Online vs. In-Class Learning: How Do They Compare?

By , UniversityHerald Reporter

Photo by Teemu Paananen on Unsplash

Photo : Teemu Paananen on Unsplash

With changing technologies and arising global challenges, learners, educators, and other players in the education industry have no option but to adapt. The current digital era enables friends and family to connect through platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, and WhatsApp. Instructional and learning methods have also followed suit.

There is no doubt that digital learning is currently very valuable, quickly replacing traditional physical classes. More learning institutions and universities have adopted online learning programs, enabling students from various locations to conveniently access the best online masters and post-graduate courses. Keep reading to learn how online classes compare to physical in-class learning.

Online Classes Make Education Accessible

The introduction of online programs positively "disrupted" education. Initially, schools could only be conducted physically, which made it impossible for those who couldn't attend. Fortunately, these physical impediments don't affect online learning. Online programs offer opportunities to more people from diverse locations.

Digital learning has allowed learners to flexibly advance their knowledge and switch to different careers. It presents a perfect opportunity for those with strict schedules, family commitments, or who can't resign from their employment positions to attend classes. Interestingly, studies done to analyze the effectiveness of digital learning found that students who learn online perform slightly better than traditional in-class students.

Technology has also made it easier for instructors or teachers to achieve better learning outcomes, be it in a physical or virtual learning environment. Advancing technology has amplified gamification or play-based learning, typically used in online classes. Gamification uses language-based apps, enabling learners to master their preferred languages easily using virtual contests with instant rewards.

Digital Learning Has Limitations Too

While online learning has tremendous benefits, it has some drawbacks too. For instance, teachers need unique skills and approaches to deliver lessons online, which is quite challenging for teachers used to a traditional teaching environment. For remote learning to become effective, the course content should significantly impact the learner's progress. It should be of high quality and tailored to suit the online learning environment. Just like the success of physical classes requires extensive preparation and a deep understanding of in-class teaching theories and best practices, the same applies to online learning.

Interactions are important to any learning process. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the main barrier to effective learning is the teacher's inability to connect with and identify the needs of learners. Beating this challenge becomes difficult if teachers can't spend time with students in a physical classroom environment, especially if online lessons are delivered to a large group rather than one-on-one or small groups.

In-Class Learning Has Additional Challenges

Social and economic backgrounds are significant barriers to accessing physical education. Physical classes also have size restrictions, forcing most schools to prioritize local students. This excludes most students from learning, especially in countries where education is not freely available.


Online and in-person classes have significant benefits and drawbacks. Both learning methods are excellent methods of achieving exemplary learning outcomes. However, advancing technology has made online learning a preferred method, especially for postgraduate degrees. Some learning centers have adapted a creative hybrid solution, which combines in-person and online learning modalities.

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