02 June 2020

Matthew O'Connor

Marketing Manager

Online learning has lifted a lot of the barriers to entry that previously limited access to education. Never before has there been as many routes open to somebody wanting to educate themselves as there are today.

That said, many learners still have to weigh up whether online courses or face-to-face learning will be more beneficial to them. So, is online learning more effective than classroom learning?

The case for classroom learning

We all know the advantages of learning in a classroom since most of us complete all of our compulsory education in schools. The benefits of classroom learning include:

  • Subject expert teachers.
  • Immediate help and support.
  • A multi-sensory experience.
  • Face-to-face peer feedback and interaction.
  • Widely known accreditation systems.

Classroom learning is familiar to us and remains the conventional route to follow. But that doesn’t necessarily make it the right one.

Why e-learning is better than classroom learning

For all the advantages of face-to-face learning, there is a strong case to be made that online learning is better than classroom learning. Here are some areas in which e-learning has the edge over traditional learning.

Finance

Money is a key, and often decisive, factor for learners choosing between online learning and classroom learning. Attending a university usually entails housing costs of £6,528-£19,080 (depending on the location of the university) on top of enormous tuition fees.

Online learning gives you access to courses from the top universities in the world absolutely free. For instance, Harvard offers many of its prestigious courses for free via its website (albeit you do have to pay for formal qualifications after completing a course). Previously, accessing these educational materials was over budget for most learners.

Financially, it’s a no-brainer. Online courses give you the education you want at a much lower cost, so you can save your money and avoid going into debt as a result of your search for knowledge.

Choice

Classroom learning restricts you to courses that are available within institutions you can feasibly access. That might be limited by admissions processes, geography and immigration laws. With online learning, you have access to courses from around the world and can choose the one that’s right for you. The choices are vast and far exceed the offering at any educational institution that’s within your reach.

It’s worth saying that the variety of choice brings with it a variety of standards. It’s important to invest time in ensuring the online learning you plan to undertake will deliver the accreditation and quality of education you want.

Time and flexibility

Whereas classroom learning is dependent on you being in the classroom with your teacher and peers at an agreed time, online learning is easier to fit around your life.

That might mean changing the time you do your course each week depending on work shifts or home life. Or it could mean stretching out the course longer than you would be able to stay at a university to fit your studies around full-time work or full-time caring.

Blended learning

Until fairly recently, online learning has generally required the learner to have stronger self-discipline and take greater responsibility for their own studies than might be the case in a classroom. In 2012, Mark Edmundson, an English professor at the University of Virginia argued that online courses create a “monologue and not a real dialogue”.

Since Edmundson wrote that, the lines between classroom learning and online learning have become increasingly blurred. Improvements in technology, such as faster broadband, better video conferencing and more advanced learning management systems, have increased the dialogue between teacher and online learner. This blended learning replicates many of the benefits of face-to-face learning which, as recent global events have shown, can no longer be taken for granted. At a time when classroom learning is not possible, purpose-built online learning is better than classroom learning with a retro-fitted online element.

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