Online and in-person classes have four key areas – location, interaction, flexibility, and cost – that set them apart. Assessing these differences can help you choose between the two learning modes.
Depending on where a student lives, location can be a factor in choosing which school to attend. A student who lives in an underdeveloped area or small town will only be able to access a narrow range of educational opportunities. In such cases, they must relocate to cities where they can take up traditional programs or choose online learning to access quality education. The curriculum of a program remains the same whether accessed in-person or online. However, some degrees require on-field experience, in-person laboratory work, and so on.
The highlight of a traditional class is the face-to-face interaction students get with their teachers and peers; communication is constant as the teaching in the classroom is simultaneous. Two-way communication is also possible in online classes, but the interaction between students, peers, and teachers is determined by whether the learning is asynchronous or synchronous. Interaction can happen through informal chats, classroom interactions, group interactions, work, breakout rooms, and online forums in an online degree. Social interaction is an essential aspect of any education. Even though online learning allows students to share their opinions with others, the scope of communication beyond the screen is generally limited. The communication students have with each other on campus is immeasurable regarding the human contact one receives. Studies have shown the importance of social interaction in maintaining one’s mental health; hence, one must evaluate this factor critically before deciding about online or in-person schooling.
In a physical classroom, there is generally less choice about the times and location of classes. Students must attend classes with their peers at the specific time and place allotted. Some colleges typically allow students to select the kind of courses they want to pursue and sometimes might give choices of times to attend, but they are mostly expected to follow the college schedule. For an on-campus degree, there may also be a certain number of minimum classes one is expected to attend, failing which one might be denied the opportunity to sit for their final exams. Someone with family or career commitments may need help to keep up with such stringent schedules. Learners can expect much more flexibility in an online learning environment than in an off-campus program. Since synchronous and asynchronous learning is available, the curriculum can be completed at the learner’s convenience in a self-paced manner from any geographic location they choose.
Several costs are borne by students, including tuition fees, transport, meals, general living expenses, housing, and so on, that add to their decision-making process of considering an online or offline degree. A cost comparison made by the Education Data Initiative team reports the cost of online education from a public university in the U.S. to be $37,920 vs. $37,320 paid for the same degree on-campus. In contrast, private institutions charge $58,560 on average for an online program compared to $148,800 on average for an on-campus program. Even though there might be some exceptions to the tuition fee disparity, online programs are generally more affordable than their traditional counterparts. Online programs also usually offer better financial budgeting options by providing more ways of payments that can let one pay on either a per-class or installment basis.
Pros & Cons of In-Person Classes
Pros of In-Person Classes – One of the most significant benefits of in-person classes is the hands-on learning and networking opportunities gained. While working on group discussions, projects, involvement in clubs and organizations, and classroom debates with your peers and professors, you could build connections that sometimes last a lifetime. The institution gives a schedule to follow, which can help you learn and be more organized, making education a priority. Having an organized timetable would also mean that students may be dealing with high-pressure situations while meeting deadlines and keeping up with classroom expectations; skills developed under such conditions can be applied throughout one’s lifetime. While interacting with one another, individuals develop critical interpersonal skills that benefit them both personally and professionally, building their confidence levels.
Cons of In-Person Classes – Despite the considerable advantages, traditional learning has shortcomings. Conventional classroom setups have higher costs, meals, transport, housing, materials, etc. Even though the curriculum scheduling gives it a structure, it does not provide much breathing space for students. In-person classes also make it difficult to manage other schedules like work, household chores, etc. There are rigid timelines and dire consequences for failing to meet those timelines. Students also depend on the teacher’s plan to reach out to them, which could sometimes limit their engagement with the faculty.
Pros & Cons of Online Classes
Pros of Online Classes – The flexibility of schedule offered in terms of both curriculum and location of completing the courses taken up is one of the most significant advantages of online degrees. The quality of an online degree is at par with a regular on-campus program. For those transitioning to new careers and who want to balance a degree without it affecting their personal, academic, and professional lives, an online curriculum gives them considerable control over their class schedules. Online degrees are far less expensive as students are not provided with amenities like parking, housing, on-campus resources, etc. There are also other conveniences of distance learning, such as the ease of taking down notes and materials at one’s own pace and accessing recordings of lectures as many times as required. The possibility of having esteemed guest lectures or experts from the fields conduct classes increases in an online platform. Students also have various options for interaction with their instructors through digital communication tools.
Cons of Online Classes – One of the biggest challenges of an online class is the lack of motivation that could develop when one has to take courses continuously while sitting behind a screen. Even though advanced technology has made online virtual classrooms appealing, the lack of human touch might lead to a sense of social isolation in students. Since the curriculum is primarily self-paced, one would need immense self-discipline to complete courses and assignments on time; the accountability enforced by the traditional classroom setting is missing here. Sometimes, teachers extend lessons and add numerous reference materials, as they cannot gauge students’ understanding of a particular topic; this could lead to burnout due to the additional hours students need to put towards their degree. Instructors may also find it difficult to track students’ honest efforts as they need to review their work in person, increasing the chances of plagiarism, cheating, and other malpractices. Such learning also limits the student’s scope of interpersonal communication, especially in an asynchronous online course. A critical disadvantage is the potential health hazards, including irritable eyes, strain injuries, stiffness in joints, and other health complications caused due to the extensive hours of the student being glued to their screen.