Should You Study Online or in the Classroom?
As you considering embarking on a new educational journey, there are a lot of decisions for you to make.
While you might have the subject or career in mind, it’s important to weigh up the modes of study available to you.
As online learning providers, prospective students often ask us for our opinion on whether they should study online or in the classroom. If you’re struggling to decide how you want to study, we’re here to share insights into the research comparing online and classroom learning.
Why Do People Choose to Study Online?
Unsurprisingly, research shows that 88% of people who studied online chose to do so because it was convenient.
Whether you’re undertaking a GCSE course before heading off to university, or fitting an HR course around your busy workweek, online study can more easily fit around your other commitments.
The fixed time and place required for classroom learning might not work for you, particularly if you're working full-time or caring for family.
Plus, with a set schedule, you're at risk of missing out on key lessons if you’re unable to attend a particular class. We all have the best of intentions when starting out on a course, but other commitments can mean we fall behind.
With online learning, it's much easier to take a break when life gets in the way, and pick the course back up when you have some free time.
How Will Your Grades Compare?
With all this flexibility, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there must be a downside. Some students worry that their grades will suffer if they're not taught by a teacher in a classroom setting, as between school, college and university, that's the mode of learning that's most familiar.
However, in a study of online learners, 59% of students had higher grades when studying online versus studying in a classroom.
Part of this can be attributed to the fact that online students tend to spend an extra two hours per week working on their course. The study suggested that the time saved by not having to travel to a class or wait for a teacher was spent on studying instead.
On the other hand, one study has suggested that students feel it takes longer to reach the same level of competency when studying online compared to learning in a classroom.
However, the study also suggests that if students spend the ‘saved’ travel time on study, they can reach their goals in the same length of time overall.
On top of this, online study affords you the ability to learn at your own pace. If there’s an area that you’re struggling with, you can take as long as you need to get to grips with it.
Equally, if there's a subject you find easy, there's nothing stopping you from speeding through it - you're not held back by by the pace of a teacher or other students.
Studies have shown that learning at your own pace allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the content, as you can take charge of your learning.
Often, students experience difficulties in classroom learning because they need longer to understand a particular concept or topic but are unable to control the rate at which they're taught. While it’s possible to put up your hand and ask questions in a classroom, not every student takes advantage of this due to shyness, time constraints, or fear of slowing others down.
With online learning, you have control over the pace of your learning and can easily revisit any elements that you're struggling with.
Getting Invested in Your Studies
Being invested in your studies and results seems like a no-brainer, but not every student is able to maintain their motivation.
In a self-led environment, you have more independence and responsibility to direct your own learning. In simple terms, you’re entirely responsible for the outcome of your course.
In a classroom environment, having a teacher direct your lessons can mean you’re less invested in your own progression, as it's easy to feel that the teacher is in control of your learning and the outcome of your course.
Self-directed learning can give you the motivation and responsibility you need to take control of your own education.
How the Learning Experience Impacts Success
As you can imagine, the way that you access your studies online has a big part to play in how you do on your course. With a carefully designed interface, you’re more likely to feel engaged and excited to study – rather than dragging yourself in front of the screen each day!
Online learning platforms that allow students to interact with one another and contain different kinds of media are the most successful. Videos, community interaction and mock tests are much more exciting than simply reading notes.
Not every student will learn effectively with purely text-based resources - videos and interactive elements are important to appeal to students with different learning styles.
Attitudes Towards Online Learning
It won’t surprise you to find out that attitude is key for online learners. In one study, it was found that online learners who felt they had control over their learning process were more successful than students who had a more passive attitude.
If you feel out of your depth with technology or the subject you're studying, you'll be more successful if you can change your mindset. Using tutorial videos, reaching out to other students, and consulting with your tutors can help you to take challenges in your stride instead of letting them dent your motivation.
Of course, it’s not just online learning that can be affected by your attitude! In a classroom setting, your attitude will also play a big role in your success. Being engaged in the classroom and actively listening will make a huge difference to the outcome of your course.
No matter which way you study, resilience and a positive attitude will serve you well.
Top Tips for Studying Online
If you do choose to study online, follow these tips to give you the best chance of success on your course:
- Plan your time well to ensure that you’re dedicating enough time to studying, completing assignments, and acing your exams. Check out our printable study planner to help you get started.
- Create a study space to work in; when you’re sitting at your desk, you're letting yourself know it’s time to learn and steer clear of distractions.
- Ask for help from your tutors if you don’t understand something and take their feedback on board. Never be afraid to reach out - no question is too small!
- Get involved with the student community to share advice and keep yourself motivated.
As an online learner, you'll have more responsibility for your own learning, but you'll also have more opportunity to take control of your experience. With the right attitude and dedication, you can progress quickly through an online course as you can tailor it to suit your schedule.
Choosing to direct your own learning can be empowering and give you the flexibility you need to fit study into your life, but both online and classroom-based learning have their merit; the mode of study that works for you won’t always be what works for another student.
However you choose to study, when your learning method is aligned with your needs and lifestyle, you'll already be well on your way to achieving your goals.