Unsigned: Online degrees only beneficial in special circumstances

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With the Religion and Culture department introducing their online degree, students now have the option to complete their bachelor of arts from Laurier entirely online. Is an online degree worth the investment?

People who live in areas that are less accessible, all over the world, can now receive a Laurier degree on their own time. Whether this is Northern Ontario to Thailand, online degrees expand the classroom experience beyond the walls of King and Albert.

Online degrees could also be very helpful for mature students. Learning in a classroom of young people, typically in their late teens and early twenties, must be incredibly difficult for a continuing studies student.

By having online degree options, mature students may be able to integrate more fully into their classes with their peers.

Students with specific mental illnesses may also find an online degree works in their favour. Typing a reply to a classmate may be seen as a lot easier than talking in front of a crowd, for example.

Online learning has an added flexibility, which is beneficial for the life of a young professional. Taking elective courses with co-op can be a challenge, but by having these courses online, it allows students some variety in their schedule.

However, in a culture that views excessive internet use as laziness, are online degrees less respected than degrees you earn in a classroom? It seems, at this point, like they are.

Students have to be extremely organized in online courses. Without a rigid class structure, it’s simple to fall behind on schoolwork.

Professors won’t be able to remind you personally about assignments and due dates. With the freedom of class schedules comes the responsibility to actually find time in which to do lectures.

Students who learn best by hearing lecture material will be at a severe disadvantage in an online degree.

Some students learn simply by reading, but many others have to have conversations to fully comprehend the material.

Communication is a lot more difficult than within the physical classroom setting, both with the professor and with classmates. So much expression is conveyed through tone, actions and emotions which cannot be seen from behind a keyboard.

This forces the student to be even more accountable for every word choice they make in the classroom setting, which can be difficult to consistently maintain.

Making connections would also be a lot more difficult online. Friendships develop from face-to-face interactions and engaging personally with peers.

It may not be feasible to meet and discuss content or group work as many students taking online courses are not living in the Waterloo area. The only method of communication is written.

When it comes to references for a job or applying to a master’s program, it’s hard to get a reference from a professor you’ve never met face-to-face.

Students who complete their degrees online are also missing a massive part of their undergraduate experience that can be found through the various clubs, teams, volunteer and job experiences found on the physical campus.

A degree is one thing, but the resume building experiences that come with it are an entirely different—and equally important—aspect of the undergraduate experience.

If you’re lucky enough to get experience in your field, working while taking an online degree, that would be an ideal situation. However, even most entry level positions need some kind of experience and the best way to do that is to get involved through university experiences.

This is an impossibility in online learning.

Everyone’s learning style is very different. Online degrees can be more feasible for very specific groups of people, but overall the typical, average student should stick to earning their degrees in a physical classroom.

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