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The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Online Learning

Online learning has a wealth of benefits, however, as with anything else, it comes with its share of drawbacks as well.

That said, if you’re thinking about pursuing an online qualification or are simply gearing up to begin your online learning journey, it’s likely you’re curious about the pros and cons involved.

In this blog, we explore the advantages and disadvantages of online learning to give you a better understanding of what to expect if you choose to develop your career online.  

What is online learning?

Online learning, sometimes referred to as e-learning, is the process of acquiring knowledge and skills online through a digital platform. Online learning, however, can take a few different forms depending on the provider, including:

Online Courses: These are structured classes delivered over the internet, often through a learning management system (LMS). They often include elements like video lectures, readings, assignments, quizzes, and discussion forums.

Blended Learning: This method combines online learning with traditional classroom instruction. Students may attend some classes in person and complete others online.

Self-paced Online Learning: In self-paced online courses (like what you get with us at ICS Learn), students have the flexibility to set their own schedule and progress through the content at their preferred speed.

With so much available at our fingertips these days, it’s no wonder that online learning has greatly risen in popularity over the last 3 to 5 years. So much so, the number of online learning users across the globe is set to increase to 57 million by 2027.

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What are the advantages of online learning?

Research confirms that online learning has revolutionised education and will only continue to play a significant part in the way individuals absorb information, learn new skills and gain qualifications.

That said, there’s an impressive number of advantages that come with online learning, including:


Online learning breaks down barriers, making it more inclusive of anyone with disabilities, illnesses, learning difficulties, caring commitments and so on. Being able to study from the comfort if your own home if you have caring commitments, or being able to study with certain materials if you have a learning difficulty are two examples of how online learning can increase accessibility.

Online learning is often available around the clock, which additionally allows those who work shifts to study, or new parents who are awake during antisocial hours.

Suitability for a variety of learners

Individuals learn varyingly. Whether you’re a visual learner, auditory, kinaesthetic, read or write, learning online allows personalisation, adapting experiences and materials based on different consumer needs.

An example of this would be learning material in the form of video tutorials, this is beneficial for those who are visual and auditory learners. Additionally, material can be written down in the form of notes, or flashcards can be created, which is helpful for those who are reading and writing learners.

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Learning spaces can be customised

We learn best when we are in a comfortable and uplifting environment. Being able to learn and study from a place which makes you feel relaxed and motivated is incredibly beneficial, whether this be your own home, a café, library or shared learning space.

If you have the means and can decorate your study space, we recommend:

  • Investing in a few desk plants, to reduce stress and increase oxygen levels
  • Thinking about lighting: it’s easy to strain your eyes or give yourself headaches if you are consistently working in poorly lit environments
  • Making sure you’re supported: desk chairs with back support or footstools can reduce added pressure on your body physically

Learning is often at your own pace

Online learning providers offer a more customisable schedule than in person learning. You are often given maximum completion times instead of minimum and therefore able to work at a pace that best suits you and your lifestyle. 81% of online learners say that one of their favourite advantages of learning online was the fact that they could work to a schedule that suits them.

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What are the disadvantages of online learning?

While online learning is a positive experience for most, it’s important to be transparent and review the potential disadvantages of online learning to manage your expectations. These include:

Lack of Motivation

What may seem true of any kind of studying, it can be much harder to motivate yourself while studying online as there’s a lack of in person collaboration and face to face learning.

Too many distractions

In person learning often takes place in a lecture hall, a classroom or some kind of shared learning space which means the opportunity for distraction isn’t as high. However, when you’re studying online and often from home, you have the distractions of everyday life around you.

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Technical issues

As you are dependent on your laptop, iPad or smart phone to complete your studies, if these fail you or you have issues with your internet connection, it can result in high levels of stress and frustration.

Feelings of loneliness

One of the best things about studying, is meeting other learners. They become your confidents, support system and can make what is quite challenging, that bit more fun. Learning online can be quite isolating as you aren’t physically spending time with others.

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What are the best resources for online learning?

Over the last few years, learners have been taking full advantage of the educational resources and tools available to support them throughout their studies. So much so, the demand for these resources has increased and providers are stepping up.

We’ve done our research (so you don’t have to), into some of the most popular tools out there.

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Useful Apps

Forest: a time management app designed to help you focus, Forest allows you to plant a tree at the beginning of you when you want to focus (study) and then throughout this time, you’ll be able to watch your tree grow. Forest has been recognised for its unique and fun way of helping individuals concentrate, over their own selected time period.

Freedom: Freedom allows you restrict your access to selected websites, social media apps and extensions for certain time periods, helping to reduce distractions while studying.

Evernote: Allowing you to take notes, schedule tasks and add materials such as images, PDFs and audio, Evernote has been designed to keep learners on track and organised throughout their study sessions.

Grammarly: Committed to supporting individuals with their writing, spelling, punctuation and tone of voice, Grammarly is an AI based tool that can be added to your browser as an extension. This is a helpful tool for those who studied English later in their lives or are writing text-based assignments.

Additionally, visual learners and those who enjoy creating mind-maps, flash cards and quizzes, might find the following useful:

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How to stay motivated and on track

As mentioned, remaining motivated while studying online is one of the biggest challenges for online learners. To help you overcome this, we’ve gathered some of our best tips:

1) Plan your breaks

As an online learner, it’s easy to get distracted and skip out on daily movement, such as walks, workouts or even just housework! A vital part of planning your online study routine, is to also plan your breaks – they are just as important.

If you need persuading, a few benefits include:

Boosting cognitive prowess: your brain is a muscle, and it needs exercising. Short breaks reconfigure your brain, increase memory and stimulate responses.

Reducing stress: if you’re finding a subject particularly challenging, stepping away for a minute and focusing on something else will help regulate your stress levels, meaning you can go back to it later in a better frame of mind.

Increases energy levels: if you’re studying for long periods of time, often you will start to feel stiff, numb and your energy levels will begin to decrease. Physically moving your body in any way will release endorphins, which will help regulate your emotions and stretch out your muscles.

2) Make a realistic schedule

Making a schedule or a plan is a proven way to stay motivated during those longer study sessions. It will help you see the bigger picture, allow you to feel a sense of achievement as you go and additionally, reduce feelings of overwhelm. If you’re new to online learning, why not read our Online Learning Guide for New Students, for further insight.

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Create daily affirmations

Affirmations are positive statements, unique to you that have been proven to have a significant impact on our emotional wellbeing and self-esteem. Uplifting mental affirmations support reprogramming of our thinking patterns, in time, helping us to think more positively. Affirmations should be unique to you, but if you need some inspiration why not try:

  • I can meet my professional goals
  • My mind’s ability to learn and remember is increasing every day
  • Every day, I improve myself in some way
  • I choose healthy ways to deal with stress
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Remember the reasons why you started

It’s easy to get lost in the stress of studying and forget why you started in the first place. Taking a moment to write down a few reasons as to why you began your online learning journey in the first place will help your mind refocus on the tougher days.

Some examples could include:

  • I want to increase my opportunities to work in my dream industry/sector.
  • I am completing this qualification to increase my financial situation and in turn, become more financially stable for me and my family.
  • I want to leave my comfort zone and challenge myself to try something different.

We wish you the best of luck in your online learning journey!


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