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Compare and Contrast: Online Learning Vs. Traditional Classroom Learning

Students are finding it much easier to maintain a job, a family, and pursue a college career at the same time. This has been made possible with the option of online classes. While some students find it easier to continue education with online classes, others still prefer to learn in a traditional classroom. Many debates arise between online learning vs. classroom learning such as time, communication, and availability of course materials. Time is one of the main issues that many people face when deciding to go to college. Trying to find time to make money, spend time with your family, and take classes to do something better with one’s life for them and their family can be quite stressful. Someone who does not work may not have an issue with time and fitting classes into their schedules; but if they have a full-time job to work around, online classes may be the best option.

With the option of online classes, they can make their own schedule and do their courses on their own time. Perhaps on their lunch break from work, while their family is sound asleep at night or on the weekends if they have a Monday-Friday work schedule. Attending college online requires the college student to have excellent time management skills. The majority of online students have responsibilities other than attending school. Usually, this is why the decision to attend school online is made. The online student must be able to balance school, work, and a family. Attending school at a traditional school is not as flexible as the time schedule is set in place and the student must arrange their schedule around school, work, and family. Online education allows more flexibility in the online class schedule. However, proper management must be maintained in order to balance all of the responsibilities and be successful in all areas.

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Although some programs may be more suitable for classroom instruction, online learning can also provide quality education. (, retrieved 5/2012) “Not only do students need to monitor their progress in an ongoing fashion and adjust their strategies for learning based on their progress, but they also need to maintain a time management schedule in order to complete online learning activities in the allotted timeframes.” (Orellana, Hudgins, & Simonson, 2009, p. 470). The online student must be able to continue to work full-time and take care of family. All of these things must be done including attending school. Adding online education to the list of responsibilities may assist the online student in becomes well organized. An online student can possibly check in the online classroom during lunchtime while at work. Homework assignments can be done during “homework hour” at home with the children.

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In order to be successful in attending school online, the online college student must practice self-discipline. In a traditional classroom, the student the instructor holds the student accountable for all assignments and participation in class. While the same applies to the online college student, accountability is the student. There will not be a “reminder” from the instructor on a daily basis whether the student is participating in the discussion group or if the student has completed an assignment. “Online learning can be more convenient, effective and rewarding than traditional classes, but convenience doesn’t mean it’s easier,” says Gwen Hillesheim, interim chief academic officer and provost of Colorado Technical University, a leading provider of education for career-motivated students. “Successful online students need to be proactive in their studies and take responsibility for their own learning.

It takes self-discipline and time management to do your best. But when the student is engaged, the learning can be significant and the experience fulfilling.” ARA, (2010, November 3, Creston News Advertiser). Online students must comply with the University participation requirements in order to succeed. Self-discipline is required as it is solely up to the student to log in each day and participate in class. Unlike traditional classrooms where the schedule is set and students are reminded by staff daily to participate; the University notifies online students that do not make the required participation requirements after they have failed to do so. Most individuals that opt to attend school online are returning to school to complete a college degree. Usually, this option is chosen due to work schedule as well as time with the family. Online education is not for everyone as it takes great discipline and maturity in order to be a successful online student.

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“At the same time, online education is not for everyone — you have to have a certain level of maturity and self-motivation since you have to juggle coursework with job and family responsibilities. It demands a great deal of individualized work and you have to manage your schedule to meet class requirements rather than attend at a specific time of the week. “Michele Smolik, Director of Instructional Technology at Columbia College. Traditional students usually are not full-time employees. A person attending a University on campus is usually either taking one class or a full-time student working a part-time job. Online education allows an individual to maintain a full-time job however in order to qualify as a full-time student two classes are taken at a time.

Traditional students attending classes on campus have the advantage of accessing the instructor during class instruction if a question should arise. Online students must communicate with instructors via email or by utilizing the message board located on the student portal. This type of learning is not the right choice for everyone as some need individual instruction. Some argue that online students are “teaching” themselves, as there is no verbal instruction from an instructor. At most online universities instruction is given weekly during the discussion group forum by the instructor. The online student must make it a responsibility to participate in weekly discussion forums as well as keep up with weekly readings. Students that delay themselves in participating in the discussion group usually maintain a low grade. All of this is vital in order to be a successful online student. Assignments for the class are usually due weekly and due at the end of the week. Students must submit the assignment via the class portal.

It is imperative that the student have the correct software in order to submit the assignment as it is the student’s responsibility that the assignment is submitted on time with no exceptions. This is not an issue for traditional students as instructors are able to accept assignments in person from students. Essays and other assignments can be submitted by hard copy, which eliminates the concern of computer complications or the non-compatibility of software with the University. Online education has been debated throughout the years of its brief existence however most will agree that it is much more challenging than traditional education. Attending school is challenging whether in a traditional classroom setting or attending school online as responsibility is the main factor. However, as an online student it is imperative to be organized, responsible, and maintain strict discipline in order to be a successful online student. These factors make attending school online much more difficult as it is magnified much more.

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In conclusion, an online school may not be for everyone, but there is a growing population of individuals that need online school as an option to further their education. There are challenges in addition to benefits to online school, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges. At the rate that the online education realm seems to be growing, I predict exponential growth within the next 10 years. The online school continues to improve the types of platforms that the information is delivered on and the way students learn. Who knows, maybe one-day online education will be the primary way that people earn their undergraduate and master’s degrees. Either way, it goes, it doesn’t seem that the quality and acceptance of online education is going anywhere but up.


  1. Compare and Contrast Online Vs. Classroom | –
  2. The Perfect Online Course: Best Practices for Designing and Teaching (Orellana, Hudgins, & Simonson, 2009, p. 470)
  3. ARA, (2010, November 3). Five Tips for Being a Successful Online Student. Creston News Advertiser

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Compare and Contrast: Online Learning Vs. Traditional Classroom Learning. (2021, Jun 16). Retrieved September 30, 2022, from