Online school pales compared to traditional college
If you have spent hours watching a late night “Law and Order: SVU” marathon recently, you have undoubtedly encountered commercials extolling the values of online college. But even in a culture dominated by electronics, an online degree cannot provide the same amount of value that a degree issued by a traditional college.
Online classes often only require a credit card number, while brick-and-mortar colleges require an extensive application process in which the applicant proves that they have an impressive background in scholastic and extracurricular activities.
Online colleges create a bubble that prevents the students from new ideas and different people and places. Without the presence of other students, there are limited ways in which the student will interact with ideas that are contrary to his or her own.
Even with on online forum in which students could discuss ideas, students do not have to make much effort. In a real classroom, students have more hope of remaining engaged. After all, there is always that chance that the professor will unexpectedly call on them. One of the best ways to develop arguments is being encouraged to give voice to one’s beliefs.
The classroom is not the only place where peer interaction makes a difference. Learning to live with someone with whom you disagree is a huge part of the college experience. Negotiation becomes a college student’s best friend. It is no longer about coaxing your parents for a later curfew; it is figuring out how you and your night owl roommate are going to work around your 8 a.m. class.
Roommates are only a part of the social scene. Colleges have students from all over the country and hundreds of different backgrounds converging on one campus. These alone make college campuses invaluable: you do not need to like everyone that you meet. You should, however, know how to treat everyone with respect and understand that it is perfectly normal for people to lead their lives in a way that is contradictory to what you believe.
Another advantage of a physical college campus is that it acts as an intermediate step between living with your parents and complete independence. For people our age, it is the perfect way to break off from our parents, without having to immediately take on all of the responsibilities of independent living.
There are many reasons for people to get a degree online, the most common being financial strain. Online classes are almost always cheaper. For someone who cannot afford to attend a traditional college, online college is the best alternative. It is not, however, comparable to the education, academic and otherwise, that a real college campus can provide.
Once students from online schools and traditional colleges start competing in the job market, it would be a shame if employers came to see online degrees as equal to a degree like that from Puget Sound. The more we normalize online school, the more threat there is of this happening.
Many schools like the University of Phoenix and Brigham Young University provide online courses as well as physical campuses. If they focused the energy that they spend on advertising and online courses toward getting underprivileged students onto campus grounds, it would completely change the student experiences.
Learning from and alongside our peers, developing our interpersonal skills and figuring out how to live independently are lessons that cannot be learned on a computer screen, no matter how advanced the Internet becomes.