Online courses have become a very popular option in the last years. More and more people are choosing them because of the flexibility they offer compared to traditional courses. In this post, we will analyze the pros and cons of online learning, that is, the most important factors you should consider before deciding which program you want to enroll in.
While many of these factors apply to most online courses, some depend on the course subject and on your personal preferences.
The Pros of Online Learning
No more daily trips to school – One obvious advantage of online learning is studying from any location you want. You can learn from the comfort of your home without having to take the car, bus, or train to your school, which also cuts down expenses. This can be essential for those who live in locations where not all types of schools are available, like small cities or country towns. Provided you have a good Internet connection, online learning gives you access to the same variety of courses you would find in a big metropolitan city. Online learning can also provide benefits to people who live in larger urban centers and who might want to reduce the daily stress caused by driving on busy roads or using public transportation.
Flexible schedule – Maybe you are a full-time professional with a very tight schedule or a busy parent with children to look after. Or maybe you are a young person who needs a part-time job to pay for his or her monthly expenses. In any of these scenarios, online learning will make your life a lot easier. While some online courses require you to attend online classes and webinars on specific days and at specific hours, most courses allow you to plan your study flexibly. You will decide independently when to study and how long every study session should last. Some certification courses even offer monthly or quarterly exam sessions, which you can take only when you feel you have really mastered that subject.
No paper books – Another great advantage of studying online is the fact that most learning material is included in the course package and can be consulted online. Most online learning platforms have very functional dashboards you can easily log in to with your username and password. From there you will be able to access e-books, articles, videos, and everything you need to broaden your knowledge and skills on that particular subject. In some cases, you’ll have the option of downloading learning material on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Many online platforms also include forums and chats through which students can interact with professors, teaching advisers, and other students.
Overall costs – In addition to cutting down transportation and library costs, online schools often charge smaller fees than ordinary schools because they have to spend less money on infrastructure, administration, security, and other expenses for physical facilities. Moreover, some multiple-course programs allow you to pay for one course at the time, spreading the overall costs over a longer period. Online learning is, therefore, a great option for those who can’t currently afford to pay for a traditional course or for those who are saving money for other things. (Check also this article from Champlain College on the costs of online education in comparison to traditional education).
The Cons of Online Learning
No personal interactions with teachers – A lot of students value their relationship with their teachers and consider it to be a fundamental aspect of their learning process. While some online courses give you the option of interacting with your teachers through forums, chats, social media, or even email, some feel this is not the same as personal interactions. Whether this can be a limitation during your studies depends entirely on your personality and on your preferences. Are you the kind of student who feels encouraged by a direct, face-to-face relationship with your teacher, or do you just value teachers for the practical knowledge they provide and have no issues interacting with them virtually?
No direct socialization with other students – Another aspect of traditional schools some students might feel reluctant to give up is the chance of getting to know other people who study in the same course. Some people prefer studying in a group and really feel like they can’t go through an entire program studying entirely on their own. Other people also see schools as a social hub where they can make new friends and increase their overall network of acquaintances. While some online courses give you the possibility of interacting with other students through online social platforms, it is clearly not the same as meeting people in a traditional classroom or at the school’s cafeteria. You might want to assess how much value you give to day-to-day social interactions with other students before enrolling in an online course.
Less accredited schools – As online courses become more popular, more and more schools have begun to look for accreditation from official bodies. Some traditional schools and universities even started to offer an online version of their traditional courses, providing the same certificates and degrees they offer to students attending courses on campus. Yet the overall number of accredited online schools still hasn’t reached that of traditional schools. It’s very important to inquire about a school’s credentials before enrolling in an online course. It’s also important to be wary of those online schools that over-market themselves to display authority (even when their record doesn’t reflect that) and to stay away from scammy websites that are just looking for a quick way to bill your credit card. Look for online reviews from different sources. You can start by reading our reviews and by searching the web for blogs and forums where students post their experiences with various online courses.
Self-motivation – This is probably the most important factor when deciding whether to start an online course or not. Can you self-motivate yourself outside of the institutionalized context of a traditional school? Traditional schools may have long class hours, unfriendly professors, competitive classmates, and a rigid exam schedule, but that context forces you to keep up with the course in order to avoid falling behind other students. In contrast, online courses require self-motivation through the whole program. You need to define your own study plan and stick to it.
We hope this article can help you make the right decision on whether to enroll in an online course or to go for the more traditional option. If you have any doubts and questions don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and we will be happy to help you. Check also these other articles containing tips and advice for online learners.
20 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Online Learning”
Quite well written! The information here could be very helpful to anyone needing to choose a new school.
Thank you, Rachele. We’re happy that you found our article useful!
Interesting article, very good read.
Even though I’m no longer in school I have a job (software) where going to the office is optional, so I tend to work from home often.
I agree with a lot of the pros and cons.
Without the structure of a classroom or office it requires a lot of self motivation.
I don’t thick it’s necessarily work ethic, as I’ve met some hard workers who struggle with the freedom of working at home.
They need the structure that the “office” provides.
I personally love the freedom, and somewhat working on my own schedule.
I miss the interaction with other coworkers sometimes.
I’m generally a social person and when I go a week or two working from home and all of my interaction is coming through emails and web/phone calls, I lack that face to face interaction.
Overall great article, I can relate and agree with pretty much everything you said.
Thanks for participating in the discussion, Lee!
This looks like a very useful site. As a person who is into online learning, you have a lot of great information here. Pros, cons and much in between. The accreditation thing is something that has always bothered me as I can’t see spending all that time learning something without getting credit for it. I am happy to see that it is getting changed, although slowly. Very good job, thank you.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Don!
This is a very direct take on a very important issue here. I’ve always been an advocate for online learning, so I was very much looking forward to your cons. What you listed are true but I believe we will be okay without them. The presence of a teacher or direct socialization will definitely become a thing of the past in the immediate future. I believe all focus should be geared towards online learning for everyone. If anything, this virus epidemic has taught us that we can remain confined in our homes and still be productive. A lot of people have discovered their inner entrepreneurial spirit during this pandemic because of online studies. Good article though.
Thanks for sharing your view on this topic. Yes, the Coronavirus pandemic has definitely given online learning and online working a whole new meaning!
I do love to learn and work remotely but I think I could work out as a “poster child” as to some of the hurdles we have to go through. I live in a very isolated and rural part of Canada. With COVID-19 and all the kiddos stuck at home watching Netflix or whatever, our internet speed has gone down to the point where I can’t even use it. When you are reliant upon the internet, you really have to ensure that you have different methods to handle your learning or work should it become unavailable. For most in larger centers, this isn’t a problem but, then again, they can go to the brick and mortar schools!
It’s true. In some parts of the world, fast and reliable internet connection is not always available and this can be a negative factor for those considering an online course. Hopefully, this will gradually change with time. A lot of areas that didn’t have fast internet access 10 years ago, now have it. Technological breakthroughs and public investments in Internet infrastructure will make online courses available to an increasing number of people around the world.
I love online learning, it is so convenient and I can work my schedule around and just learn online. What I usually suffer from the most is self motivation. It is so hard to just discipline myself to learn my lessons online. I think I am better at it now when I schedule myself to do it 2 times a week on Tuesday and Thursday. Of Course, I also have to create a learning environment as well, it is a but hard when you live you a husband and also 2 pets that keep coming to me for attention. However, practice makes progress. Keep fighting it and you will be surprised how online learning is a game changer 🙂
Thanks for sharing your experience, Nuttanee!
It is great that you have summarised all the pros and cons of learning online and as you say, they are both have their merits and drawbacks. I think it depends on the course, as some courses are best learnt by yourself, whilst other courses you may learn better from group discussion or practical work. That is my concern, how do you learn chemistry at home, if you do not have access to the chemical and labs. This is an important part of learning chemistry.
I have taken online courses and they can work, but you must have feedback and set coursework. If not, you will not learn much.
Thanks for sharing your experience with online learning, Antonio.
During this lockdown period, it is the first time we have dealt with online school, and I must say that although I don’t miss all the driving to and from school, I find that there is less motivation to stick to a routine, and I find my daughter is missing the social aspect of it and the sports.
I think you need to look at each child individually to see what will suit them best. My child is very social and loves being around people, so I think the set school environment is better for her overall, but I know some children who feel vulnerable and prefer to study on their own.
In the long run though I think a formal school setting prepares them better for dealing with life out there.
It would be interesting to know what you would choose for your child if you have the choice?
Hi Michel and thanks for your comment. While our website mostly reviews online courses for adults, such as high-school graduates, college graduates and professionals, certain aspects of online learning can be useful in children’s education too. Obviously, it can’t be a substitute for traditional schools, where children not only study basic subjects but also learn how to interact with others and how to behave in a society. Yet, online learning can be a useful supplementary tool to help them do their homework, as well as allowing them to study when schools are closed for reasons other than holidays (like the current COVID-19 crisis).
True! There are pros and cons with online learning. For my part it is mostly Pros. I feel much more effective because I know my progress is only up to myself. It forces you to take more responsibility for your daily tasks and do what matters to succeed. The cons are of course that you are not physically engaged with your colleagues, students, customers or clients. As of now that can be a good thing with regard to the global pandemics going on. Almost no books I would say. I still use a physical planner and sometimes takes notes in addition to planning online. The pros is that you connect with so many people you would not meet at a normal school.
Very good points, Hilde!
You have really outlined so many important facts on the pros and cons of online courses. Well, I personally took an online and more of a distant learning from the University of South Africa on Education while residing in Saudi Arabia. It was quite expensive but more flexible and help me to work while going to school. I wish to also say the programs or courses to be studied are another concern. It will be very difficult and more challenging to do an online program on courses that require a lot of practicals like the sciences, talkless of the medical field. What do you think?
You have made a very valid point, Akon. It’s definitely possible to study scientific and technical subjects online but the effort required is greater. Some schools allow students to interact with teachers through forums, chats, and other online communication tools, which can be very helpful.