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Are Online Degrees the Same as Traditional Degrees?

WVU Online | Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Yes, online degrees are equivalent to traditional degrees. The primary distinction lies in their delivery methods. Traditional degrees are typically delivered through in-person classes on campus, whereas online degrees utilize various digital platforms to reach learners who are often located elsewhere.

The surge in interest for online programs has been notable since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the option existed prior.

Today, online degrees have emerged as the beacon of inclusivity, embracing a spectrum of innovative concepts such as microcredentials and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) alongside the traditional college path.

But what truly sets online education apart is the vibrant tapestry of learners it attracts.

The Rise of Online Education

According to, nearly 2.79 million students, comprising almost 15% of all U.S. postsecondary learners, are enrolled in online colleges and universities. Projections suggest that the number of users on e-learning platforms will surge to 57 million by 2027.

Comparing Online and Traditional Degrees

The primary distinction between online and traditional degrees is the mode of delivery. Traditional degrees are typically conducted face-to-face in a physical classroom setting, while online degrees are delivered virtually.

Online courses are categorized into two formats: asynchronous and synchronous. Here's how they differ:

  • Asynchronous classes provide flexibility, allowing students to access course materials and complete assignments on their own schedule within a specified timeframe.
  • Synchronous classes require students to attend virtual sessions at scheduled times, providing real-time interaction with instructors and classmates from any location.

Read more about how online colleges work.

With so many online colleges out there, it can be tough to find the right fit for you. Look for programs that match your interests, goals, and budget. Remember to check out the school websites and talk to their admission counselors for extra help.

You may have also heard the term accreditation.

Accreditation guarantees that the program meets recognized benchmarks for excellence in education.

As long as the online degree is accredited by a reputable institution, the mode of delivery is the primary distinguishing factor between online and traditional degree programs; otherwise, both degrees carry the same weight and value.

Common Myths About Online Degrees

While misconceptions about online learning persist, it's important to clarify common concerns with insights from students who have completed online programs.

In a recent survey of online students, 87% stated that their online education was worth the cost.

Benefits to online learning included the opportunity to complete studies faster, improved personal creativity, increased motivation, and successful use of technology, along with the personal connections with faculty and classmates.

  • While online learning is less expensive, the associated costs are not indicative of program quality. Expenses primarily stem from operational overhead rather than educational quality, which tends to be higher for traditional brick-and-mortar institutions.
  • Contrary to assumptions, online learners receive an equivalent amount of instruction compared to their on-campus counterparts. A three-credit course entails the same workload and study time, regardless of the mode of delivery.
  • The rise of online learning has prompted employers to increasingly value candidates who demonstrate adaptability and self-discipline, often viewing completion of online courses or degrees as a positive indicator of these qualities. The demands for self-motivation, effective communication, and collaborative skills in virtual learning environments, coupled with the utilization of modern technology, contribute to substantial educational gains, dispelling myths of low acceptance and popularity.

Will My Degree Say "Online?"

At West Virginia University, your online degree will be conferred directly by West Virginia University without any mention of WVU Online.

What Do Employers Think About Online Degrees?

Online degrees are meeting the needs of both students and employers effectively. Employers are recognizing the value of online education as a means to enhance productivity and develop employees' skills.

Leveraging this learning method can lead to improved retention and higher levels of engagement among employees.

Investing in employee development fosters mutual loyalty and respect, leading to a happier, more committed team. Offering ongoing learning opportunities not only retains current employees but also attracts new hires seeking long-term growth.

In a dynamic business environment, upskilling and reskilling initiatives not only lessen layoffs but also cultivate a workforce deeply aligned with the company culture, ensuring a sustainable and prosperous future.

Hear from WVU Online students Zabrya Robson, Dave Benedict, and Jess McMullin, who earned their degrees online and went on to gain important internships and employment opportunities.

Making the Right Choice for You

So, how do you know if getting a degree online is right for you? There are several factors you should consider:

  • Learning Preferences: Think about your preferred learning style and whether it aligns with the flexibility and structure offered by online education.
  • Program Availability: Confirm whether your desired program of study is available in an online format or if you’ll need to attend in-person classes.
  • Time Management: Decide if your current schedule allows sufficient time for studying and attending classes, considering the demands of your personal and professional commitments.
  • Financial Considerations: Assess your concerns regarding affordability and explore financial aid options or employer assistance programs for continued education costs.
  • Employer Support: Find out if your employer offers support or incentives for furthering your education, which can influence your decision-making process.
  • Timeline for Completion: Define your timeframe for completing your degree. Are you able to commit to a four-year program, or a two-year program, or would a shorter certificate program work better for you?

Addressing these questions will provide valuable insights as you navigate through the options available to you. At WVU Online, we have enrollment coaches who can provide you with guidance and support throughout your entire academic journey.

The Future of Online Learning

One thing is certain, the future of online learning is rapidly changing.

While it will continue to offer flexible, accessible, and cost-effective options tailored to individual students, there are some really exciting integrations that will impact learners. Two of those are: augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies.

Both will further elevate and personalize learning experiences, enriching the educational landscape. Additionally, with the growing prevalence of microcredentials and massive online open courses, students will now be able to choose learning options that work for them.

Explore Online Degrees at WVU Online

Now that you know more about traditional and online degrees, it’s time to take what you’ve learned and determine which mode of delivery will work best for you.

WVU Online affords those seeking a convenient and quality education a reputable online education option. With a wide array of online and traditional degree programs, students can pursue a top-notch education from an R1 institution.

Still unsure which delivery method is best for you? Please contact our learning engagement center to speak with one of our admission coaches.

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Call us, write us, or fill out the request information form. Whichever communication style you prefer, there will be someone from WVU Online on the other end waiting to help.

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Occasionally a student will encounter an issue with an online course that he or she doesn’t know how to resolve. Should this occur, please visit the link below.

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