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Online or on campus: five questions to help you make up your mind

This article appears in:
All, Future & Focus, Online Study

1. How flexible is your life?

Are you able to move things around such as work or family commitments to attend lectures and tutorials at set times during the week? Or do you need your studies to flex around you?

If you're child-free or your young ones are already in school, attending classes on campus might suit you to a tea - you can dedicate day times to tutorials, lectures and the library, and then kickback or spend time at home with your family in the evenings. But if you have young children or other caring responsibilities, consider the implications of attending university on this; if childcare or alternative arrangements are too costly or just not realistic, the flexibility of online study would suit you.

Similarly, if you're working in a typical nine-to-five role, attending classes on campus probably isn't going to work for you - opt for online and dedicate your evenings to learning. But if you're working evening shifts and find your days free, on-campus mode could better suit your lifestyle.

2. How convenient is a campus for you?

If you thrive on being around other people and are thinking to choose on-campus mode, keep in mind the convenience factor; how close is the campus to your home or work? Is it easy to get to and from? Or would that commute time be better put to actually hitting the books? If you're already a busy person and think actually getting to and from campus could be a challenge at times, the last thing you need is an excuse to miss a lecture.

For on-campus study, the number of hours you spend attending classes will vary depending on the degree and whether you choose full-time or part-time mode -  it could be a couple of hours a week or it could be 30! Sometimes teachers will mark attendance, so it’s a good idea to attend each and every class. If you’re opting for online study, you’ll still need to dedicate the same number of hours to learning, reading, revision and study – you’ll just be doing it from home at times that suit you and you avoid the travel-time.

The convenience (or otherwise) of your study mode can play a big part in your success.  Online studies are usually more convenient, so long as you're set up to study effectively at home...

3. How's your study space?

Don't forget, even if you're studying online, you can still relocate yourself to the library

If home is hectic, crowded and loud - or if your internet connection is patchy - you could struggle to study effectively and tune in to online lectures. Perhaps 'getting out' of the house to attend your lectures and tutorials would better suit you if setting up a quiet study space at home isn't an option. Don't forget, even if you're studying online, you can still relocate yourself to the local library or even a friends place for some uninterrupted and silent study time. 

4. How's your time management? 

Some people seem to have the self-discipline of a saint when it comes to anything from housework, to exercise, work and study. If you’re self-motivated, committed and fairly good at setting and sticking to a schedule, then the convenience and flexibility of self-paced online study could fit into your life perfectly - you could put the time saved by avoiding the commute into studying. But if you're more inclined to procrastinate, get distracted by Facebook or leave things to the last minute, you could benefit from the structure of on-campus studies.

5. How's your social life?

What, aside from your degree, are you hoping to get out of your university studies? If meeting new friends and interacting with like-minded people is your first answer, you could enjoy the social aspects that come with attending lectures and lively tutorial discussions. If your life is already pretty packed with family, friends, sports, hobbies, volunteering or other social commitments; online studies could be a better choice as you can learn at times that suit you.

Don't forget, even if you choose online mode, you don't have to go it alone. Lecturers, course coordinators and tutors are contactable by phone or email, you’ll be interacting with teachers and other students online and get plenty of support from the university.

Still not sure? 

As immortalised by the little girl in the Old El Paso commercial, 'Por que no los dos?' (Why not have both?). Many courses are available for mixed-mode study, which means you can get the best of both worlds. So if you’re still undecided, perhaps you could do your first semester part online and part on campus to see what works best for you.

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This article appears in:
All, Future & Focus, Online Study

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