What is an example compare and contrast essay?

This is the third and final chapter about Compare and Contrast Essays. To complete this reader, read each chapter carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Provide a model 5-paragraph, 1,000-word essay that compares and contrasts two concepts

– Highlight useful transitional devices for the reader

– Provide compare and contrast language structures

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Chapter 3

The following five-paragraph, 1,000-word essay has been provided for you as an example of a compare and contrast essay about online and face-to-face degree programmes. The language of signalling comparisons and contrasts which was outlined in the previous chapter has been highlighted for you here.


Compare and Contrast Essay Question:

Compare and contrast online and face-to-face undergraduate degrees in terms of their course content and student learning experience.


Compare and Contrast Example Essay:

The demand for online education began in the 1990s with the introduction of the internet.1 Since 1994 specifically, the market for online tertiary programmes has grown substantially, perhaps most notably between 2009 and 2019 when there was a reported 200% increase in enrolment in online degrees in the United States alone (Adams, 2019).2 Online degrees appear to be increasingly a part of both educational and even political agendas, following the ideal that education should be more accessible for all demographics (Bearfiled, 2016).3 However, despite their increase in popularity and enrolment, the extent to which online degrees are comparable with traditional face-to-face (F2F) on-campus degrees requires investigation.4 This paper therefore conducts a comparison of these two degree types, ultimately determining that while the knowledge gain for both degrees is equitable, the skills developed and required to achieve the qualification may be different.5 Course content is compared across the two degree types by first investigating the quality of the awarded certificate and by then exploring the learning materials and assessments.6 Finally, the learning experience is investigated through a consideration of how classroom-based interactions contrast with autonomous home-based study.7

Generally, while the learning outcomes of an online and F2F certification are much the same, how these qualifications are perceived may differ among employers.8 Whether studying online or in person, if a student is enrolled onto a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in English Literature at The University of California for example, the qualification they graduate with should theoretically be equitable.9 In many cases, the graduating certificate therefore provides zero distinction between the two degrees (HEW, 2012), yet there has historically been a perceived belief reported among hiring panels that online degrees are of less value (Brakes, 2006).10 It is argued that this perception is underpinned by the idea that a student must work harder to maintain attendance, participation and engagement if taking an on-campus degree, demonstrating a wider and more transferable set of skills (Brakes, 2006, pp. 75-76).11 This perception has nevertheless decreased over the last decade, possibly as a result of the increase in standardised, accredited and well-established universities offering online programmes over the less-reputed private or smaller institutions (HEW, 2012).12 Ultimately, if each degree has the same set of learning objectives and is therefore able to offer the same certification, then in this aspect of content the two qualifications should be equitable.13

Using the BA English Literature degree as a further example, if online or F2F degrees are indeed equitable then students should also be provided with equivalent learning materials.14 Research suggests that online and F2F degrees such as the ones offered by the University of California do in fact tend to have comparable reading lists, have access to the same digital institutional resources, and are usually required to purchase the same core textbooks with instruction to read and complete the same or very similar weekly tasks (University of Openness, 2019).15 This evidence therefore implies that these two degree types are equivalent in content and materials.16 However, one significant contrast between online and in-person degrees is that the assessments may be quite different.17 While F2F students can be tested through presentations, seminar discussions and invigilated examinations, students who take online programmes are typically more restricted to essays and online quizzes (Brakes, 2006).18 Nevertheless, because many degrees test predominantly through papers and examinations, this difference may be somewhat overstated.19 What this evidence perhaps illuminates is that provided the examinations of both online and F2F degrees are primarily written instead of practical, these degrees should be equitable in terms of content.20

However, just as the assessment approach is restricted by format, the learning experience of the student also appears to differ between online and F2F degrees.21 F2F students are able to engage and learn through a more social and dynamic environment for example, with in-person contact and feedback and the ability to share information with peers and professors through seminars and lectures (Brakes, 2006).22 On the other hand, the online student is required to engage with the course alone, learning predominantly through readings and media materials.23 Research suggests that this fundamental difference means that a student studying online will most likely require stronger autonomous study skills and a stronger sense of responsibility for their own learning to remain motivated (Adams, 2019, p. 62).24 This difference in learning experiences may result in online learners being less motivated.25 It may also possibly account for the reports of a fifteen percent higher likelihood for withdrawal among online learners than F2F students (HEW, 2012).26 One study also showed that F2F students tend to graduate with an overall higher percentile (Tonis, 2019), further indicating that the experience of online qualifications are not comparable to the experience of classroom-based degrees.27

To conclude, while it would seem that online and F2F degrees are comparable in both the content that is studied and the overall value of the degree, the learning experience of the students is somewhat dissimilar.28 An online student may have to be more motivated and quickly develop a sturdier set of study skills than their campus counterpart, although the common requirement of writing essays and sitting examinations means that the same knowledge and skills for both degrees should be measured.29 Peer and professor interactions are certainly more limited if a degree is studied online however, potentially creating weaker relationships that may contribute to a lower retention rate for online undergraduate courses.30 It is perhaps worth highlighting though that this paper did not consider which types of degrees are currently available online.31 One worthwhile question to ask might be whether online degrees are only viable for certain disciplines and what this means for the future of online and F2F education.32 Similarly, this paper focused wholly on undergraduate programmes, while the comparison instead of postgraduate courses may illuminate other contrasts.33 It is generally regarded, for example, that postgraduate students are more motivated, suggesting that retention rates might be higher among online students who have already developed the essential autonomous study skills.34

Word count: 990



Adams, P. (2019) ‘Digital degrees and the future of higher education in the US’, Journal of Education, 13(1) 57-69.

Bearfiled, F. (2016) ‘Education and minorities; a new era for adult education,’ Available at: www.therichmondbroadksheet.co.edu (Accessed: 1st April 2019).

Brakes, T. (2006) Business graduate on the job. Palmoils: New York.

Higher Education Watch (2012) Commodifying education – the paper and value. Palgraved: London.

Tonis, D. (2019) ‘Online education paving the green path for our future’, Journal of Environmental Technology and Education, 8(2), pp. 45-61.

University of Openness (2019) Syllabus and assessment for the 1920 academic year. Available at: ww.UOO/page-01/syllabysass1920/.ak.au (Accessed: 30th May 2019).

*Please note that these references and the evidence contained within this essay are fictitious.

To reference this reader:

Academic Marker (2022) Compare and Contrast Essays. Available at: https://academicmarker.com/essay-writing/essay-types/compare-and-contrast-essays/ (Accessed: Date Month Year).

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Chapter 1 explores the topic: Why compare and contrast in academic English? Our Chapter 1 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button.

Chapter 2 explores the topic: What makes a compare-contrast essay successful? Our Chapter 2 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button. 

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