One thing we do not want to buy online

Nowadays we can buy online millions of different things – clothes, equipment, food etc. It even took me some time to remember which items you absolutely have to buy at a physical store. We like the convenience, flexibility and availability of options that come with online shopping. Most of the time we do not value things bought online less than things bought at a brick and mortar store.


However, there is a big exception – education. Online education provides the same benefits of flexibility, convenience and choices as online shopping, yet only 5% of Americans rate quality of online education as “excellent”. Honestly, I used to think of online education as inferior to a traditional classroom style. However, when I started thinking and researching online education, I realized that most of my stereotypes are far from true and that online classes can be just as good in terms of quality as traditional classes.

I think the stigma of online education can be blamed on lots of poor quality institutions that started offering online degrees just to gain profit since opening such institution is much easier than building a campus. And many people still associate online education with these “diploma mills”. Now lots of elite universities like Harvard and MIT offer online courses and degrees and actively incorporate online education in their curriculum.

Additionally, many have doubts about the employment opportunities that come with online education and how companies view such credentials. There are still around 25% of employers who refuse to accept an online degree. Yet these employers do not realize that in many ways online classes are more representative of work environment. I am currently taking an online class to prepare for CPA (an accounting credential). And it is challenging to keep up with my learning goals and force myself to study because I am used to traditional classes with schedules and regular deadlines.


Online classes develop self-discipline which is necessary to succeed in the  real world, where often there is one big deadline and it is your responsibility to use your time appropriately.

Online education is also viewed as less personable since you do not have face-to-face interaction. Yet there are so many 300-people lectures and I doubt many people would call them personable. At the same time technology nowadays allows to have virtual face-to-face discussions so students can still develop communication and teamwork skills. As a business student, I have had my fair share of group projects, but during the past school year 90% of the time I never had an in-person meeting with my teammates to complete a project. Thanks to google docs and Skype/Facetime everything can be done virtually. So there are few benefits traditional education provides in this aspect. At the same time, online classes often expose you to a more diverse group of people since they reach broader population. My friend who took an online class last summer had people from 5 countries in her team. This added a time zone challenge to their communication another thing to be prepared for in a global world.

There are still many things that online education can not provide. You do not have access to student organizations and career fairs. It aslo does not does not provide a traditional college experience. The experience you get from living in a dorm, pulling an all-nighter at the library, getting late-night pizza with friends and lets be honest the parties.


That’s how you really make connections and build your network of lifelong friends. For me, that’s the true differentiator between online and traditional education. However, I still think online education is a great option when you need flexibility and are looking to expand your knowledge and it should not be viewed as inferior. I hope as it becomes more widespread and with the rapid development of communication technology, it will become have equal value with traditional classes and provide equal employment opportunities.


  1. HenryChenChen · ·

    Very interesting post, I agree to your conclusion of how online education different from traditional education. I think it really depends on students preference, I have took Online classes but I don’t appreciate such classes, because there is no certain deadline or class time. Its unlikely for me to learn a lot and get a good grade from online classes. But my friends really love it, they think its flexible and you can always review the videos if you missed any point.
    I think our generation got used to the traditional education style, therefore many student like me don’t want to take many online classes.

  2. jennypenafiel11 · ·

    This was a great post. I definitely think I subconsciously think less of an online education and your reasoning for it makes so much sense. In my case, I think I still do prefer traditional education over online classes because as Henry noted above, it can depend on a students preferences but I do think it is time we realize that online education may be a really great and valuable option for other students. One thing that comes to mind is the possibility of online education for post grad programs. Once you’ve already gotten the experience of traditional education in undergrad and the value of a flexible online education would benefit you in post grad, I think it is a perfect fit. Employers should be more open to evaluating the validity of online education.

  3. kylepdonley · ·

    I have had a number of different people tell me they are considering an MBA over the last two years and when I tell them I am finishing up they always ask if they should do online or not. My answer is always the same – don’t do online! I can’t stress enough the point you made in your last paragraph. Particularly when it comes to business school your network is more important than your diploma. Sure, you need to learn the skills, but the degree doesn’t get you as far as the people you meet. Although education institutions still make boat-loads of money, for-profit or not, it is too bad these “diploma mills” have diluted the good name of higher education with second-rate curriculum. I would like to have a little bit of that anti-procrastination learning though! Nice post.

  4. Jobabes121 · ·

    Great post! Others’ comments on their preference of traditional education over online one are well-said, and I agree with benefits such as building connections with fellow students and deadline-oriented mindset. I also agree that traditional education is more superior, and its capability of providing a “learning experience” via discussions, student-professor interactions, and other essential learning opportunities that can only be done in person makes it a lot more superior than online courses. Frankly, I do not believe the in-class lecture component of my college experience has been the most critical learning experience throughout my college career. In fact, it has been one of the least important ones. Learning opportunities from asking questions, discussions with other students (which ISYS6621 heavily focuses on), and human interactions with other intellectual individuals have a profound impact on students’ academic experience that cannot be fulfilled via online courses. Fun fact: when Harvard first considered introducing their own business school (HBS), there were some serious oppositions against the idea. But the supporter mentions how the purpose of educational institutions is creation of the learning environment where simple knowledge can be further extended with creativity and sharing of different perspectives in looking at the same information. The learning experience is what matters a lot more than knowledge itself, in my opinion.

  5. Lucy Wilson · ·

    I think the fact that we are all in Professor Kane’s class and, as a result, have chosen not to pursue our degrees fully online makes this post very applicable and interesting to us all. Great job, Ksenia!

    I would love to hear more about which employers do not accept online degrees. While I understand that there have been some qualms about the quality, with their increasing presence, it seems almost discriminatory in nature. Online degrees provide a level of flexibility and affordability that many brick and mortar institutions do not.

  6. Dont’ get me started on this, as I’ve thought alot on these issues. I think the main problem with online education is that most universities have just moved traditional degree programs online without fundamentally rethinking how they deliver education as a result. I think there’s a huge future of online education, but it’s going to look very different than what we’ve seen so far.

  7. Ksenia, what a great topic to discuss in our class! I find it especially interesting being that I took my first online course while abroad last year. The online aspect definitely made the course convenient being that I could choose to complete it on my own time, however, I found myself spending a couple hours completing modules and assignments just to check it off my to-do list. Then, I would disregard the class for weeks until my next assignment deadline approached.

    Personally, I find it immensely beneficial to be held to a schedule that allows students to gradually intake course material. Maybe this says more about my personal work ethic than the structure of an online education. Nevertheless, I think it is important to note the way we process information over a period of time in a classroom versus understanding it to quickly complete an online assessment!

  8. phanauer1 · ·

    Great post! I think this is a really interesting and relevant topic and I enjoyed reading your thoughts on it! I completely agree with Professor Kane – I think most of the problem with online education today is that it’s not setting people up to be successful in the course from the get-go. I personally find it really difficult to motivate myself to keep on track with courses that are structured so loosely, which it seems that most online courses are. I think that, going forward, people will invest more time and money into improving the methodology and quality of online offerings so that it will become a more equal option to a traditional education for those who need the flexibility.

  9. realjakejordon · ·

    Really like this post. The thing that caught me from the beginning is the networking. Its one of those things online degrees can never replace. You’re just never going to be able to nail an interview without having constant interactions with others, which college is great for (even if it’s mostly only with other people your own age). I think the point about 300 student classes is true, but that’s not why we chose BC, and that’s why colleges stress the student to faculty ratios. I’m excited to see the direction this continues to take.

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