible. When considering a hybrid program, it is best to figure out what you like and dislike about online and on-campus programs and determine which hybrid program presents the best mix for you.
When choosing the format for your graduate program, it’s important to remember that one size does not fit all. Taking time to assess your needs and learning style first will equip you for researching programs.