The topic of online learning and virtual courses when compared to traditional classroom learning is a topic which gets discussed. Of course, with the global Covid-19 pandemic, the question is arguably as relevant now as it has ever been. No one would argue that both forms of learning have pros and cons, so it is often more down to the individual, rather than giving an all-encompassing answer which suits everyone.
Naturally, here at Harrow Bangkok, we are firm advocates of classroom teaching, although that doesn’t mean that we don’t appreciate the merits of online learning as well. The age of students is a huge factor in determining what is most appropriate with classroom courses indeed being more beneficial to younger pupils or those who perhaps don’t have a suitable environment which is conducive to learning.
In this article, we will evaluate the pros and cons of both virtual and classroom learning, hopefully providing you with enough information to help you to make an informed decision.
Pros of Virtual Courses
- Greater flexibility
Without a doubt, the biggest advantage of virtual courses is that they offer greater flexibility. For most courses, you will be able to study at time and pace that suits you. You can work around other commitments and take “time out” when required.
- No time wasted travelling
For some people, especially those that don’t live on or near the campus, several hours a week can be wasted just travelling to and from traditional lessons. It is not a problem with online learning as it can be done from the comfort of your own home or anywhere else that is convenient.
- A wider range of courses
While schools, colleges and university do offer an extensive range of courses, it is not to the same extent as those which are available online. You can literally take a course anywhere in the world if you desire meaning that the options available are limitless.
- Progression to the next level is easy
Once you have completed one virtual learning course, it is easier to progress on to the next one. You won’t have to wait for the term to start or spend time searching for a place nearby that offers the course you want. It means that if you are motivated, you can get to where you want to be faster.
- Less pressure – many students prefer this type of learning
As you are learning at your own pace or at least in your own environment, you will be under less pressure. It is particularly relevant for pupils that feel uncomfortable speaking in front of others. Increased freedom is undoubtedly something that some students benefit from.
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Cons of Virtual Courses
- Need a lot of self-discipline
With any virtual course, you need to have self-discipline as it is easy to get distracted. Although you may be working at your own pace, time management and a set structure are required in order to ensure that the work gets completed.
- Not always easy to accurately convey your thoughts or opinions
It is not as easy to express your thoughts or opinions in writing as it is to communicate them verbally. A student may understand a topic but struggle to demonstrate or express their knowledge in writing. It can lead to lower grades that what the student’s ability deserves.
- Easier to misunderstand the content
A common problem with virtual courses is that students believe that they understand something when they don’t. As a result, it is easy to go off track quickly with no one on hand to recognise the misunderstanding until often it is too late.
- Large amounts of reading
Self-directed study involves a lot of reading, so if you aren’t a big reader, this can be a big drawback. Unfortunately, there’s no way to get around this.
- Little connection with other students
Virtual learning essentially means that you will be studying alone so you will miss out on the interaction with other pupils. While forums and chat groups are available, it is not the same as face-to-face contact.
Pros of Classroom Courses
- The teaching is done by a professional
The most significant benefit of classroom teaching is face-to-face learning with the teaching offered by a professional who will be an expert in their field. There is no real substitute for this experience as it can’t be replicated virtually.
- Easier to ask questions
It is far easier to ask questions in a classroom environment as and when you think of them. The answers will be given there and then making it simpler to understand the topic.
- Easier to stay on track
As you are in a classroom environment, it is far easier to stay on track both in terms of discipline and ensuring that you fully comprehend the courses. If there is a problem in either area, this will be quickly identified by the teacher.
- Interaction with others
A classroom environment means that you will interact with others which have many benefits both from a social and learning perspective.
- Often more realistic
It some situations, a classroom environment can make learning more realistic as real-life situations can be reproduced in a group, which wouldn’t be the case if you were alone.
Cons of Classroom Courses
- A rigid structure
Classroom courses have a rigid structure both in terms of time and the content which may not suit some students.
- Large amounts of time wasted travelling
In complete contrast to online courses, a significant amount of time can be wasted travelling to and from lessons.
- Work at the pace of the weakest in the class
In a classroom environment, the pace of learning is usually dictated by the slowest, often the weakest, in the class. It is something that can be frustrating for other students with their progression delayed.
- Not ideal for quieter pupils
A classroom environment may not suit some students, especially those who are more reserved and don’t enjoy speaking in front of others. It is something that can have an adverse effect on their confidence and potentially hamper their learning.
- Reduced number of courses available
Regardless of the quality of the school, college or university, they will never be able to offer the same amount of courses that are available online. It may mean the course a student wishes to take isn’t available at their chosen education centre resulting in more travel.
There is no doubt that there are pros and cons with both virtual courses and classroom courses. Which is best is probably down to the individual and will be influenced by several different factors including their age, self-discipline, their interests and, of course, the type of course which they want to take.