the advantages and disadvantages of online classes over traditional ones

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Online classes versus traditional classes


This paper seeks to find out the experience of students who take online classes in comparison to those who take traditional classes. In doing the paper, I will look at the advantages and disadvantages of online classes over traditional ones. The paper will look into experiences of those who have taken online classes with a view to find out how convenient they were. This will be done in relation to if they had taken the traditional classes. Online learning has become very popular as a means to acquire professional knowledge and development. This has brought convenience to many students as well as increased enrollment for universities that have embraced this new trend.

Rationale for online learning

Sloan Consortium, a group offering online learning, postulates that online learning has become part of mainstream learning. According to their research, 65% of schools offering graduates traditional face to face learning are offering online courses, 63% for undergraduates, 44% of schools offering master’s degrees offer them online. The number of students taking courses online continues to increase. According to 2005 Sloan report this number has grown from 1.6 to 1.98 million students, a 22.9 percent increase.

Wagner (19) argues that online learning can be as good as traditional face-to-face learning if not better. It can be as interactive as traditional learning for both the students and the instructors (Moursund, 2003). However, caution should be taken when undertaking online learning. It could be a case of gathering material without necessarily equipping learners with the right content and offering them the appropriate interaction. This is especially when instructors just take to copying and pasting lecture notes on a web page (Steinbronn & Merideth, 61). Moursund view is that students can be helped to become actively engaged in an online lecture by the lecturer not acting as a sage on the stage but as a guide on the side. The instructor does not however cease to become an expert in his or her subject area.

How is the online learning experience?

A number of students who were interviewed agreed that online classes offer freedom, flexibility, and convenience. It enables one to handle other professional and personal programs. Alfi Velasco from Germany says, “I enjoy the ease of taking the classes. Being able to take the class on my own time schedule is wonderful. I can wake up early, complete assignments, and work at my own pace.”Kadish is able to organize with instructors to work around holiday breaks while working overseas.

Most people who have taken online courses are generally full of praise. They are especially happy about the conversations that discussions provide. It offers friendships though one may not even necessarily meet the group members face to face. SancomeMoran for instance made lasting friendships with classmates though they met first in person with them at graduation. She adds, “It also allows me to interact with educators from different states and countries.”

Online classes also give students equal opportunity during discussions unlike traditional classes. According to Mikula, “all students get equal voice. Sometimes in a traditional classroom, you have one or two students who tend to dominate the classroom discussion and others who say nothing. In this online forum, everyone is required to talk to each other. I really get a lot from reading what others have to say… I gain perspective that I would not have otherwise.” Online learning also offers frequent feedback from instructors. This in return ensures higher level of satisfaction for the learners since the instructors are in frequent engagement with them. Students appreciate individual feedback and offers of assistance. MIkula talks of an instructor who was “inspirational in helping me realize the potential within.”

Online learning has a negative side all the same. One may have to deal with disorganized instructors who have no clear expectations, or are lax in response. Mary Ellen Cravotta for instance noted that when there is a small class, there could especially be a limited amount of instruction or interaction. Sancome Moran says, “That was very frustrating. I would tell a professor teaching an online class to be hyper vigilant about answering my emails and board postings.”

The other drawback is the lack of face-to-face aspect of learning. Cravotta says, “I much prefer a real class where you can see and interact with everyone involved. You can also ask questions, see other projects and participate in discussions.” The demands of online discussions can be too much. Minnesota teacher Kim Penrod said she least liked “having to chat about each discussion thread; some people seemed to log in just to see their names in print.” It can also be annoying if students do not reply or participate in discussions. One is certainly going to encounter technical hitches. Technology fails without notice and this, though prepared for, can be frustrating.

How to work online

Online learning is more work than face-to-face learning because one has to read a lot. Johnson says, “It is also more work because you need to type everything and have to choose your words so that others understand them.” It requires discipline, self-motivation, and organization as well as proper time management. Those working online are offered these tips:

  • Work on the class at least twice a week.
  • Start assignments as soon as you get them in order to avoid submitting late assignments.
  • Participate in discussions with other students to help understand the concepts that have been taught. Create free time when you can interact with them frequently.
  • Keep track of your time and make sure you have a calendar with the due dates for assignments.
  • Work in large chunks of time to avoid last minute rush that can result to poor quality of assignments that are submitted.
  • Make sure you read all the grading and assignment information. Follow instructions.
  • Print out the readings or your eyes and back will ache.
  • Do not be afraid of new technology and a new venture; ask for help from people who understand it better.
  • Work in ways that accommodate your personal learning style.
  • Get to know your classmates; they are the best resources necessary in the learning process.
  • Do not be afraid to ask your family for quiet time so that the learning environment can be conducive.

Online learning and gender

Apart from the advantages that online learning gives in terms of flexibility of time and place, female learners are able to spend time closer to the home and family. A research showed that most females cited children, family or things related to their home as a reason for choosing online learning. This is unlike their male counterparts who did not cite family as a primary reason for choosing online learning.

Online learning and integrity

Online learning is likely to encourage cheating more than traditional face-to-face learning. Research shows that about a third of academic leaders perceive online outcomes to be inferior to traditional classes and that faculty members have misgivings about online classes. The misgivings include lack of course comparability, more opportunities to cheat in online classes, and greater attraction to students whose goal is to cheat, (Bailey & Bailey, 33).

Youngberg argues that online learning cannot replace college since according to him it is too easy to cheat. Majority of participants, both students and faculty members believe it is easier to cheat in online classes (Kennedy, 309). There are higher levels of cheating in traditional learning compared to online classes (Lanier, 244).

Hart and Morgan (498), with some others, find lower levels of cheating in online classes compared to traditional learning.


Whatever the case, there can be no disagreement that online classes are becoming popular. Students can now take courses at places far away from their homes with a lot of ease. The freedom, convenience and flexibility of online learning make it a program that cannot be taken for granted. Universities and other institutions of learning are able to market and offer their courses globally to countries and students who would have otherwise been unable to access their courses. This implies that their enrolment rates have increased, and this is without necessarily having to increase their physical facilities. This would not be possible with face-to-face learning.

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