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In-person vs. online - deciding what's best

Young woman, and on chin, looking up to left, question marks on chalkboard, wondering.

Online classes are part of almost every student's college experience today.

As a high school student, you may have already had the opportunity to take online classes. If so, you already know where your loyalties lie – with either "Team Online" or "Team In-Person." In reality, making a choice for one or the other is a little extreme for most students. When you attend college, you may find that you blend some in-person classes with some online classes.

Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether to take an in-person or online class:

  • A sense of discipline. Can you keep yourself accountable and make progress on your work without having that in-person class time?
  • Use of technology. Sometimes the technology for online classes can be challenging. If you are not comfortable with technology, you may be frustrated and not do well in the online environment.
  • Subject matter. Colleges and schools usually consider this factor when deciding to put a class online, but it is also a personal decision. Will you enjoy this subject online, or would you rather have the experience of learning about the subject matter in person?
  • Learning style. Do you learn material better if you meet with the professor or teacher in person, or are you okay with reading content and viewing online materials? Some people like to use all their senses for learning. Certainly online replicates much of those experiences, but you need to consider whether that is sufficient for you.
  • Social aspect. Online classes do give you the opportunity to interact with your classmates, but you will need to decide if you want to have face-to-face social interaction with your classmates. While friendships can arise from online classes, it may not be as easy or the same as the face-to-face experience.

Online classes do offer a lot of flexibility for students with busy lives, and the classes can be very rewarding. However, the classes are not a shortcut or an easy way to get a degree. In fact, some students find the online classes more difficult than in-person programs.

It's important to carefully consider online vs. in-person classes to make sure your college experience is a good one.