Back to School: Should You Enroll in an Online or in-Class Course?
By Rachel Seitz
When students are deciding whether to take out a Climb loan, oftentimes they’ve already been through several important decisions prior to that; after answering if they should go back to school in the first place, there are also questions like what school they should attend or if they’ll need any living expenses (to name a few). One judgement the student might have to make is whether the course they take should be online or in-class. To help make this particular decision a bit easier, we’ve outlined some factors you may want to take into account and how they can impact your choice.
First and foremost—possibly the most relevant factor impacting your decision might be cost. In many cases, online classes are significantly cheaper than their in-class counterparts. You want to be sure, when choosing your class format, that you can afford its tuition and what elements you’re looking for which would make any potential extra cost worth it. An understanding of how you value aspects of each program and what you’re willing and able to pay for is something you’ll definitely need before enrolling.
If your schedule isn’t open enough to accommodate being in a classroom all day, and your school offers an online course with no set meeting time, you might want to consider the latter option. Ask yourself if you believe you’ll get more out of the lessons with more time and attention dedicated, and if you’re able to dedicate that much time and attention. With the more immersive, interpersonal option of in-class programs comes less flexibility in terms of when, where, and how you’re able to spend your time learning, so if you know you have other commitments that will interfere with the class, check to see how structured the schedules for your school’s online classes are!
Perhaps you’re certain you want to attend a particular school, but there’s no campus location near you and you don’t have the means or desire to relocate. Or maybe the campus is surrounded by potential employers and located exactly where you plan on living. Knowing where you want to be and whether you have the means to move there right now is important when signing up for a course. This way, you can be sure you’re not taking on an unnecessary burden or missing out on the right opportunities.
Face Time with Teachers and Classmates
Everyone has different learning styles and requirements for doing well in a program. Are you someone who needs to be in the room with someone else who can explain in-person the concepts you’re learning, or are you OK learning at your computer in your home? Does your school offer features to mimic the classroom such as video chat, online mentors, and virtual office hours, or do you work best in a physical classroom environment? Long distance may be a non-issue for some, especially with advances in technology, but if you think you’ll need more face time with teachers and a group of classmates to study with, you’ll want to take this into account.
Yes, we know “networking” seems like an overused buzzword at times, but that doesn’t lessen how incredibly useful it is for people entering a new field. If you’re just starting out and know you’ll soon be looking for a job, you may factor in the opportunities to meet peers who are also entering the same field, as well as established professionals who are able help you in your job search. And, if you’re already an established professional yourself and just want to brush up on your skills, it might be the case that you don’t feel the need to network or attend career fairs.
Finally, the last factor which may come into play when making your decision is what financing options are available for the class. At Climb, we do offer financing for online courses at several of our partner schools. However, that’s not the case with every program. If you know you’ll need help paying tuition for your course, be sure to check and make sure that this program has any financing options for which you can apply.
Just as with every aspect of education, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to taking a class online or onsite. But by thinking about how much weight each of the above factors carry for you as an individual, you’ll be better placed to come up with the answer that best fits you. In doing so, you can be confident you’re getting the most return on your educational investment!