'Should I study online or on campus?'

Ask Jo
career question

‘I’m going to start uni next year and I’m thinking of doing an online course instead of having to attend classes on campus – but I’m not sure if that’s the right decision. How do I know which one is right for me?’

Ashleigh, 18

career answer

It’s a totally personal choice – one’s not better than the other. The key is to pick the type of study program that works best with your learning style, other commitments and lifestyle. One good thing is that with many unis offering online options for their courses, you know you’ll get the same education as an on-campus student.

Here are some things to consider to help you work out which option is right for you:


Do you have a campus that you can get to easily? Do they offer the course you want? Have you considered how far you will have to travel and are you realistic about the associated expenses and time commitment?

Social interaction

Another consideration is your desire to have face-to-face interaction with other students and your lecturers. One of the great things about on-campus study is meeting new people, sharing ideas and making friends. When you study online your interactions will be limited to email, chat rooms and the virtual classroom. For some people that’s enough, but not for everyone.

Type of degree

The degree you want to study may make the choice for you as not all degrees are available online. Courses that need practical resources are going to require you to be on campus or at least attend residentials or workshops. Many science, engineering and health programs have an on-campus component.


Campus-based courses require that you attend a certain number of classes every week. Online study may require you to meet in chat rooms but generally you can undertake virtual classes whenever and wherever you want. Online offers you more flexibility so that you can work in your own time and at your own pace.

How motivated are you?

One of the hardest things about online study is that you need to be self-motivated and have the ability to work independently. You will also need to be highly organised and be able to set yourself a schedule and stick to it.

Resources and facilities

Online study is typically cheaper than campus-based study. This is partly because you don’t have to pay for facilities such as the library, recreation and dining areas. Most online courses will offer students virtual libraries and resources.

So which one is better? The answer will depend on you. Whether you decide to go online or on campus, you need to choose the medium that fits you and your career goals.

Still not sure? Have a read of some other articles on the topic:

On-campus vs off-campus study
Tips for studying by distance education

Also see the wide range of online courses that are available.

Jo Messer

Jo Messer is a Career Development Specialist who has many years of experience in supporting and guiding students and graduates of some of Australia’s most respected universities, as well as mature-aged clients, across all facets of their career. She is a Professional Member of CDAA and an active member of NAGCAS. Whether you have a specific question about how to achieve your career goal or something more general, Jo is available to provide you with up-to-date advice.

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