How does virtual stack up against classroom education?

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Kayne Martin | Times Reporter
Truly, we are living in the future! Between self-driving cars and infinite information in the palm of our hands, the future is exciting – excluding the whole COVID thing. Technology has the habit of changing things forever and, hopefully, for the better.
The future we live in brought us the ability to receive a higher education without stepping foot in a classroom. Online degree programs have grown exponentially in the last 20 years. For the working adult, the flexibility offered by an online education is unmatched by a traditional degree program and students learn effective time management skills or risk falling behind. However, is an online student really getting what is needed in their chosen field of study?

This article published in the Jan. 29, 2022, print edition

Dr. Barbara Davis, William J. Atkins Dean of the Frost School of Business at Centenary College of Louisiana, says, “Exclusive online education requires a highly motivated, dedicated student capable of handling extensive self-study.  There are many students quite capable of this education style.  There are different forms of online education and delivery methods that will evolve as higher education continues to move forward and prepare students for future careers and endeavors.”
According to USA Today, 63 percent of students pass traditional classes. Online courses mustered only a 56 percent passing rate. Amber Torres, Assistant BSA Officer for Homeland Federal Savings Bank found herself to be more successful in an online environment. “Being able to watch a recorded lecture multiple times was more effective than hearing it once in a classroom full of people and distractions.”
Online degree programs have allowed many to seek a degree that they might not otherwise have had the time to pursue. Torres would not have been successful in attaining her Master’s degree if not for that flexibility. “I have a full-time job, so an online program was my only option. Working five days a week and physically attending class was not practical.”
The business world has begun to embrace an online education. CareerBuilder.com conducted a survey and found 83 percent of executives agree an online degree is as credible as traditional education. There are real differences though. Some studies show personal interactions are benefits a student gets when seeking a traditional degree. Dr. Davis says, “Immediate feedback and discussion in the classroom facilitate student learning.”
Centenary offers an MBA program one night per week in the classroom. LSUS offers the program completely online. I took one online MBA class at LSUS while I attended Centenary in person. There were some stark differences. One, specifically, was the policy on late work at LSUS. “No late work will be accepted. No excuse is sufficient for late work.”
The wording was a little off-putting, but understandably strict. Effective time management is essential for an online class. Ashley Knippers, ACFO of Sabine Medical Center, had an experience with missing a deadline while enrolled in an online class. “There was one time my daughter was in the hospital and I was unable to complete an assignment on time. The professor requested I send proof she was in the hospital and then extended my deadline to allow me time to complete the assignment.”
Traditional and online each have benefits and detriments. Besides cost, schedule is the biggest factor most consider. Preference is second.
The percentage of adults in this country who have attained an undergraduate degree have been steady rising for decades. Bachelor degree holding Americans have increased from 27.5% in 2005 to 32.1% in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Competition for degree-required jobs can be fierce.
Whether seeking a traditional degree or one solely online, just finish it.