Choosing the Right Path: Comparing Online vs. In-Person Educator Preparation Programs 

As a current or aspiring educator seeking U.S. teaching certification, one of the most significant decisions you’ll make is choosing the right Educator Preparation Program (EPP). A significant part of this decision can start with a seemingly simple question: Do you want to learn online, in-person, or both?  

I have completed online, in-person, and hybrid degree programs. When starting out 30+ years ago, in-person was my only option for earning a degree and going back to graduate school to advance my career as a teacher.  

Much later in my career, online and hybrid programs became options, and I was curious! At the time, I was looking to return to grad school to earn a doctoral degree, but I traveled a lot for work at that point in my career. So, going to an in-person school was not an option for me. I needed high quality, flexibility, engaged faculty, and 24/7 access to my learning platform. 

My curiosity took me to a fully online university where I earned my doctoral degree. It was a phenomenal experience! The curriculum was rigorous and very similar to what I experienced in my in-person programs. The faculty was stellar and extremely attentive. I also had my own program coordinator who guided me through the program and helped answer tuition-related questions. My classmates and I became close, and we supported each other all throughout the program.  

Today, I am honored to lead Moreland University — a fully online program in which our candidates and faculty meet each week via Zoom to create a strong sense of community and deeply engaged learning. As someone who has benefited from an online degree, I feel a great sense of commitment to our learners around the world — ensuring they have the highest quality, innovative learning experience in our modern world!  

As you consider your right-fit teacher preparation program, the choice between an online, in-person, or hybrid program can greatly impact your educational experience and career trajectory. 

To help you navigate this critical decision and choose the right EPP for your needs, you should explore the pros and cons of both online and in-person learning formats.   

Online Educator Preparation Programs: Embracing Flexibility and Innovation 

Pros of online EPPs 

  • Flexibility: One of the most compelling advantages of an online EPP is the flexibility it offers. You can study anytime and anywhere, making it an ideal option for working professionals (including conditionally certified teachers) or those with busy schedules. This flexibility allows you to balance your studies with other personal and professional commitments seamlessly. 
  • Speed to Completion: Online programs can often be accessed more easily and often than traditional programs, so you can complete your program and earn your teaching licensure in less time. Moreland University offers a 9-month pathway to earn your teacher credentials.   
  • Cost-Effective: Online programs often offer lower tuition compared to their in-person counterparts. Additionally, you save on commuting costs and potential relocation expenses. This cost-effectiveness makes pursuing your teaching certification more accessible and affordable.  
  • Access to Diverse Resources: Online EPPs often provide access to a wide range of digital materials, including interactive modules, video lectures, and e-books. Online programs at Moreland do not require you to purchase textbooks or pay fees, and Moreland has a full online digital library for access to quality research, including a large library of video tutorials.  
    Moreover, these programs often have a global reach, offering opportunities to connect with a diverse network of educators worldwide. For instance, globally minded programs like those offered at Moreland University facilitate networking with educators from various cultural backgrounds — enriching your learning experience.   
  • Self-Paced Learning: Many online programs allow you to progress at your own speed. This self-paced learning enables you to tailor your study schedule to fit your unique needs, ensuring you can thoroughly grasp each concept before moving on. This personalized approach can enhance your overall understanding and retention of the material.  
  • Broader Network: Online programs can help you build a broader professional network. By interacting with peers and instructors from around the globe, you can gain diverse perspectives and insights, which can be incredibly beneficial in your teaching career. This global network can open doors to international teaching opportunities and collaborations. With a unique online global cohort model, Moreland University has supported educators in 165+ countries — enabling candidates to learn with and from educators around the world, build strong and trusting relationships, and benefit from a robust and welcoming alumni network that helps open doors.  

Potential Cons of Online EPPs 

  • Limited Face-to-Face Interaction: One potential downside of an online EPP is the reduced opportunity for in-person networking. While you can still interact with peers and instructors virtually, the spontaneity of face-to-face discussions and collaborative learning may be less frequent. Moreland combats this by having weekly Zoom engagement directly with your faculty and classmates paired with self-paced learning opportunities.   
  • Technical Requirements: Reliable internet access and adequate technology are essential for online learning. Technical difficulties can disrupt your studies, so it’s crucial to ensure you have the necessary resources and support.  
  • Self-Discipline Needed: Online learning requires strong time-management skills and self-discipline. Without frequently structured class times, there’s a higher potential for procrastination, which can impact your progress if not managed effectively. Programs with regularly scheduled online or Zoom engagement with a faculty member and other candidates can help you stay motivated and on track.   
  • Perception and Recognition: With so many learning options of varying quality readily available online, there can be some skepticism about the quality of online learning programs. That’s why it’s essential to choose an accredited and well-regarded institution, like the fully accredited Moreland University, for your EPP. 

In-Person Educator Preparation Programs: The Traditional Approach 

Pros of in-person EPPs 

  • Direct Interaction: In-person programs offer immediate feedback from instructors and face-to-face networking opportunities with peers and faculty. This direct interaction can foster strong relationships and collaborative learning experiences.  
  • Structured Environment: Fixed schedules and physical classrooms provide a structured learning environment. This can help you maintain a steady pace and focus — reducing the chances of falling behind in your studies.  
  • Readily Available Resources: Access to campus resources like libraries, labs, and real-time practice teaching opportunities can enhance your practical skills as you progress through your EPP.   
  • Established Reputation: Many in-person programs are well-established with strong local connections and a recognized reputation. Like accredited online universities, these programs often have a history of producing successful educators that can be appealing to employers. 

Potential Cons of In-Person EPPs 

  • Less Flexibility: Fixed class times and the requirement to be physically present can limit flexibility. This may pose challenges for those with personal commitments, full time jobs (such as those teaching with a provisional license while pursuing their professional U.S. teaching certification), or those living in remote areas.  
  • Higher Costs: Tuition for in-person programs is often higher than their online counterparts and can include additional fees. There are also costs for commuting, accommodation (including any relocation expenses), and other materials. These expenses can add up, making the overall cost of an in-person EPP more substantial.  
  • Time-Consuming: Commuting to campus and participating in on-campus classes and activities can be time-consuming. This can leave less time for part-time work or other responsibilities, hobbies, or social commitments — potentially impacting your work-life balance.  
  • Limited Course Availability: In-person programs may have restricted course offerings based on local demand. This limitation can make it challenging to find specialized courses or tailor the program to your specific interests and needs.  
  • Limited Network: Building your educator network is crucial for career growth. An in-person program may limit the scope of your network to educators in your immediate geographical area, which could restrict your opportunities for broader professional connections. 

Online vs In-Person EPP: Making the Right Choice for You  

Both online and in-person EPPs have their unique advantages and challenges. Your choice ultimately depends on your personal circumstances, learning style, and career goals. 

Online programs offer unparalleled flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and access to a diverse, global network — making them an excellent option for many aspiring educators. However, the structured environment and hands-on experiences of in-person programs can also provide significant benefits. 

Consider these factors carefully to make an informed decision that best suits your path to becoming a fully certified educator. Whether you choose an online or in-person EPP, both pathways can lead to a successful and fulfilling teaching career. 

Moreland’s online EPP can help you get fully certified and thrive.  

Our 100% online TEACH-NOW Teacher Preparation Certificate Program can be completed in just 9 months and includes 12 weeks of in-person clinical learning (student teaching) in a school near you. Request more information here to discover how Moreland can help you get your U.S. teaching certification and unlock your full potential as an educator.