There are many reasons to attend an online university than a traditional university. I hope to point out some pros and cons of attending an online university so that others can make an informed decision. It is important to do independent research on the topic of online universities, you do not want to rely on the information the online university provides completely as they are "selling" you on the idea. They profit from attendance even though going to school online may not be the best choice for everyone.
The pros of attending an online university is the obvious flexibility. There is never an assignment or project that requires the student to be online at a particular time. Most assignments are divided into days or weeks and gives the student the entire time frame to complete the tasks. A student that is more comfortable working at night, early in the morning, or midday during a lunch break can complete their assignments and turn them in when it is convienent.This key aspect makes online universities very appealing to people who work a day job, take care of their children, or do not have transportation to make it to a campus everyday.
Another pro of an online university is class sizes. I have had classes that had 3 class members and 30 class members. Usually traditional class sizes have limits due to fire codes or the number of seats available. And a class that has too few students is usually canceled forcing the students to find another instructor or time slot to get their credit. An online university is leveraging the same resources regardless of the amount of students that take a class. The main draw back of a large class size is that the discussion post forum might get very hard to follow due to so many students posting on the same topic. The reverse problem is that when there are too few students, it might be hard to keep a discussion going.
The main con of attending a university completely online is hands on experience. Of course there are labs and other e-learning materials to help students get the experience they need to pass the class, but there is a lack of physical experience. A lab in a traditional campus would have actual equipment that a student can see and setup. Depending on the amount of resources the particular online school dedicates to a class, the online labs may be helpful but can't replace hands-on experience.
The next con is interaction. When a question is posted to another classmate or the instructor, it usually takes them a day or so to respond. This can get time-consuming if the student needs and answer before they can continue their work. Most universities require a team project that students need to work together and turn in. Getting to know teammates, get a schedule posted, and get parts of the project turned in can turn into a very time-consuming task that takes place over several days. The same task for a team that is in the same physical classroom would only take minutes. This either puts the online team at a time disadvantage or requires one of the team members to take charge and identify the criteria, assign sections of the project, and put the project together.
The last con, but certainly not the least, is self discipline. This should be the main reason when deciding to attend an online university. When going to school online it is very easy to forget to do homework. Not only is it easy avoid assignment, it is easy to not feel any guilt. A traditional student would still attend class and have to face up to an instructor or a teammate and say they did not do the assignments. For an online university it is as easy as not signing in. A student can easily forget about it and it is not surprising that most online universities have a high drop out rate.
I hope this helps someone decide if they should continue their education online or choose to go back to a traditional campus. The world is becoming technologically advanced and it may not be surprising that more services that required a person to physically attend a class are migrated to the internet. More people can be reached and information can be disseminated very quickly using an online medium. I have attended a traditional learning environment in a classroom, graduated from an online university, and have even taken classes that were telecommunicated. The latter was an example of 5 classrooms from different parts of the country that had a single teacher that broadcasted himself to a screen. The world is definitely changing towards a more digital lifestyle and an online university should no longer be looked down upon as a lesser degree. To attend and graduate from an online university should be a token to the hard work and self discipline the student had to embrace technology and push through to a degree without having to rely on traditional methods.