Students may not have a wide range of educational opportunities if they live in a tiny town in a developing country. Similarly, if a student wants to study a specific subject or learn from a particular teacher, they may need to relocate to the city or town where the school is located. This issue is addressed through online learning. The same information is available at all locations – from a village to a metropolis, provided there is internet connectivity. This makes the geographic area a key differentiator between online and traditional classes.
The interaction with the teacher and fellow students is one of the key highlights (and advantages) of a traditional classroom setting. Social learning encompasses informal chats, group work, and classroom interactions. Teachers can use forums or breakout rooms for group work to imitate comparable interactions in an online learning environment, but informal meetings in classrooms, corridors, or break rooms are difficult to replicate online. It is not uncommon for some students to report feeling lonely when taking online classes since studying via a screen and browser at home or work does not require human contact.
A typical classroom setup provides a well-structured, well-organized lesson plan and schedule. Students must attend a class at a specified hour or miss the lesson and the teacher’s material. The teacher, whose job is to provide material to students entertainingly and engagingly, and fellow students, who may debate course content before or after class, motivate each other.
On the other hand, online students set the learning speed and must be self-disciplined enough to devote time each day to completing course material. They may be required to complete all components of an online course by a specific date. This is open-ended in other circumstances. While there may be online discussion boards or the option of video conference or instant communication with other students for students taking an online course, students must motivate themselves to continue and finish their online education.
In most cases, traditional classes are held at a fixed time and location. Students are given a weekly schedule of their classes, and the teachers expect them to show up for a class at the designated hour. If a student has missed a class, there may be an opportunity to catch up on some work, but it will almost certainly be of lower quality than the lesson initially delivered. Also, if a student misses too many scheduled classes, they may be denied the opportunity to write the final exam. For some students with outside commitments, such as family or career, this time dependency makes traditional schooling problematic. In situations like these, online education offers much-needed headroom and flexibility. Students can access a course at any time of day or night and work through the material at their own pace. They will get the same lesson content as other students who finish the course, and they will not be penalized if they do not log in at the same time.
Furthermore, asynchronous classes are easier to take up in an online learning environment. Students can complete courses whenever they have time because there is no specific completion date. Most online courses have established completion requirements, such as reading or watching all content and completing an online evaluation, rather than set online time restrictions. Therefore, students who work full-time or need to care for a family member will benefit from the flexibility given by online learning.
The rising costs of master’s degrees have become a chief deciding factor for most students. Although there are scholarships and grants available for the taking, the cost of higher education can be prohibitively high, with student boarding, lodging, meals, transport, general living expenses, etc., to consider. Online classes take away most such costs in that students can sit in the comfort of their homes and not have to worry about commuting to college or living in a dorm. Generally speaking, online programs tend to cost less than their traditional counterparts. So, while conventional schooling can be an excellent choice for many students, those for whom cost is a critical factor would most likely prefer online schooling.