Top Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Classes vs. Traditional Classes

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Education has grown and molded over time to fit many different periods. The methods of learning have always adapted to meet the norms of society. That holds true from the Industrial Revolution to the first man-made computer to now mobile phones. The advent of technology in modern society has forced academia to evolve once more to the digital age.

Instead of being taught in a typical classroom setting, technology has enabled knowledge to be delivered through online programs. Many schools around the world have already adopted the fairly new concept of online education. Nevertheless, like with any technical developments, there is a lot of skepticism about educational technology.

The digital transformation of education and learning is seen as promising by many enthusiasts of online courses. On the other hand, many critics of the virtual classroom still recognize the benefits of face-to-face learning. Course creators and students alike must assess the advantages and disadvantages of both educational techniques.

What Is Online Learning?

The term “online learning” refers to education that occurs over the internet through an electronic device. Often known as “eLearning” or “distance learning,” it is an inclusive phrase for any learning environment which takes place remotely rather than in a traditional classroom. Based on the instructor’s approach, lectures, study resources, and quizzes can be conducted through video conferences, LMS platforms, or more.

What Are Traditional Classes?

The traditional way to attend classes is when students and teachers come to campus and take the lecture in physical classrooms. Students can interact with one another or directly address their questions to the instructor. They take more responsibility for their tests and for meeting all deadlines that come their way, and they adhere to consistent attendance.

Advantages of Online Learning

With all the popularity of eLearning nowadays, it might be worthwhile to understand why instructors and students are starting to prefer this method of education.

It Offers More Availability and Accessibility

As a result of the sheer accessibility of online learning, there are no age restrictions in enrolling. Everyone has access to the same information from a wide range of course material and subjects. Pre-recorded lectures, uploaded study materials, and resources can be accessed at any time from online platforms.

Hence, students can access lectures at their own convenience. This is particularly beneficial for people with hectic schedules or people who have trouble commuting to campus.

It Has Room for Innovation

There are many online educational platforms that are designed to create an immersive online learning experience. Tools and multimedia elements can help course instructors develop innovative teaching styles and modernize their concepts. Adding creativity into the subject matter can strengthen the content and engage the students more.

These platforms are meant to facilitate the students in a virtual classroom, which makes it more rewarding for the teaching to explore new teaching approaches and methods.

It Has a Student-Centric Learning Approach

One of the common troubles many students struggle with is performance anxiety and social anxiety in the classroom.  They might not be keen to actively participate in classroom discussions, but online classes can make the thought much less intimidating.

Moreover, students can be distracted during class, so online learning offers them the advantage of being able to access their course material at any time. This allows them to study at their own pace and use media tools and visual and auditory learning to grasp complex concepts.

It is More Affordable

For several students, higher education is not always a financially reasonable option. Online education allows students to take advantage of this opportunity by offering them the highest quality education at a lower cost. Likewise, international students can enroll in any institution in the world, offering them an equal opportunity to acquire advanced learning regardless of their location.

As there is little need to print study guides, test papers, or other resources, virtual education is incredibly cost-effective. Students and teachers can save a significant amount of money on transportation and other expenses associated with attending on-campus classes.

It Helps Hone Your Technological Skills

Course creators need to adapt to the new reality in order to structure and design courses that are effective and keep the learner engaged. This necessitates the use of presentations, videos, animations, and other media tools, all of which require technological skills.

Practicing and learning through training programs online can help instructors get a better grip on using technology and digital media to improve their courses and create a virtual classroom that offers all the benefits of eLearning.


According to the University of POTOMAC, there are more than 6.5 million students enrolled in online courses, and 77% of instructors and 70% of students believe that eLearning is just as effective as traditional education.

According to a 2019 poll of 1,500 online students, the leading reasons why people pick online programs are the course’s affordability, the school’s reputation, and how a program provides the quickest path to earning a degree. Online courses accredited by Ivy League universities make it possible for numerous students to access a high quality of education at a lower cost.

Disadvantages of Online Learning

Like with any approach, online learning has its drawbacks and limitations. While some of these can be addressed, others are more challenging to overcome.

It Requires Time Management and Self-Discipline

Online classes pose a challenge to students who have a difficult time motivating themselves and practicing self-discipline. Without a teacher physically present to supervise them, they might procrastinate and get easily distracted. Students tend to become inattentive, demotivated, or easily sidetracked by online video games or social networking websites when there are no rules or guidelines.

This would require them to manage their own time effectively to study and complete assignments. Some students might not have a dominant learning style, and without their classmate’s support and motivation, they might lack the right atmosphere to keep themselves motivated.

Teaching Approaches are Unconventional

Online courses can often make it difficult for students to develop social skills. Students in traditional classes often voice their thoughts and deliver presentations and speeches. They must also work in groups with a variety of people who have many different points of view. These techniques instill extremely important interpersonal skills. Online learning, on the other hand, does not entail any of these things.

Teachers can also struggle with building and maintaining a connection with their classroom. Moreover, since not all instructors are skilled at using online platforms and tools, their ability to convey their knowledge and concepts can be hindered.

There is Less Room for Social Interaction

Students and teachers are unable to interact and mingle before and after class. This means that their ability to clear out misunderstandings, socialize, relieve stress, build friendships, and motivate each other is greatly reduced.

Not being able to be physically present in the same room as the instructor can leave students feeling disconnected from the classroom. This can demotivate their overall attitude towards education.

It Can Affect Health

Taking an online class can entail sitting in front of the same computer screen for long periods of time, as well as completing homework and other tasks. Headaches, poor posture, eyestrains, and weak vision are all possible side effects.

Secondly, if the appropriate technological software and tools are not available, those with vision or hearing impairments may have difficulty attending virtual classes.

Advantages of Traditional Classes

Although online education allows students to learn and grow and their own pace, many believe it is still inferior to traditional classroom education. Here are some possible reasons why:

They are Familiar and Comfortable for Many

For centuries, education has been sought in a traditional classroom, with the supervision and guidance of an experienced instructor. The ‘classroom experience’ is a conventional idea that most people have been comfortable with. They know how it works, what its limitations are, and how to make the best of it.

The time and effort it would take to first learn, then adapt, and implement online learning could be saved if traditional classes resume. Moreover, many people are reluctant to adopt new learning or teaching methods. This could create a disparity between people who prefer online classes vs. traditional classes.

They Allow Face-to-Face Interaction

Being in the same class as your teacher on a daily basis makes it easier to stay motivated and put in the extra effort. For some, it is a great opportunity to pose sudden questions, clear out any complications, or use different analogies to understand a particular concept. Interpersonal communication is sometimes necessary to keep individuals involved and happy with their education.

They Create a Sense of Community and Collaborative Learning

Apart from an enriching learning experience, traditional classes help create a teacher-to-student and student-to-student bond. This is crucial to develop interpersonal skills. Group projects boost creativity, encourage teamwork, and allow participants to learn from each other. The network built in traditional classrooms can help students in different spheres of life as well.

Students are More Engaged

The teaching methods employed in a traditional classroom setting promote memory and create an interactive atmosphere. Practical approaches help develop ideas and concepts.

When an instructor is physically present in front of a student, the students feel more compelled to pay attention and remain a part of the class. Moreover, the teacher can gauge the class’s response through visual cues and body language. They can change their approach accordingly to capture its attention.

Disadvantages of Traditional Classes

Now, we’ll talk about the limitations of traditional classes. These limitations are ultimately what’s leading people to consider shifting to online learning models:

They Require the Instructor and Students to Be Physically Present in the Same Room

In order to acquire education in a traditional class, both the student and instructor need to be physically present in the same room on a regular basis. This is not always possible for various reasons such as illness, transportation, location, etc.

People who cannot come to campus for a class will be missing out on their education. Similarly, in critical situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic, safely managing a traditional classroom environment becomes near impossible. This makes accessibility limited.

Additional Costs Involved

As previously said, traveling can be expensive. Time is also a consideration if the university or school is a long distance away. Educational institutes also need to consider other costs. These include electricity bills, internet, and the cost of printing books, study materials, tests, etc.

Not Every Student Responds Well to Classroom-Based Learning

While there are some students who learn better when in a classroom, others learn at a different pace. Some students are visual learners who can grasp concepts more easily with videos and graphics. Others prefer to study alone, without the distractions prevalent in a noisy classroom. In short, traditional classes can limit their capacity to bring innovation to the learning experience.

Why Online Learning Is Trending

Traditional educational systems have become embedded in our psyche. Especially as a result of generations of observing them without innovation or improvement. The majority of people learn in traditional classes under the guidance and direction of an instructor. However, in order to keep up with the technological revolution and the current scenario, we’ve had to adjust to eLearning.

While it may seem like virtual classrooms are an innovation that came with the adversities of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing protocols, eLearning has been around for years prior to that. Online platforms have offered up to university-level courses through websites for a long time, often free of cost. For example, Coursera, Udemy, EdX, and more.

Online learning is trending now more than ever. Especially since nearly everyone around the world had to adapt to the new change in educational learning. With months of troubleshooting and ironing out the kinks, many institutes have finally adjusted to the change with a seamless eLearning system.

Additionally, they were able to recognize the benefits that came with the concepts of virtual classrooms. These benefits include saving on utility bills, less transportation required, and ease of accessibility to online lectures at any place and time.

The factors that are lacking in online classes, i.e., face-to-face interaction and keeping students engaged, are still a hurdle to overcome. In any case, many course creators are finding innovative ways to make their online classes more interactive and effective through the use of numerous eLearning tools and platforms. Exploring the innovative approaches in this new form of virtual education is another reason why it’s still trending.

How To Make eLearning More Effective

LMS platforms can develop immersive, interactive, and creative courses. Determining your teaching format and course structure is the first step. It should be accessible to all students. In addition, it should cater to different learning styles, for example, visual, auditory, or practical learning.

Microlearning and gamification used in eLearning capture learner interest. Other media resources such as presentations, learning games, videos, live lectures, quizzes, and animated content can also make eLearning more effective.

Since the technological aspect can be overwhelming for course instructors, getting professionals to help you structure your course can make it easier. Be sure to have clear objectives and goals for your curriculum so that your students can get a clear idea of the course structure and class schedules.

Communication is crucial when it comes to addressing concerns or conflicts that are typical on any eLearning system.  It can assist you in keeping track of your student’s progress and attentiveness to course material. They can tell you if they understand the material. They can also let you know if the course is paced out in a way that lets them fully grasp each concept. You can then change your timeframe or topics as needed and make modifications.

Taking their feedback is very important since it helps you understand how effective your online classes are. If you feel a certain teaching style is convenient for you, you need to make sure your students feel the same way.

FAQs on Online Classes vs Traditional Classes

Is online learning more effective than learning in a classroom?

There are pros and cons to both approaches. However, online learning does have a few advantages over the traditional classroom model.

Online courses are often more flexible, allowing students to access material at their convenience. Online learners can tailor their education to their specific interests and goals. Lastly, online learning can be more affordable than attending a brick-and-mortar school.

Do students prefer face-to-face or online learning?

Some students prefer face-to-face learning because they feel more engaged in a physical classroom. They can ask questions more easily and get immediate feedback from their classmates and teachers.

Other students prefer online learning because they can work at their own pace and choose when and where they want to learn. They also appreciate the flexibility that online learning provides.

How fast is e-learning growing?

E-learning is growing at a rapid pace. The global e-learning market is expected to reach $325 billion by 2025. This growth is being driven by the increasing demand for online learning, the changing nature of the workforce, and the advancement of technology.

Online learning provides learners with the flexibility to study at their own pace and in their own time. It also allows them to access course materials from anywhere in the world. As the workforce becomes more globalized, there is an increasing demand for employees who are able to work remotely.

E-learning provides employees with the ability to upskill and reskill themselves in order to stay ahead of the curve. Technology is also playing a major role in the growth of e-learning. Advances in digital learning platforms and tools are making it easier for learners to access and engage with course content. The growing popularity of mobile devices is also making it easier for learners to study on the go.

All these factors are contributing to the rapid growth of e-learning.

How is online learning affecting students?

Online learning is very convenient. Students can attend class from anywhere in the world, as long as they have an Internet connection. This means students can study at their own pace and on their own schedule. Additionally, online learning is often more affordable than traditional in-person schools.

There are also some challenges that come with online learning. For example, it can be difficult to stay motivated when you’re not in a physical classroom setting. Additionally, it can be tough to get the same level of interaction with professors and classmates that you would in a traditional school setting.


In several ways, online classes vs. traditional classes have comparable characteristics: difficulties, teaching approach, and feedback. While both online and traditional classrooms provide quality education, the optimal option is determined by the learning experience, flexibility, accessibility, and social contact. Finding a way to incorporate the interaction into virtual classrooms can pave the way for a more innovative and effective eLearning experience.

Lisa Parmley
Lisa Parmley

Lisa Parmley is the founder of After gaining a Master's degree, she worked in research for about seven years. She started a training company in 2001, offering a course helping people pass a professional exam. That course has earned multiple 7 figures. She created SEO and authority site building training around 2007 which went on to earn well into the 6-figure mark.

She has 22+ years of experience in the trenches creating and selling online courses. Get help starting and growing your online course business here.

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