11 Big Pros and Cons of Online Classes

Posted on March 17, 2023

Posted on March 17, 2023

Whether you’re going to college for the first time or to finish your degree, you have plenty of options with campus and online learning.

For some students, the college experience includes in-person classes and interactions. For others, online learning is a more convenient and flexible option that helps them balance day-to-day life with school.

Though we’re (obviously) big fans of online learning, we want to give you an objective look at the pros and cons of online classes compared to in-person classes so you can make an informed decision.

Online Education Pros and Cons 

There are several advantages with online learning, including:

1. Flexibility

One of the biggest advantages to online learning is that it offers more flexibility than in-person classes. Though campuses often have a few time slots for each course, you still need to follow a schedule. With asynchronous or self-paced online learning, you can complete your coursework at the time that works best for you.

For adult learners trying to balance a full- or part-time job, family life, and caring for children or family members, this flexibility is a game-changer. It also helps if you’re the type who’s most productive at odd times of the day, such as in the early morning or late at night. 

2. Time Savings

Along with the flexibility of the schedule, online learning may save you a lot of time in the process. With on-campus classes, you have to spend time commuting to school. You may also end up with some “garbage time” between classes. You don’t have time to go home or get anything done, so you’re just wasting time waiting for your next class.

With online learning, your commute is to your home study space or the local library. Without a commute, you can spend your time knocking tasks off your to-do list, such as studying, completing quizzes, or doing a load of laundry.

3. Money Savings 

The total cost of college isn’t just the tuition, textbooks, and fees. There are other costs that can add to your debt, such as campus meals, dorms, and travel expenses. When you take online classes, your living expenses and meals are on your own – and it’s money you’d spend anyway. You also save money on travel, since you don’t have a commute.

4. Self-Paced Learning

Some online courses offer self-paced programs, giving you the freedom to learn at the speed that works best for you. While these courses do have some hard deadlines, you can manage your time as you see fit.

For example, you can move through quickly if the concepts are familiar to you. If you’re struggling with a course or a module, you can take your time to ensure you really grasp the information. 

5. Accessibility

One of the biggest pros of online learning is the immediate access you have to faculty, peers, and course information. You can connect with peers on your learning platform with a chat, email your professor, and view all your course documents and resources online.

With on-campus learning, you’re restricted to the available times to meet with groups or talk to your professor. Your course resources are typically given as you go, so beyond the syllabus, you can’t prepare for what’s ahead.

6. Transferability 

Many institutions offer online courses, some of which you can transfer to your degree program at your chosen institution. This gives you control over your learning experience – you can choose the course structure that works best for you.

Some online courses are less expensive than on-campus equivalents – despite the same education quality – so you can save on your tuition with general education transfer credits. It’s important to speak with your advisor about your transfer credit options, however.

Online college isn’t perfect, however. Here are some disadvantages to online learning:

7. Lack of Individualized Attention 

Online learning platforms are advanced, but they don’t provide the same in-person interaction and attention that you get with a professor at a campus class. If you need individual attention in your learning experience, online may be challenging.

That said, online learning does offer interaction through virtual class participation. Students are required to participate using discussions, forums, or other platforms – similar to engaging in discussions in class – to facilitate engagement.

8. Internet Connectivity

Though obvious, you need a strong internet connection for online classes. These courses use a variety of virtual resources to cover course material, including videos, interactive quizzes or exams, virtual labs, and learning software. If your internet is unreliable, you could face barriers to your learning experience. 

Fortunately, there are solutions. Upgrading your internet service, replacing your router, or visiting the local library are options for connection problems. You should still expect other technology issues on occasion, such as server errors or computer glitches.

9. Distractions

On-campus classes are designed to eliminate distractions. Professors often require phones be shut off during class, the door is closed, and no one interrupts. At home, you may not have that kind of learning bubble.

Children, pets, and other members of your household can be disruptive to your learning, not to mention unexpected interruptions like mid-day deliveries. The responsibility falls on you to design a space free of distractions in your home. 

10. Must Be a Self-Starter

When it comes to online school vs. in-person pros and cons, being self-motivated is important for any college experience. College students are adults (or close to it), so professors only go so far with encouragement and motivation.

Online learning requires more self-motivation, however. Your professor won’t be checking in frequently to see how you’re progressing. It’s your responsibility to reach out if you have problems or questions.

11. Fewer Networking Opportunities 

Some institutions have a reputation for not only the quality of education but the networking opportunities. When you attend class in person, you have plenty of chances to connect with peers who may be an asset to your career future.

While online learning does offer some great networking opportunities, including virtual networking events and peer connections on social media like LinkedIn, it’s not quite as rich an opportunity as a campus community.

See the Online Learning Pros and Cons for Yourself

Whether you’re set on online learning or you’re on the fence, you can evaluate the pros and cons of online education for yourself on a trial basis with Sophia Learning. We offer a free trial with self-paced gen ed courses to get a jump on your degree. Start your free trial today! 

Category: Higher Education

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