What is the difference between online and campus-based programs in a Master in Curriculum and Instruction?

The single most obvious and significant difference between online and on-campus education is the delivery, wherein one’s educational philosophy or simply the demands of life will influence the particular preference for one or the other.  

An online education is certainly not identical to an on-campus education, though, in many degrees, the classes are the same.  Face-to-face instruction, personal connections, and non-verbal communication have far more potential than a message board, though many online programs seek to include the best of video-conferencing. Without getting into a fascinating dialogue about what education is and should be stretching back to Socrates, we here at Top Masters in Education leave that to another time.

Suffice it to say, in the final analysis, students choose what works best for them, and this is not always with the ideal philosophy of education in mind.

Why do people choose online degrees?

It comes down to convenience, flexibility, and affordability.  The online format could be asynchronous, which means you can take classes whenever you want at whatever pace you want.  This is the most flexible, though some schools have limits on how long a student can be in the program.

Typically asynchronous learning is delivered through the web, email, or message boards to the student who submits completed work.  Synchronous learning is different in that it is through chat and video-conferencing technology.  This kind of online learning is conducted with others and serves as a virtual classroom.  Some schools offer both options, such as the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

In an economic environment that involves the crunching of the middle-class and the rising cost of college, more and more people just can’t afford to go back to school.

The choice between online and on-campus doesn’t occur in a vacuum.  Many only look for online or hybrid to be able to take classes when they fit best with work schedules and travel.  Few argue that on-campus education is less flexible than asynchronous online learning so that difference may make THE difference for you.

It should be noted convenience and flexibility aside, that affordability may not be as clear as you might think.  This article by U.S. News and World Report gives reason to reconsider.

What about specifically the Masters in Curriculum and Instruction?

When looking at online vs. on-campus Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction, the comparisons discussed above can assist you in your decision in choosing the best college for you.

As for curriculum, both degrees prepare graduates in courses such as:

  • Systematic Design of Instruction
  • Fundamentals of Program Development
  • Media in Teaching and Learning
  • Teaching Diverse Learners
  • Curriculum and Instruction: Theories and Trends
  • Educational Research for Masters Students

The traditional classroom, utilizing face-to-face contact and the communication inherent within a relational field provides a complete, and often unmeasurable, advantage.  

Both degrees usually take around two years, though this varies with full vs. part time and the motivation of the student.  The programs involve core coursework and move into specialization (such as elementary or secondary) with a practicum experience and a capstone project or research paper at the end. Generally, MS degrees have a research component.

Many programs offer a combination of these two types of learning, and a lot of variety exists from school to school.  Another key difference to note when researching the school of choice is the on-campus requirements of "online" programs.

There are many curriculum and instruction programs entirely online with no campus visits, however, there are some that require a few days to a week.