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On-campus vs off-campus study

student on campus
© Yuri Arcurs |

In today’s world, flexibility is key. Technology and communication devices have enabled us to juggle our work, study and play in a way that allows us to fit them all into whatever schedule best suits us. They have also allowed us to do things from anywhere in the world, at any time of day. The way we approach study is no exception.

Starting uni comes with a multitude of decisions – from what classes to take and textbooks to buy, to financial considerations and living arrangements. One of the biggest choices you have to make is whether you want to go to classes each week and study on-campus, take your classes remotely off-campus, or a combination of both. Not all universities offer off-campus learning, and the ones that do may not offer it for every course, but it’s definitely worth thinking about before you begin.

Studying on-campus

On-campus learning means you will be attending lectures, tutorials and other classes at the university. It involves going to uni for the required contact hours specified for the course and learning in a classroom environment. Classes could be made up of lectures, tutorials, laboratory work, group work and other practical activities. Depending on the degree you are enrolled in, the amount of hours you spend attending classes will vary – it may be a total of 12 hours per week, or it could be 30! Sometimes teachers will mark attendance, so it’s a good idea to attend each and every class.

One of the major benefits of choosing to study on-campus is that it is very interactive and social. Lectures are delivered in a lecture hall or classroom, usually using PowerPoint presentations, videos and other visual platforms. Teachers may be professors, doctors, lecturers and tutors with whom you will have the opportunity to have face-to-face contact, and pick their brains if need be.

You will also make friends with other students doing the course. You can form study groups, do group presentations, talk about homework and take notes for each other if you miss a class. As you will be on the campus quite a bit, you will have regular access to all the university resources, such as the library and computer labs. Don’t forget all the social activities as well – sporting events, concerts, markets, festivals and much more!

Overall, studying on-campus at university is ideal for someone who wants to have a more social and interactive uni experience. Obviously you have to be able to get to the campus at specified times each week, so you must either live nearby or be able to commute. Everything including jobs, sport activities and other commitments have to be scheduled around uni classes, which can change each semester. For anyone who prefers a varied and participatory study mode, as opposed to learning things by yourself, on-campus study is a great and rewarding option.

Studying off-campus

Off-campus learning is also known as distance education or online study. Students doing off-campus study do the same as the on-campus course but, rather than attending class, they are sent study materials and complete the course independently. It’s a flexible mode of study that allows you to follow your own schedule, so it’s great for people who work full-time, can’t get to campus, or have family and other commitments.

Off-campus learning can be made up of a range of course delivery modes, including printed study materials, reading lists, audio discs and DVDs, online conferences and online tutorials. You are still required to read all the textbooks, complete the course in the required time and turn in assessments before the deadlines. You will also need regular access to the Internet with a good connection, as online communication is an essential part of off-campus study.

One of the great things about distance study is that it gives you a lot of flexibility and allows you to fit study around your life, rather than your life around study. You can do your study at whatever time you want and from anywhere in the world. Furthermore, depending on your time management, you could have a full-time job as you don’t have to physically attend classes.

One of the not-so-great things about off-campus study is that it requires a large amount of self-motivation and discipline. It can be hard enough trying to do the work when you are attending classes, but it can be even harder trying to do it by yourself. A strict schedule is a must for students studying off-campus. It’s easy to get distracted, so you must have good time management and organisational skills.

Another downside is that you won’t get to meet new people. One of the great things about uni is the different people you get to mix with and the friends you can make. With online study, you don’t have that group to study or share ideas with. You won’t be completely and utterly alone – you will talk to teachers, interact with other students online and have lots of support from the university, but it does take a fair bit of self-directed learning to complete a course in this way.

As you won’t be going into campus, you also wont have ready access to the library, so getting resources and doing research may be a little tough at times. However, the university is usually pretty good at providing you with everything you need. Don’t think you will be getting out of exams by not going into the uni – you still have to do them, usually at an examination centre venue.

Be aware that not all courses can be done off-campus. Check with the uni first before making any decisions. It’s also a good idea to talk to someone who has done it before and get his or her advice and opinions.

The verdict

It’s totally up to the individual and their circumstances as to whether they choose to study on or off-campus. A student who has just finished high school, is ready to move out of home and craves a bit of a social life might prefer to go to the campus every day – whereas someone who is good at self-directed learning and requires flexible classes due to other commitments will choose to study off-campus. If you’re unsure, check with the university or their website for more information to help make the right decision.