Online colleges and traditional colleges are two very different learning environments that have a very common purpose and that is to provide its learners an academic degree that would enable them to pursue their future professional careers. Although they share similar end-goals, their significant differences generally creates a different set of boundaries that encompasses a completely different learning experience for the students. The set of advantage and disadvantages that distant learning and traditional classroom settings have defines a straightforward contradiction of characteristics. However, regardless of the advantage and disadvantages those both traditional and online colleges have the measure of the student’s success still rely on their perspectives toward learning. It is apparent that the majority of adult learners already posses the maturity to take the underlying sense of responsibility towards his own education.
Older college students particularly adults ranging from 18 to 21 years old prefers online college due to the time elements that they need to thoroughly balance to accommodate having a job, a family and attending college at the same time. There are adult students that are already married and pursuing to have a college degree to further their career. Because of the number of priorities and responsibilities that they need to undertake, being a worker, a head of the family, a parent and a student, adult students prefer the online college to make the most of their time (May). This is because online colleges do not require the students to physically show up in the classroom, a simple computer, an internet connection and at least 4 hours a day is enough for the student to earn his degree. Furthermore, online colleges have relatively lower tuition fees as compared to traditional college. This is because online colleges, need not to have several physical buildings to house the essential school facilities, hence the cost of operations are also relatively lower as compared to traditional college. Online colleges only charge minimal fees, which everyone needing an academic degree could easily afford. Moreover, cost is very crucial to students that already have a family of their own considering the number of financial obligations that they also need to fulfill. The cost of materials such as textbooks are considerably lower in online colleges because the materials are already available electronically and there is no need to purchase actual books that traditional colleges often require. Therefore, online colleges are beneficial to adult students in terms of cost and time, but are not conducive to socialization.
Another factor that differentiates the online college from traditional is quality. The instructor’s presence during the learning process is paramount in establishing student-to-teacher interaction. Classroom interaction on the other hand is important in ensuring the efficiency of instructions delivery. A face-to-face learning experience accentuates the actual response that the instructor is getting from the student if the instructions were proven inadequate; the instructor would be able to immediately shift methods to meet the student’s demand. This is one of the best advantages of traditional college because the evidence of learning can be reached based upon the amount of substantial management discipline demonstrated by the instructor. Online college on the other hand has no competitive advantage over traditional college in terms of establishing interaction, real-time learning assessment and variation of instructions delivery method (Lapsley et al.). However, theorists such as Simonson and his colleagues argued that specific theory such as equivalency theory could actually counter the online college’s weakness in assessing the learning development of the student (as quoted from Lapsley et al.). In this theory, equivalence can be determined by examining the learner’s overall accomplishment instead of time-based instructional criteria that is normally observed in a traditional college classroom. The theory also encompasses a broader range of assessments to determine the final exam score of the student (Lapsely et al). This means apart from preliminary, mid-term and final exam, the student is also required to pass other assessment criteria such as weekly quizzes and after-session assessments.
The dilemma concerning whether or not online colleges are inferior to traditional colleges in terms of student performance has long been the area of discussion among the higher education sector. The dilemma was brought by skeptic notions that online college lacks the characteristics of an effective instructional approach that are essential to the students’ learning. Wagner et al. conducted a longitudinal comparison of traditional versus online learning to identify the difference in academic performance by students on each category. The method of the study involves observing the learning development of the students in both online and traditional college classroom under the same instructor. The results revealed that the sampled students in a traditional classroom obtained an average of 88.7% in the final grade as opposed to online based students that garnered an average final score of 86.9% (Wagner et al.). Although there is a difference of 1.8% in the final grade, it is still not a substantial evidence to conclude that traditional college students are performing better than the online course takers (Mirakian). Therefore, students from online colleges have the same performance potential as traditional college students.
The findings was supported by the underlying principles of the equivalence theory, that online college can be revolutionized and compete in terms of student performance with traditional colleges. One of the important factors pointed out was the involvement of continuous technological development in online colleges that further enhances learning experience. For example, traditional learning involves a face-to-face interaction between the student and the instructor. However, because of the available technological breakthroughs, the gap in learning interaction was fulfilled by streaming media making it possible for the student to do a live discussion with the instructor though VoIP and web camera. Other forms of streaming media that enabled a more classroom environment experience for the student is through social media and video streaming platforms. One example is the Yale University’s Open Learning program wherein students can visit the website and take independent learning courses (non-credited units). The website offers full basic lessons including materials and corresponding syllabus. In addition, the website also included an actual recorded classroom session that learners can watch. Although the video are recorded and still incomparable to an actual classroom session, the fact that anyone can watch an actual process of learning from the video delivers the same experience as being physically inside the classroom.
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Donovan, Judy, Cynthia E. Mader, and John Shinsky. “Constructive student feedback: Online vs. traditional course evaluations.” Journal of Interactive Online Learning 5.3 (2006): n.pag. Print.
Lapsley, Ruth, Brian Kulik, Rex Moody, and Ben Arbaugh. “Is Identical Really Identical? An Investigation of Equivalency Theory and Online Learning.” The Journal of Educators Online 5.1 (2008): n.pag. Print.
May, Ryan. “Traditional vs. Online Universities – What’s the Difference?” Online Business Dictionary. BusinessDictionary.com , n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2012.
Mirakian, Emily. “A Comparison of online instruction versus traditional classroom instruction in an undergraduate pharmachology course.” A research project (2002): n.pag. Print.
Wagner, Suzanne C., Sheryl J. Garippo, and Petter Lovaas. “A Longitudinal Comparison of Online Versus Traditional Instruction.” MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 7.1 (2011): n.pag. Print.