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How Are Online Colleges Different From Traditional Colleges?

Online colleges and traditional ones have the same goals in mind: to provide students with an education and award degrees. Although their purposes are the same, they have significant differences. A key distinction between online and traditional colleges is the Internet-based curriculum. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, an online class is defined as "a formal education process in which the students and instructor are not in the same place." This means that all exams, lectures and much of the reading in online classes are done on the Web. This is the biggest change when transitioning from traditional classroom learning. Many students have overcome the challenge of online instruction and have adapted well to the system.

As in traditional courses, online ones are taught by instructors and include multiple classmates. However, your correspondence with these individuals will most likely be via email, telephone or live chat. Unless you are in a certain course or program that requires on-campus visits or clinical work—such as nursing or occupational therapy—you will never meet your instructors or classmates face to face. Traditional college classes require your physical presence as you listen and take notes during professors' lectures. Many traditional college classes make attendance mandatory and your grade suffers if you miss class. 

Exchanging information with your professors is very different in online classes from how it's done in traditional ones. In order to ensure that material has been presented clearly, instructors in a virtual environment have to provide more detailed feedback than do their colleagues at bricks and mortar campuses. According to the Sloan Consortium, there are additional types of feedback that are important to online classes, such as interaction in discussions that goes beyond posting words such as "good job," instead highlighting key ideas and creating follow-up questions. Feedback can also come in the form of audio clips and voice-supported chats. The best online instructors work hard to provide valuable assistance and interaction with their students.

Online classes provide more flexibility than do traditional ones, making them more convenient for many students. Online classes allow you to attend school but also work, so you can fulfill all your important obligations. This has been the answer to many people's quest to further their education while still meeting their family and work responsibilities.

In most cases, you can attend class when it's a good time for you and learn at your own pace. Not many traditional college students can say that about their schedules.


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