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Written by:
Martin Barrett
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Online Learning vs Traditional Learning: Which is Better?

Online learning vs traditional learning: Which Is Better?

If you’re considering returning to online education then you may be considering online learning instead of traditional learning.

Maybe your company wants to further educate its staff and is considering whether classroom or web-based learning will be the better option.

Online learning has become very popular in recent years but is it better than traditional learning? In this article, we will look at which is better online learning vs traditional learning

What are Online Learning and Traditional Learning?

Before we start comparing the two forms of learning and discover which is better, we should define exactly what we mean by online learning and traditional learning.

What is Online Learning?

Online learning is learning delivered by digital platforms. There is no need to go to a classroom or online education center as everything is online and can be accessed via a computer. 

Studying is typically done individually and although there may be deadlines and a timescale for completion, students can choose their own pace and method of studying.

Learning can be delivered in a variety of forms, such as text, video chat, and even through social interaction methods.

What is Traditional Learning?

When we talk about traditional learning we’re referring to the more classic learning styles that sees students learn in a classroom environment.

There is usually an educator, such as a teacher or lecturer, that delivers the knowledge and controls the online coursework. 

Students must achieve regular attendance the online classes in person in order to get the information they need to complete the course.

Traditional learning is usually done in groups that can vary greatly in number and the information is delivered in the manner decided by the educator.

What Are The Positives of Online Learning?

Now that we know what the two types of learning are, we should look at the positives of each learning style. We’ll begin by looking at the positives of online learning first.

You Can Study at Your Own Pace

When studying online, students can take as much or as little time as they need to go through the information.

They can do one study session a day or several and have the luxury of reading through the materials at their own pace.

The pace of classroom learning is typically dictated by the educator and the overall pace of the class.

This can often leave advanced students frustrated by the slow pace as well as less advanced students confused if things move too quickly. 

Online learning takes away this frustration and confusion as students can work through things quickly if they understand the material, or take their time and research further if they don’t.

You Can Choose Your Own Schedule

Traditional schooling typically follows a Monday to Friday, nine to five schedule.

Some adult online education courses might have evening online classes scheduled, but the student is always constricted by the schedule imposed on them by the school.

This can make fitting in online classes very difficult if the student has other commitments.

Many courses are completely incompatible with continuing to work and if a student has family commitments, there may be situations that arise that mean they can’t attend a class.

Online learning, however, can be done at any time. Students can fit their studying around the other commitments and their own preferences.

There is no need to study during weekdays if the student doesn’t want to.

Many students prefer to study at weekends and many find themselves more productive and open to learning in the early hours of the morning or late at night. Online learning gives the freedom and flexibility to study at any time.

Create Your Own Studying Style

When learning in a classroom, students are often constricted by the teaching style of their educator.

Traditional Classes can mean simply sitting in silence and taking notes as the educator speaks for an hour or more. It’s easy to miss information this way and can leave students feeling lost and in the worst cases, bored.

With online learning, students are given more time to absorb and process the knowledge in the way they want to.

Students can still take notes if they wish, but there are several other methods they can use without having to worry about missing information.

Students can also choose how and where they study. Some students benefit from plowing through information in complete silence whereas others work better with some music or background noise.

These aren’t options in traditional learning environments.

More Cost Effective

Learning is expensive. Regardless of whether you are leaning online or through traditional classrooms, you will be hit with several fees for your course. 

However, online learning has less additional fees than traditional learning does. As you can study from home, you don’t need to worry about additional housing or transportation costs.

Studying in a traditional classroom often means buying food and drink but these costs are less when studying at home.

Online learning can also be more cost effective for the traditional education institution as well.

Generally, producing e-learning content is cheaper than printed resources and once the course is online, it can be reused by online and traditional classes. There is no need to pay for equipment or premises either.

What Are the Drawbacks of Online Learning?

Online learning isn’t all positive, however. There are some ways that online learning fails and can become difficult for students.

Students Need To Be Self-Reliant

With no set schedule to follow, it is down to the students to set their own schedule and stick to it.

This requires a lot of self-motivation and accountability from students, especially if they have other commitments to manage as well. Many students thrive with this freedom, but others benefit from more structure.

Students Can Feel Isolated

Online learning is primarily done alone and there are no fellow students to speak with. Some online institutions might have platforms in place for students to converse, but studying online can feel isolating at times.

It’s entirely possible to go through an online course without directly speaking to anyone at all. For many students, the social aspect of learning is a good reason to stick with traditional classroom learning.

What Are the Positives of Traditional Learning?

What Are the Positives of Traditional Learning?

After looking at the positives of online learning, it’s only fair that we now look at the positives of traditional learning. 

More Daily Interaction With Educators

Traditional learning forces students to be in the same room as their educators throughout the course.

The lessons are delivered by educators and students have the opportunity to speak to their teachers and lecturers outside of the classroom as well.

Most educators will be available for additional support and feedback and it’s easy for students in the traditional learning advantages of this.

Online students can have interaction with their educators as well, but this is often less frequent and can be more difficult to arrange.

The information is delivered through a computer and there are little to no chances to meet face to face. Although some students can thrive without this interaction, many students prefer to speak with their educators.

More Daily Interaction With Other Students

Online learning is very isolated. Many institutions of online learning might have systems for students to contact each other for support and advice, but it can’t compare to being in a room with several other students.

Traditional college experience is better than online learning. It’s easier to make friends and discuss the course material with other students.

Group discussions or projects are easier to coordinate when everyone is in the same space and many students benefit from the additional support of being around others.

Regular Schedule Benefits Many

Traditional learning sets out a student’s schedule for them and expects them to commit to attend online classes.

Many students benefit from this structure and find it easier to attend classes and find the time to study when they have definitive times to stick to.

Online learning requires a lot of self-motivation and determination to stick to a schedule. When you schedule your own study sessions and only have yourself to answer to, it’s easy to delay and cancel sessions.

However, traditional learning often has a requirement to attend a certain percentage of classes in order to successfully complete the course and this can be a great motivation for students,

Easier to Ask For Additional Help

Often, the information and material given to students can be difficult to understand.

There are many reasons for this, but it is likely that at some point, a student will need some additional help to understand part of the course materials.

In a traditional learning environment, it is easy for a student to ask a fellow student or the educator for help.

Students can form study groups to help and support each other and depending on the confidence level of the student, they may even be able to ask the educator for more clarification during the class.

If not, they can speak to the educator after the class.

However, online students don’t have these advantages. They’re usually learning alone and might not have any contact with other students at all.

Being able to further research the subject online class can help but there may be times when the information online is lacking as well.

What Are the Drawbacks of Traditional Learning?

Again, after looking at the drawbacks of online learning we will now look at the drawbacks of traditional learning as well.

You Need to Travel

Unless you’re lucky enough to live right next door to the classroom, attending class in a traditional school is always going to include travel.

This can add both an extra expense to your studying and steal precious time that could be better spent studying or doing something else.

Many students prefer to study from the comfort of their own home and avoid the commute.

Traditional Learning Doesn’t Always Fit Around Other Commitments

If you are going to continue working while you study, you might find it difficult to fit traditional classes around your work schedule.

Although some employers are willing to be flexible, especially if the course is directly related to the job, others aren’t. You will also need to consider your family commitments as well.


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Classroom Learning Doesn’t Suit All Students

Sitting in a classroom and moving at the pace of the educator doesn’t suit every student. Some find it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time or are more productive at different times of the day.

With traditional learning, the style and delivery of the material doesn’t take into account each individual student because this is impossible. Online learning, however, is dictated by the student themselves.

Which is Better: Online Learning or Traditional Learning?

Ultimately, there is no definitive answer to this question. For some people, traditional learning will be better but for others, online learning will suit them more. 

Both forms of learning are effective at delivering information and can help students successfully complete their online courses and get the qualifications they want.

Both are proven to be effective forms of learning and have high success rates.

The best form of distance learning depends entirely on the student. Some students need the structure of traditional learning and thrive in a classroom environment.

However, other students find this stifling and study better when they have control of their learning and pace.

If you’re wondering which form of learning is best for you, you should read through our advantages and drawbacks and decide which type of learning seems best for you. 

Can you create and stick to your own schedule? Do you like learning on your own? If so, then online learning might be the best option for you.

However, if you need some structure and direction, then traditional learning might be what you need.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we looked at the benefits and drawbacks of both online learning and traditional learning.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages and there is no definitive answer as to which is better. You will need to consider your needs and see which suits you best.

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