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Online v face-to-face learning

6 Apr 2017

When you’re thinking about university, the first big decision you’ll make is what to study. The second is how to study: should you enrol face-to-face or study online?

The answer depends on your personal circumstances and what you hope to get out of your university experience. If you or your child are trying to decide which mode of study to pursue, here are a few things to think about.

Online study is flexible and lets the student determine their own schedule. This can be an attractive option for people who work full time or have lots of personal or sporting commitments. However, setting your own pace requires a high level of self-discipline. Without the motivation to prepare for class each week, it’s easy to procrastinate and fall behind.

As a result, online study often isn’t the best choice for recent school leavers or those who haven’t studied in a while. It takes time to build the study skills you need to succeed at university, and attending classes and accessing on-campus resources (like the library or academic skills sessions) are often the easiest way to do this.

Tutorials and group work are also a great way to develop key professional skills like teamwork, project management and communication. Online courses also encourage these skills, but often lack the social and interpersonal aspects of face-to-face learning. Depending on which provider you choose, you may also miss out on events like on-campus career fairs, which can provide valuable networking or internship opportunities.

On the other hand, a key benefit of online study is that it forces you to become familiar with a range of technologies and platforms – skills that are useful in an increasingly digitised workforce. At USC we encourage digital literacy through blended learning, which incorporates the efficiencies of digital technologies like Blackboard, Pebble Pad and social media with the advantages of face-to-face study.

In short, online courses can be a good option for busy people who need to study in their own time. But for students who want to meet new people, build their interpersonal skills and complete practical tasks, an on-campus degree might be the better choice. Before you or your child make a decision about how to study, think carefully about your goals and expectations, and what you hope to get out of your time at university.

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