10 Ways Higher Education On-Campus Differs From E-Distance University

I’ve successfully maneuvered my way through the first week of university.

This afternoon I have my final class of the week. Granted, I did get lost a couple of times. I got hit on by the guys or shunned by the girls, depending on what I decided to wear to school for the day. I became quite addicted to Booster Juice. And I walked confidently into a classroom I expected to be empty, wheeled and left (much to the amusement of everyone in there) when I discovered it was absolutely crammed full of students. I then waited awkwardly in the hall while I realized that it was, in fact, the right class, and that everyone else had shown up twenty minutes early. It was one of those classrooms where all the seats face the door. Everyone laughed when I walked back in, which made me slightly uncomfortable.

Attending university on-campus has been, thus far, an entirely different experience than attending from the comfort of my couch via my laptop. There’s a few aspects of that that have stood out the most this week.



My FYNIRs group has stuck around throughout the rest of frosh week and into the first week of classes. Actually, most of us are meeting up later today to go for a swim and detox a bit. I run into them all the time on campus. We study together, help each other out, and I have people to go to if I’m having a rough day. I rarely made connections like that when doing online university courses. It’s not that it never happened, it was just very occasional. Honestly, it happened far more often with other online courses I’d attend, like Wandering Educators Teen Travel Blogging Mentorship.

Attending lectures

E-distance courses tend to have lectures recorded and available whenever you feel like watching them. Which was fantastic, because I could do all my work on my own time, at my best learning hours, and take breaks when I needed them. I could also go over the lectures more than once if I didn’t understand them. Here, the lectures are more interactive, but can also be at hours when I’m not so great at retaining information. Sitting through a lecture after dinner is not my favorite.

The ability to talk to profs one on one. 

That said, being able to meet with my prof in person to ask a question or get some feedback on an assignment has already been fantastic, even though this is only the first week. There’s something about meeting face to face to talk about his research or the upcoming project that’s a big improvement over email.

The classroom I'm used to.
The classroom I’m used to.


I’m adjusting to this. It might really suck this winter. It’s not a bad commute, although I’m much farther away from campus than most of the other students. I’m about a 10-15 minute bike ride (or a 25 minute bus ride, which makes no sense) from the center of Queen’s campus. I miss the commute from bed to my desk. That said, it’s a better commute than from pick-a-campground to the nearest iffy internet cafe, and right now it’s a beautiful bike ride.

Booster Juice

I can’t describe to you the utter joy in a cup that this stuff is. It’s a huge cup of blended frozen fruit and yogurt and “boosters” of protein or natural fibers or ginger. It tastes like soft gelato, it’s cheap, and I think it’ll be what gets me through the late class. I’m hooked. I would go to school on campus if for no other reason than the availability of Booster Juice and the awesome profs.


There are resources on campus that I’ve never had access to before. Huge libraries, clubs, swimming pools and fitness centers I can use to my heart’s delight. Study spaces, and a wide range of student services to help students polish up their writing/study skills, get involved, and put entrepreneurial ideas to use. It’s amazing.


I’m missing the ability to manage my own schedule and do everything on my own time. I have to show up when they tell me to show up, where they tell me to show up, every weekday. This is the first time I’ve had my life scheduled out for me, ever. I’ve never worked a “real” job, where I have to go to work when someone else tells me to. I’ve never gone to a “real” school, where I have to be in a classroom when they tell me to be there. For the majority of my life, I’ve self-taught and figured out my own schedule. I miss that freedom.

On the plus side, I finished my homework two days ago, while many of my fellow first years are freaking out about how to do their out of class work on their own. There are upsides and downsides to this.

The High-school Vibe. 

Shoot me. I’m hating this part. I figured that by the time I reached on-campus university, most of the rest of my generation would have grown out of OMG and “the biebs”. Apparently not. This is an aspect of my generation I didn’t have to deal with on a daily basis when I was hundreds of miles away from my actual campus.

What is it with the weirdly whiney tone of voice that so many girls my age use? The one where the end of each sentence is held just a second longer than it ought to be, and the tone lilts higher or lower. That, and the “I’m mysterious and interesting” face. The one where the eyes are half lidded, the mouth is just slightly open, and the bottom lip droops. That’s not sexy. It’s just weird. You look like a really bored, slightly ill cat. Lastly, why is it that if I wear my black skinny jeans and a cute t-shirt, you’ll invite me to sit with you and laugh at my stories and want to stay in touch, but if I wear laced green boots, a leather hip pouch and a homemade jacket, you’ll roll your eyes at me, avoid me, and whisper to your friends to check out the weird girl? I’m the same person in here, guys, and you aren’t as cool as you think you are.

School Gear 

I thought this would weird me out, but it’s actually kind of fun. School shirts and sweaters, the funny tams with their red poms, the traditional jackets. I suppose it’s fun because everyone really gets into it and makes it fun. You don’t see that when you’re not on campus. Most of the kids here have worked really hard to get here, and are way more invested in the school traditions and their studies than I expected.


Queen’s University has much higher expectations for its students than Oregon State University does. Which makes sense. It’s one of the top four schools in Canada, and the kids who get in here are either very smart or well-to-do. Sometimes both. The schedule is a bit more challenging than I’m used to. I’m holding my own, and loving every minute of it. Everything I’m taking is extremely interesting, and most of my professors are incredible teachers (there’s always that one, right?). But dealing with those high expectations this first term might be a learning curve. I’m ready for it!

The realization I’ve come to is that there’s upsides and downsides to both learning on campus and taking distance courses.

Off campus, you have more control over your schedule and more flexibility in other areas of your life. On campus, you have more resources, a community, Booster Juice. I don’t think either one is inherently better. For me, taking online courses first was awesome because it allowed me to transfer to Queen’s without taking any of the hideously stressful tests, and I learned some things about time management, and I had time to figure out how to make some money online. But I’m glad I’ve transferred on campus and get to experience this as well. It’s been working out well. Hopefully next week goes just as smoothly!

One Reply to “10 Ways Higher Education On-Campus Differs From E-Distance University”

  1. Linda Sutherland says: Reply

    Yeah, Hannah!

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