College: Comparing Online Learning With Traditional Classrooms

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Distance learning is a staple in most colleges these days. While years ago it was an underutilized option, today colleges across the globe are offering online learning options. Online courses are listed and promoted in catalogues and advertisements just like traditional classes.

Now in 2015 the line between online and traditional education has become pretty blurred. What used to be two distinct ways to engage in learning has evolved into more of a hybrid model. Many traditional classrooms have an online requirement linked to the course.

While the line has blurred, there are still also definitive differences between online and traditional education. Many students like to take on a mix and match philosophy and gain the best experience from both worlds, others stay dedicated to their preferred method of learning. Is online learning or traditional classrooms better suited for you? Here are a few of the distinct attributes to explore before deciding which route of education to take.

Comparing Online Learning with Traditional Classrooms 


Online learning offers far more flexibility than its brick and mortar counterpart. Students who attend classes through the Web interface are afforded the ability to log on at anytime and anywhere to check in on class. With the traditional classroom environment students are restricted to the designated time their class meets. Attendance is compulsory and is factored into a final grade so students must attend class in order to receive the best grade they can.

For some students, the rigidness of attending campus for class is not convenient when other family and job responsibilities take priority. Online learning effectively erases many time constraints or barriers that would impede a student’s education.

Social Interaction

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Traditional campus life offers a much higher degree of social interaction with professors, staff and other students. While online programs are trying hard to reduce this effect, despite any progress made, it will never be able to completely close the gap between technology and human contact. If in-person social interaction, sports, clubs and campus life are an important factor for a student, online learning may not be the right route to take.

Digital vs. Tangible Materials

Many online classes have navigated to using eBooks and for students who prefer hard copy books find they have to pay for both the eBook and the text since the eBook expense is bundled with registration. Traditional classroom learning works off of slideshows, lectures, blackboards and textbooks (or e-books). Online learning consists of slideshows over the Internet, text lectures, Web links and discussion boards. The objectives are both the same, but the road traveled to meet those goals are sometimes designed differently. Although this line has definitely blurred in the past 10 years.

Lectures vs. Message Boards

The aforementioned lectures are an important facet to consider when choosing the right style of learning. Auditory learners will probably find a higher degree of retaining information learned in the traditional classroom while students who learn through visuals or reading will fare just as well in an online course. Although, many online classes are now holding weekly meetings in video or verbal web conferences. If this is important to you, be sure to research the approaches taken by professors.

The key factor in today’s educational environments is choice. For some students online learning offers the opportunity to pursue a dream which wouldn’t have been attainable otherwise; for others the traditional classroom is not going anywhere anytime soon. Students today have the best of both worlds and plenty of options.

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