Online classes versus traditional in-person classes is a relatively new debate that has gained momentum since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the need to move exclusively to online classes in many settings, it has led to a discussion of whether online classes can create an effective learning environment. There are many factors, advantages, and disadvantages to consider when choosing which option is best for you.
Differences Between Online and Traditional Classes
Although there are many differences between online and traditional classes, according to a recent survey, educators are beginning to believe that online classes can provide effective learning just as much as traditional classes.
Even though more educators are beginning to see online classes as an asset, many students still believe they learn better in a traditional classroom setting. But before you write off online classes, here are the differences to consider when deciding which setting is right for you.
1. Social & Physical Interaction
A major difference between online classes and traditional learning is the type of interaction you have with your fellow students and teachers.
One of the disadvantages of online classes is the lack of in-person interaction. That said, you can still interact with classmates over video chat and through discussion boards to accomplish tasks.
In a traditional classroom environment, the conversation may flow more naturally than it can in an online class, allowing more of the material to be discussed. The traditional setting can also make it easier to get assistance with a question since it can be asked in real-time and have dialogue go back and forth. Still, online teachers are accessible through email and other forms of communication.
2. Learning Flexibility
One of the advantages of online classes is the amount of flexibility they provide in the learning environment. Many online classes will allow you to work at your own pace, while still having assignments or tests due at certain intervals.
Although this means you still have to keep up with the work regularly, the flexibility allows you to carry out your day how you need rather than fitting it around a class schedule. This can be helpful if you are working, are busy with kids, or would just like to have more control over your schedule.
3. Time and Place
In a traditional learning setting, you have to be in class at a certain time and place, which means taking the time to commute to college. You will have to schedule your day and week around classes, plus allow for time to complete reading and assignments outside of class.
With online classes, in many cases, you aren’t required to log in at a certain time, so it’s up to you to complete the work on your schedule. One of the other advantages of online classes is that they save commuting time since they can be completed anywhere.
4. Delivery of Educational Material & Testing
Knowing how you learn best can be helpful to determine which class method is right for you. For instance, if you are a visual learner, an online class may suit you well.
In a traditional class setting, the professor may lecture on the material without using any visual aids. You are expected to learn the material from the lecture and homework to then be tested on it.
On the other hand, some learners prefer to attend in-person classes because they can more easily engage with the professor and ask questions.
If you decide to take online classes, you’ll need to be self-disciplined. Taking a traditional, in-person class forces you to show up to class and stay involved. Taking an online class requires more planning to decide when you will have your own class time to read and complete required assignments.
When weighing the pros and cons of online learning, one important distinction is the cost difference between online classes versus traditional college classes. The cost of college includes tuition, fees, and transportation costs at a minimum.
Online classes are typically less expensive because they’re often less expensive for the school to offer. The college doesn’t have to provide a classroom or lab materials, and there’s no commuting cost for the students. The cost savings is one of the advantages of online classes.
7. Learning Outcomes
In traditional face-to-face classes, the objective might be to learn the material to pass the exam at the end of the course. With online classes, the learning outcome may lean more towards learning the material at your own pace to gain skills. This difference can make online classes seem like a better option in some instances.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Face-to-Face Learning
Traditional face-to-face learning is what we generally accept as the norm, but it still has its advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Face-to-Face Learning:
- Discussions flow naturally and questions can be answered in real-time
- Stronger social interaction and connection
- Fewer distractions in a classroom than at home
Disadvantages of Face-to-Face Learning:
- Commuting to class takes additional time
- Classes may not be available at your ideal time and you have to structure your day around the set class times
- Cost is typically more expensive
Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Classes
Online classes are gaining in popularity, but they may not be the right fit for everyone. Here are some pros and cons of online learning:
Advantages of Online Classes:
- Scheduling flexibility
- May be more affordable
- Can work better for different learning styles
Disadvantages of Online Classes:
- Requires significant self-discipline
- Less social interaction
- No real-time discussion
Blended & Hybrid Learning
Blended learning and hybrid learning are similar, but they offer two different learning models.
Blended learning is an education model where all students attend class in person, but they engage in nonparallel, online learning methods outside of the classroom. For instance, students may meet in a classroom for discussion but watch instructional videos or submit all of their assignments online.
Hybrid learning is an education model where students attend class in person and through online platforms. In essence, this method uses nonparallel teaching methods to supplement face-to-face learning.
After weighing the pros and cons of online learning and traditional learning, you may realize that both offer perks that interest you. Blending learning and hybrid learning education models are alternative options that are a middle ground between full online or face-to-face learning.
Is It Better to Take Classes Online or In-Person?
Deciding whether it is better to take classes online or in-person is ultimately up to you. Determine your learning style and consider all the benefits and drawbacks to find the best fit. If both options seem appealing, see if blended or hybrid learning is available.
Don’t Let Cost Hold You Back From Your Preferred Learning Environment
Once you determine which learning environment you prefer, the next step is choosing the right source of funding for your classes. If you need some help paying for school, consider applying for private student loans with ELFI.*