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Online vs Traditional School: A Thorough Analysis

Updated: May 17, 2024 | Published: January 23, 2017

Updated: May 17, 2024

Published: January 23, 2017

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In the United States alone, data from the National Center for Education Statistics reported that 43% of students were enrolled in remote instruction (online school) in early 2021. The rise of online education can be witnessed around the world as technology continues to advance. The increased attendance and desire for online colleges during COVID were also to be expected.  In this article, we will assess the differences between online school vs. traditional school.

By the end of the article, you will be able to answer, “is online college better?” than traditional colleges.

Source: Unsplash 

What is Online School and Is it Respected?

Online school is instruction and education that takes place digitally via the Internet. Online degrees vs traditional degrees are those earned online rather than in-person and on campus.

Online school may also be called distance learning, virtual schooling, or e-learning.

The big question when considering attending an online school that often arises is whether or not your future employer (or future educational institution) will respect or accept your online degree.

Since online school is becoming more popular, the social sentiments around online schooling are too. In fact, 83% of surveyed business leaders expressed that an online degree from a “well-known” institute holds the same value as one earned on campus.

One of the main things to look for when attending an online school is its accreditation status. Accreditation is the process of having an independent third-party evaluate an institution to ensure its credibility. The third-party will confirm whether or not the institution is equipped to deliver its promises and mission. For some graduate programs, they will only accept an undergraduate degree from an accredited program. This is another reason why it’s so important to check for accreditation when enrolling at an online school.

Advantages of Online School

When you consider the various benefits of online school, it’s clear to see why the option is becoming so popular. Here’s a look at some of the advantages:


Since online schools don’t necessarily have to operate a campus and cover those exorbitant costs, they tend to be more cost-effective and affordable than their traditional counterparts. In fact, you can even find online colleges that are tuition-free. For example, the University of the People is just that – a 100% online and tuition-free institution. There are some fees associated with attendance, but they add up to much less than that of the tuition at other schools.


Online school also tends to be more flexible in terms of scheduling than a traditional college. The reason is when it comes to earning an online degree vs on-campus, you can do so at your own pace. If classes are pre-recorded, then it’s up to the student to decide when to learn. In a traditional college setting, there’s a set schedule as to when the professor teaches a specific subject. There’s also a cap on how many students can attend each lecture. This means that some students may end up having to wait another semester or quarter (or in the worst case a whole year) to get into a class they might need to graduate.

Location independent

Geographic barriers can hinder one’s ability to attend a certain institution. Whether that is because of cost, visas, or responsibilities at home, or an existing job, learning online removes the element of the location as a concern. With online college, you can learn virtually from anywhere you choose.

Fewer distractions

Depending on how you set up your learning environment to attend the online school, it can be designed to be less distracting than that of an on-campus setting. Peers may distract you in class. Students who get up or chat during tests or lectures can hinder their ability to learn. With an online school, your environment ends up being more within your control.


Online schools also offer the option to learn at your own pace. You can enroll part-time or full-time, log on morning or night, and choose to work through coursework quickly or slowly.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”48358″ img_size=”full” onclick=”custom_link” img_link_target=”_blank” css_animation=”flipInX” link=”” el_id=”cta-blog-picture”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Disadvantages of Online School

With so many benefits of online school, you may wonder, “What’s the downside?” Well, that really depends on you!

Requires self-motivation

With online school being self-paced and offering so much flexibility, it’s up to you to remain self-motivated and engaged. You won’t be surrounded by students or expected to show up to a lecture. Instead, it’s up to you to log on, maintain a schedule, and stay focused.

Technical considerations

With online school, there’s a requirement for sound technology to support your learning endeavors. The good news is that schools like the University of the People require nothing more than a strong internet connection and a compatible device. Once you have your tech stack sorted, you can log on and learn from anywhere in the world!

Advantages of Traditional School

Now that we’ve touched on the good and the bad of online school, it’s only fair to consider the advantages of traditional school.

Take a look:

Social experience

For some, the social experience of college or learning alongside peers is something that cannot be replaced. Students have a chance to develop in-person social skills while attending school.

Public speaking skills

In school, you may be tasked with assignments and projects that require you to get up in front of large amounts of students to present. These kinds of activities will help you build public speaking skills. While it is possible you’d do this in an online school via video, the atmosphere feels different when you can sense the energy of your audience in person.

Hands-on lab sessions

There are some subjects that are completely different in person. For example, think about the need for hands-on labs when it comes to learning hard sciences.

Source: Unsplash 

Disadvantages of Traditional School

It’s pretty safe to say that when comparing online school vs traditional school, online school’s advantages tend to be traditional school’s disadvantages. You can bank on paying a higher cost to attend a traditional school and you won’t have flexible scheduling. Additionally, you may have to deal with:

Commute time

If you have classes on campus, you’ll have to find your way to campus, which adds commute time to your schedule.

Loss of individualization

It may be the case that you find yourself in a lecture hall with 300 students and the professor will never know your name. Traditional education tends to operate under a one-size-fits-all model. On the other hand, online school is more malleable and you can access online learning materials that are better suited to your learning style.

Online Learning at the University of the People

After reading this, you may be more interested in attending online school than ever before. It makes sense why you’d feel that way!

University of the People, a tuition-free university, offers a variety of degree-granting and certificate programs. For example, you can earn your degree (at various levels such as associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s)  in Health Science, Education, Computer Science, or Business Administration.  Take a look.  And, we also are accredited.

Closing Thoughts

Comparing the pros and cons of online school vs traditional school will look different for everyone. It’s a personal choice as to what you think will work better for you, your career and educational goals, and your own personal situation. While we promised to answer is online school better than traditional, the only answer can come from you and how you feel about it.

We hope we’ve helped you to better understand the differences and benefits of each style of instruction!

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Nathaly Ordonez

Business Administration Student, US

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