Sarah Ukrainski By Sarah Ukrainski • August 14, 2015

What is the Difference Between Guided Study and Online Courses?

Take a moment to think of your commute to work each morning. Do you have a favorite route? It is because it is faster? Does it have less traffic? Is it more scenic? Whether you prefer to get to your destination as quickly as possible, or enjoy a leisurely drive to the office, at one point, you decided that this route was the best one for you.

When it comes to an online learning environment and planning your degree, you also have a choice to make in reaching your ultimate educational destination. Only now, you have to select the course route that best fits you.

One of the most common questions I get as an admissions counselor concerns the difference between a guided study course and an online course. Students are often unsure if they can excel in an interactive classroom environment or if working independently on their own time is better for them. Knowing what is involved in both course formats helps them figure out their best route.

What is the Difference?

One of the main differences is that online courses have a discussion board requirement that allows for classroom interaction, while the guided study courses do not. Online courses are interactive and feature contact with fellow students, while guided study courses tend to be a good fit for independent learners who do not need interaction with others. From there, I ask a series of questions that help students determine what type of learner they are.

How you answer these questions will help you decide if a guided study or online course is for you.

Online courses might be for you if:

  • Do you enjoy interacting with your mentor and classmates?
  • Are you a talker? Do you enjoy discussions?
  • Do you enjoy building relationships with your classmates and mentor?
  • Do you enjoy group projects?

Guided Study Courses might be for you if: 

  • Do you enjoy working independently?
  • Do you enjoy learning at your own pace?
  • Do you prefer to write a paper and take exams than interact with classmates?
  • Are you happier doing assignments on your own?

At the end of the day, only you can answer these questions. If you said yes to more than one course format, that is ok too. It is possible that more than one option offers the best method of learning on your educational journey. Try each course format, or mix and match your course options, and start planning your route to graduation.

Sarah Ukrainski

Written by Sarah Ukrainski

Sarah is a counselor in the Office of Admissions and Enrollment Services and joined the University in 2013. She earned a BSBA from Duquesne University. Sarah is a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and enjoys making annual trips with her family to Pittsburgh for games. Connect with her via email at

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