Should I go to uni Online? We’ll help you decideBy Open Universities Australia in Easy Reading
14th of December 2016
When you think about uni, certain images might immediately come to mind – lecture halls, libraries, textbooks, exams, parties and maybe the odd hangover or two. Most of us think of the university experience as tied to one place: a campus where all the action happens.
The thing is, you have other options. And one big one is choosing to incorporate online study into your university experience. Universities all over the world are embracing the online revolution because it gives students more flexibility and control.
So how do you make the decision between on campus and online? Just ask yourself these five questions!
How much control do you want to have?
The obvious benefit of studying on campus is meeting face-to-face with your lecturers, peers and tutors. If you’re on-campus, you’ll travel to uni on your scheduled days, sit in lectures and tutorials with all the other students, and get involved in the uni lifestyle.
What you’ll also get is more structure. Sure, you can dress how you want, choose your own subjects, and your lecturer isn’t going to take your phone away. But expect an icy glare if you’re fiddling around on Messenger or with snacks during a tutorial. You might also need to submit a medical certificate if you miss a class.
So if you’re someone who learns best in a classroom environment with a tutor to watch over you, then on-campus options might suit you best.
The obvious benefit of studying online is the flexibility. You’re in control of how you get your studying done – there’s no schedule, no travelling, and fewer rules.
Online students are free to work in a way that suits them (and that’s not just limited to anytime eating). Your lectures are conducted online, and they’re recorded and available 24/7. The best bit is being able to hit pause or rewind if you’re having trouble keeping up. Flexibility does require compromise – your communication with other students and tutors is online too, so you miss out on getting involved in the campus lifestyle.
But if you’re not too fussed about joining clubs or societies, and you like being in control, then you might enjoy the flexibility of online study.
How willing are you to make sacrifices?
On-campus students don’t set their own schedules. University admins and subject coordinators usually dictate what time classes are held, so be prepared to fight for the best timeslots! This makes it a little bit harder (but certainly not impossible) to squish in a part time job, hanging with friends, or other commitments.
This is fine if you’re ready to make some sacrifices for your higher education. Work (and money) may need to be deprioritised, travel dreams put on hold, and you may need to have a chat with your friends and family about how often you can visit.
When you study on-campus, you’re making your education your priority.
Students who study wholly online, or mix in online study with their on-campus degree typically feel less pressure to make sacrifices. You can work 9-5 if you don’t have classes to attend; you can take an online degree overseas with you and study while you explore; and you can wiggle your study schedule around to suit your lifestyle.
But time management is hugely important if you’re going to succeed as an online student, and it is something you’ll need to take seriously. Procrastination is a little more dangerous when everything is in your control. But if you’re organised and motivated enough, then you’ll be set!
When you study online, you leave yourself open to try new things.
Do you hate public transport?
Despite the picture painted by so many American teen movies, most students in Australia don’t live in a dorm room on campus. Instead, most students take public transport every day. Unless you enjoy the rush-hour experience and frequent train/tram/bus delays, it’s fair to say that nobody enjoys the experience. In theory, you should be able to get some uni work done while in transit, but in reality, this is rarely an effective use of your time. It’s usually tough to focus on your pre-readings while you’re packed un amongst a crowd of strangers trying not to fall on anyone.
The thing is, when you land your first job and start forging your career – you’ll probably have to catch public transport then anyway. So perhaps it’s best to start practising early at being a human Tetris piece.
If you’re an online student, you’ll probably be studying comfortably in bed, while the on-campus students spend their winter afternoons at bus stops trying to stop their noses from freezing over. That’s the real world for you, and while some would argue that it’s character building, I would argue that wearing pyjamas all day is way better.
Perhaps more importantly, time and money are saved when you chose to study online – bus, train or tram tickets can be spared, as well as the many hours it takes to commute to and from campus. So it’s a good idea to consider whether you have better things to do with your time and money.
How important is travel and adventure to you?
When you commit to an on-campus course, you commit to living in one location for a handful of years. This is fine for many people- travelling can be expensive, and there’s no secret money tree reserved for uni students. But you’ve just emerged from over a decade of schooling, and you may be aching to go out and explore, so it can be pretty painful to push aside those backpacking dreams for another 3 or more years.
Our advice is to look into student exchange programs. While studying abroad for a few weeks isn’t exactly the same as backpacking for 6 months, it’s a good compromise.
The handy thing about being an online student is the fact that you don’t have to hold off or stop travelling. You can choose to take your degree slowly by enrolling in fewer units at a time, which means you’ll have the chance to travel overseas and work part-time to keep the funds rolling in.
If you’re concerned about moving quickly to the finish line, this may not be the best plan, but you’ve got to admit that studying from a salt mine in Bolivia sounds pretty darn cool.
Think about the skills you’ll acquire.
On-campus is all about meeting and working face-to-face. Every time you interact, you build on your communication skills, which will play an important part in securing your first career job.
Over the course of your school life, you’ve been learning through asking questions in class, collaborating with other students on projects, and giving presentations in front of large groups. But if your communication skills still have a way to go, you can use your uni experience to continue sharpening them until they’re career-ready.
If you choose to study online, you’ll learn the art of faceless communication, which is a different but equally useful skillset to have in your armoury. The world is getting smaller, and more of our jobs are based online across borders.
Sure, these days we are all constantly engaging in online communication at work and for leisure. The question is- are you practising this skill effectively? Without visual and verbal cues, things can get tricky, and while you’ll be forgiven for sloppy communication on Facebook, it won’t be the same in your future workplace. As they say, practice makes perfect, and uni is a low-risk environment to practise these skills.
The wrap up.
A decade ago, the concept of studying online seemed pretty left-of-centre. Now, all universities are turning to online study options, certain that it’s the way of the future.
It’s okay if you don’t think online study is for you- it’s not for everyone. But if life takes a turn and flexibility is what you need, you might find your perfect situation through Open Universities Australia (OUA).
If you’ve got questions about how studying online might work for you, give us a call on 13 OPEN or leave us an online enquiry. You’ll find us at https://www.open.edu.au/