How do online classes compare to traditional classes? Hundreds of independent studies have examined this topic, and the consensus is that there is no significant difference between the two in terms of academic quality. In fact, many studies indicate that online courses actually surpass traditional courses in at least three respects, including the following:

1. Online classes are more flexible. One of the most obvious advantages that online education offers over traditional education is its flexibility. Students with family or work responsibilities are often unable to enroll in traditional courses because of prior obligations with respect to time or place. Furthermore, even if a traditional class does fit, limited enrollment or caps on class sizes may present problems. Online education, on the other hand, allows students to complete coursework when and where they choose, and because the class is conducted online, there are few — if any — restrictions on class size.

2. Online classes focus on students, not instructors. Whether through lectures, discussions, role playing, or small group activities, traditional classes tend to focus on the instructor. Online classes, by contrast, force the instructor to play a supporting role, which in turn empowers and encourages more student participation. With online classes, students have more opportunities to explain, share, comment, and critique in a manner not possible in the traditional classroom.

3. Online classes are writing (and computer) intensive. Two skills that are in constant and increasing demand across all industries are the ability to write and the ability to use technology effectively. Online education by its very nature requires that assignments, discussions, group projects, and tests all be conducted in a form that necessitates both writing and technology. As such, online courses tend to prepare students for the modern workplace better than traditional classes.

In conclusion, despite the prejudices in favor of traditional classes, the fact is that online classes offer the same material and the same academic rigor and even offer several additional advantages. Admittedly, online courses are not the best fit for all students or for all faculties. Then again, neither are traditional courses. What students should keep in mind is that both have the potential to offer a high-quality educational experience.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kari Whitaker is a technical as well as creative writer. In addition to articles on education and careers, she also enjoys writing short stories, essays, and poetry.

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5 comments on “Are Online Classes as Good as Traditional Ones?

  • I can certainly attest to the article’s comment that online classes are writing and computer intensive. It’s nothing for me to have to whip out three or four papers a week. I guess it just depends on your school (I attend Columbia College) and your course load (I take 9 hours per 8 weeks).

  • Good post. You make some great points that most people do not fully understand.

    “Online classes are more flexible. One of the most obvious advantages that online education offers over traditional education is its flexibility. Students with family or work responsibilities are often unable to enroll in traditional courses because of prior obligations with respect to time or place. Furthermore, even if a traditional class does fit, limited enrollment or caps on class sizes may present problems. Online education, on the other hand, allows students to complete coursework when and where they choose, and because the class is conducted online, there are few — if any — restrictions on class size.”

    I like how you explained that. Very helpful. Thanks.

  • Online courses are not good at all. Easy to cheat and you never get an immediate feedback as you do in a classroom.

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