Remote College vs Online School: What’s a Better Investment

With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, students and faculty around the nation and the globe have experienced a sharp rise in the number of higher education calling for emergency remote learning. If you or a loved one is taking on virtual learning, you might be left wondering if you are really getting the most out of your money. From the perspective of a Charleston wealth advisor, we explore the costs and benefits of two different types of internet-based learning so that you can make the best financial investment in your future.

Online Education vs Remote Learning

The Basics of E-Learning

Education that takes place entirely online, also known as “e-learning”, usually integrates virtual learning opportunities such as video lectures and modules into flexible, self-paced courses to help teach and engage students. Before the COVID pandemic, e-learning was predominantly affiliated with all online institutions but there were some schools rolling out e-learning options in addition to their traditional degree programs. E-learning can support a number of types of education, from a Master’s degree to an online certification in a new skill. To fully understand how it differs from remote learning, here are a few FAQs about the topic:

  1. Who is Most Suitable for E-Learning?

One of the most significant benefits of internet-based education is the ability to be flexible. It is especially advantageous for those who already have tight schedules because it allows you to complete fully online assignments and study on your own time rather than on a strict schedule. If you have a job, children, or other obligations that require your attention during day-time hours, this workability can enable you to still achieve your educational aspirations without having to sacrifice your other priorities.

In summary, the person most likely to be successful in an e-learning environment will meet the following criteria:

  • Strong time-management skills
  • Strong sense of self-motivation
  • Independent learner

      2. What Are the Main Advantages of Online Learning?

One of the most attractive features of this learning environment is that you are able to set your own schedule and pace. Essentially, you determine when you complete the work, as long as you do so before the deadline. Some of the most important advantages of online learning include:

  • More cost-effective than other education options
  • Self-paced and personalized learning environment
  • Better caters to individual learning styles
  • More time-efficient than face-to-face learning
  • Typically requires fewer print copies of expensive textbooks

   3. What Are the Biggest Disadvantages of Online Education?

While there are a number of benefits to online learning, there are also some disadvantages that come with it. Here are a few problems commonly encountered by online learners:

  • Lack of organization and structure
  • Lack of accountability
  • Little to no overlap with peers and/or interaction with instructors
  • Requires extensive research in the online school’s accreditations and the ability to transfer credits to other degree programs if needed
  • Often require special online technology fee


The Basics of Remote Learning

While it is similar to e-learning in that it takes place online, remote learning has several key differences. Whereas online schooling’s primary focus is self-paced, flexible learning, a remote education aims to virtually replicate the classroom environment. Lectures are still scheduled along with group activities, and instructor interaction. However, it is all completed online rather than being face-to-face on campus.

This model is currently being used by many higher education institutions in varying capacities. Some schools are pivoting to fully remote learning, some are adopting a hybrid model that reduces the number of students on campus during what would be peak hours of pedestrian traffic and classroom interaction.

  1. Who is Most Suitable for Remote Learning?

If you have previously attended a traditional college or university or are currently enrolled, you are likely familiar with the traditional classroom environment. With ongoing current events, you might even be experiencing a transition to remote learning. If you enjoy the organization of traditional education, then distance learning will help you maintain that structure more than a self-paced program. As long as you aren’t facing a number of time-stringent obligations outside of your education, then this traditional type of scheduled learning will likely not be difficult to work into your schedule.

In summary, the person most likely to be successful with distance learning will have these essential traits:

  • Strong sense of self-motivation
  • Adaptable individual
  • Active learner

     2. What Are the Main Advantages of Remote Learning?

Although students will surely miss some of the traditional communication, close instruction, and on-campus camaraderie that in-person learning has afforded, that doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from the new remote learning. With this style, you do not have to worry about procrastinating or what pace works best for you, because all learning is scheduled. A few of the key perks of remote learning include:

  • Reaches larger audience with increased access to educational opportunities
  • More time-efficient than traditional learning
  • You may still have access to brick and mortar study spaces on campus.
  • Mirrors structure and organization of face-to-face-learning
  • Remote learning through a well established, traditionally in-person college or university still comes with the value of that institution’s reputation.
  • Typically requires fewer print copies of expensive textbooks

     3. What Are the Biggest Disadvantages of a Remote Education?

Many traditional college students have had no choice but to engage in remote learning to avoid derailing their graduation timeline. While the traditional structure of remote learning can be beneficial, it can also be a negative for those seeking more flexibility with virtual learning. Students frequently name the following as the biggest disadvantages of remote learning:

  • Less interaction with peers
  • Lack of direct assistance, feedback, and one-on-one time with instructors
  • Learning schedule could conflict with extracurricular activities
  • Lack of flexibility

Both e-learning and remote learning allow you to complete your education from home, removing the commute to school, and providing some flexibility to your day-to-day. Whereas e-learning has more flexibility but requires strong self-discipline, remote learning has more structure but requires a more stringent schedule.

Which Virtual Learning Option is Best for Me? Opinions from a certified Charleston wealth advisor.

It is commonly understood that the road to a higher salary, better jobs, and an improved quality of life is paved by education. When deciding whether to migrate to an online, self-paced education or to adopt the new remote learning model, first determine what you are hoping to gain from your education. If on-campus life (or the lack thereof) would be a deal-breaker for you, you may want to consider delaying your start at an in-person institution. Consider a gap year, saving your investment for the right time after COVID restrictions have been lifted. Or, you may elect to begin an online education from an accredited program that offers more affordable basic requirement classes which can be transferred over to an in-person degree program of your choice when they are once again available.

If this time of virtual social life and distancing has not impacted you too much, you may consider a fully online education even after lockdown ends. As online programs become more and more normal in our culture, educators and employers can only expect more students to take advantage of their money-saving benefits while spending freed up time completing resume enhancing activities. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which of these options is the best choice after reflecting on your learning style, personality, and professional or personal goals.

Passing down the gift of education to your loved ones or following your own educational dreams is an investment into the future that our Charleston wealth advisors want to help you achieve. At Morris Financial Concepts, our mission is to enable you and the ones you hold close to live life to the fullest with responsible financial planning. Contact one of a Charleston wealth advisor today to find out how we can help you with legacy planning for you or your future generation’s higher education.

The opinions expressed herein are those of Morris Financial Concepts, Inc. (“MFC”) and are subject to change without notice. This material is for informational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice. Nothing contained herein is an offer to buy or sell a particular security. All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of money you invest, and past performance does not guarantee future results. MFC relies on information from various sources believed to be reliable, including third parties, but cannot guarantee the accuracy and completeness of any third-party information. MFC is an independent investment adviser registered under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about MFC including our investment strategies, fees, and objectives can be found in our ADV Part 2, which is available free upon request.