Classroom Learning vs. Online Learning – Which is Better?

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Updated January 2015

The development of online degrees and other educational programs has sparked a debate in more recent years as online and distance learning gains popularity. Many students wonder if they should take courses online or enroll in traditional classroom-based learning. Clearly there is a difference in student experience, however is there a difference in the quality of education from each type of program? Both online and traditional classroom programs have pros and cons to be considered.

classroomPros of classroom-based learning

Traditional classroom-based learning offer a unique experience since students get to have face-to-face interactions with their classmates and professors. When students have questions, the professor addresses them right away. Students develop their social network with their peers they meet in school. Younger students may actually learn better in social situations and benefit from the traditional classroom setting because of this. In the case of colleges or universities, students get to have more hands-on applications through on-the-job training programs and group projects that the school offers. The teacher can talk to students about many valuable life lessons that online modules don’t necessarily have. These are life changing experiences and they help get students ready for the real world.

Cons of classroom-based learning

Simply put, cost.  In addition to tuition and other fees, which are usually higher for traditional institutions, students also need to worry about the daily cost of living such as lodging, food, transportation and social activities. It is also very time-consuming and will demand a lot of the student’s time. Classes are generally held during the day, so students looking to still work full-time or even part-time at a traditional job are usually unable to attend classes at scheduled times. Self-sustaining students might have a difficult time working and studying at the same time, even with jobs held after classes. Depending on what program the student is in, they may be in school for a few months to a few years. For older students, going back to school might mean that they need to adjust to the new environment and younger classmates.

Pros of online classes

One of the main benefits of online learning is access to educational materials at all times. Online classes are very flexible when it comes to time, therefore these learning options are better for students wanting to maintain their current job and earn a degree at the same time. Programs are often very self-paced, allowing students to have full control on whether they want to go to the next stage or not. Students can take their classes anytime and anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection. There are online programs for very wide variety of subjects, satisfying many educational needs. Online programs also allow students to obtain degrees from well-renowned schools from a distance at a lower cost. Another pro of online learning is that it is less expensive to take compared to classroom-based programs and courses can be finished in a shorter or longer times if desired by the student. Especially if taken while still working, online courses can be completed by many students while taking out little to no student loans.

Cons of online classes

Online learning requires students to be disciplined, keep track of deadlines, and know how to navigate their program mostly on their own. It takes a motivated self-starter to persevere through an online degree, however the end result is incredibly rewarding. Students need to have a stable and reliable internet connection for classes. There are many fraud online schools on the internet, students need to be careful and choose a school that has passed the standards and is credited. Interaction is very limited. While students still have access to professors to ask questions and receive advice, these professors often have many more students than the traditional classroom setting and responses may be slower.

Whether the student chooses to pursue an online degree or to learn in a traditional classroom, hard work and perseverance are the most important elements in finishing either of them. Education is important and is always a worthwhile investment.

By: Nancy Claire – Degree Jungle writer, teacher, and researcher.

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