General Grad School Advice · Tips and Hints for Grad School

On-Campus vs. Online Graduate Study

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Wondering about on-campus versus online graduate study? *High-five* for doing your research!  There can be a big difference between classroom and e-learning, especially in graduate school, because your field of study is more specific and in-depth.

Let’s begin with how these learning modalities are similar:

They both aim to impart knowledge and offer a scholarly challenge that may encourage individual and professional growth in one’s chosen area of study. Think about the syllabus you receive in the average college classroom. Now think about that same syllabus as interactive and laid out for you on your computer: that’s online study.

A powerful learning experience is the unifying element of on-campus and online study, but there are distinct differences that require consideration.

1) Interaction with peers and professors


On-campus study has the flexibility and space to bond with fellows grads before, after, and during class. While these interactions may seem fluffy and unimportant to your academic experience, close-knit peer relationships fall under the category of academic support. It may benefit you to have people in close proximity if you are struggling with course content or would just like to connect via passion for a subject area. On a similar note, seeing your professor in class may get your questions answered quicker and inspire spontaneous, non-regimented class discussion.

Almost all online study formats will include some sort of “discussion” component. This could be via discussion boards, commenting/evaluating features, emailing, etc.  Discussion usually counts toward a participation grade–communicating with your classmates is still highly recognized in the e-learning world. The cool thing about this type of exchange is that you are able to really think on what you want to say. You may write an entire paragraph on the discussion board and then edit, re-edit, and even delete and begin again. Same goes for student-professor online communication; and often online professors are good about checking their emails and attending to your questions.

2) Lecturing styles


On-campus learning is primarily bolstered by the traditional lecture-style teaching, with the option of multi-modal additions (hands-on, video, reading, etc.).

Online study has accommodated to offer a comparable experience. There’s accessible technology that allows professors to record themselves lecturing or share their computer screen. Videos and required readings can be linked to the online platform and be utilized by students and/or printed if desired. The main difference here is that there is a screen between the content and the student, so it’s important to have a reliable computer and internet access.

3) Personal responsibility 


Coming to campus definitely serves as a visual, active reminder that you have readings and assignments due. Your professors may remind you (if you’re lucky!) and your peers will probably be talking about coursework. While being an on-campus graduate student takes a great amount of time management, organization, and motivation, you do have people to remind you of your responsibilities in most cases.

Online graduate study is a more solitary experience, thus we believe there is a unique personal responsibility and motivation required in checking the online platform, remembering assignments, participating in discussions, and overall contributing. This aspect does not make online study harder, but it does make it easily blended with your work and personal life.

Closing comments


In a culture of efficiency and productivity, it makes sense that an online graduate study format would gain popularity. It offers convenience for those who have busy work and personal schedules. On the other hand, on-campus graduate study is a more traditional route to take, offering and in-person experience that many of you may prefer. Although, keep in mind that there are graduate programs that are “hybrid,” or a mix of both classroom and e-learning experiences.

Here at SUNY Plattsburgh Graduate Study we have a mix of on-campus, online, and hybrid programs

Online and Hybrid:



If you have any questions regarding on-campus or online graduate study at SUNY Plattsburgh, contact the Graduate Admissions Office.
Kehoe Administration Building 113
Phone: (518) 564-4723
Toll-Free: (800) 723-9515 (In U.S. and Canada)
Fax: (518) 564-4722
Office Hours:
Monday – Friday, 8:00am to 4:30pm

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