TED Conversations

Jonathan Sieg

Boy Scouts Eagle Scout

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Does receiving a degree through an online university compromise the quality of education compared to a traditional university?

With online education becoming more widely sought-after, would there be a significant disadvantage in having a degree from an online university vs a traditional university, considering things such as an online university's lack of: campus life (i.e. fraternities ), hands-on training (i.e. labs), and direct social interaction (i.e. study groups, similar-minded peers for encouragement) which could influence learning, and any other particularity that can only be found on a traditional university campus?

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    Apr 8 2013: It depends on the discipline/subject that is taught in the onlinr school.
    Who wants to fly in a plane whose pilot got nothing more than online training? How about a medical doctor with nothing but a few TED talks and online courses? I'll think twice before going to such sort of doctor.

    But I would not be bothered if a photographer, horticulturist or businessman trains in online schools.
  • Apr 6 2013: I think an on-campus opportunity has the potential for many advantages over an on-line education, but only to the extent the faculty and students take advantage of them. Using some of the TED lecturers as examples, I think a good lecturer has the ability to motivate, inspire, add relevance and provide clarity to information. A good mentor has the ability to look over the work you are doing and see where you are going astray, thus increasing the rate at which you learn material. Group experiences offer opportunities to discuss topics, situations, world events, and related material to subject matter shared in the classroom. There is a maturity facet to going to college that many students must learn for themselves as the decisions they make about distractions, vices, social experiences, relationships, finances, and other adult topics are learned from experience. In a group situation, you can compare events and experiences that happen to you with your peers.

    In any learning experience, you will get out what you put in. You need to read the material, think about the subjects, do the work and prepare for examinations yourself. College provides just a structure for achieving a goal and helps guide you to a level of proficiency recognized by a diploma. Both on-line and on campus structures can guide you. However, things like teaching you how to learn, how to listen effectively, how to study, how to communicate effectively, how to manage your time, how to balance your finances, how to think critically and form your own opinions are life long learning subjects that you will likely get more opportunity to experience with the on-campus experience.

    Most potential employers probably are thinking along the same lines as I am on the relative differences between the two experiences, but not all. You will find that in the academic arena the playing field is much more level than in the real world.
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    Apr 7 2013: Probably not a huge difference, but who would want to learn that way, personal interaction makes life better.
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      Apr 16 2013: Personal interaction has many benefits, including that you learn more than just what you get from your formal education, such as how to be around people, how to be more outgoing, many other people skills. However, personal interaction for some, disregarding time restraints or schedules as reasoning backing online education, may pose a problem due to anxiety for one, or that some may actually be visual/self-teaching learners and will gain more out of the experience of not being distracted by people.
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    Apr 6 2013: Ultimately this may depend on which online school and which non-online school you are comparing.