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Online Learning Vs Classroom Learning Thesis Statement

Online Vs. traditional education

Online Vs. traditional education

Thesis statement

Having face-to-face communication that traditional education offers provides a better learning environment, yet online education is more flexible than traditional education.


Traditional learning is having face-to-face contact with student and teacher. Most traditional learning classrooms are designed where the teacher is giving direct instruction and students are listening and taking notes. Although, in the last decade, teachers are creating more interactive lessons where students are more engaged in the learning process. Instructors are using hand held white boards, simulation games, role-playing, reciprocal teaching, and multi-level grouping to keep their classrooms evolving and more interactive.

The technological revolution have bombarded the traditional classroom with many advances such as electronic grade books like Zangle, laptop computers and Ipads have changed the way students do and hand in homework, the black board have been replaced with the whiteboard and the latest innovation, the smart board. Kent Norman describes this as the electronic classroom in his book, teaching in the Switched on Classroom. The electronic classroom will enhance learning but will not change the curriculum or content according to Norman. Traditional learning states Peter Drucker (as cited by Lenzer & Johnson, 2007) will be replaced by distance learning in the next thirty years. Personally, the traditional classroom with the teacher, the blackboard and student contact is my preference, but lately the distance learning platform is winning me over because balancing my graduate studies, my career, family, and home is nearly possible.

Distance learning has been around for many years via classes through the mail and the airwaves, television; however, the Internet, telecommunication, and networks have revolutionized the distance-learning craze. Eli Noam (2005) states that the university buildings, dorms, and research center will be replaced by the distance-learning format in the near future. The distance learning consortium allow learners to study on their own time, live in any area of the world, and study at top universities and colleges without leaving the comfort of their homes. School districts throughout the USA are beginning to offer K -12 classes on-line as an alternative to students and their parents (Norman, 2007).

Although, asynchronous learning or distance learning have been successful for professional adults or graduate students because they are self- motivated and mature, Neil Rudenstien (2007), former presidents of Harvard University, feel that face-to-face contact is more valuable for undergraduates students. The distance learning modalities continue to be debated among educators and professionals around the world. Lorraine Sherry addresses some of the issues surrounding distance learning such as instructional quality and student readiness in Issues in Distance Learning. The policies associated with distance learning or tele-learning will continue to change as the telecommunication technologies change in this field where physically the teacher and student is separated.


Today, more and more learning institutions are offering courses that are entirely online. Advertisements portray online classes as being fun, easy and free of deadlines. Some even show students in pajamas, creating the image of a relaxed, carefree environment. Students drawn to online courses may be full-time employees ...

The word “college” might make you think of students hanging out in dorm rooms or gathering for classes in enormous lecture halls. But that depiction is becoming increasingly out-of-date as technology provides for more and more ways to learn.

In fact, online and distance learning has steadily grown in popularity among college students, but does that mean it’s a good choice for you? In order to help you answer that question, take some time to compare and contrast traditional versus online education.

Comparing online versus traditional education

Both online education and its traditional counterpart have pros and cons, so it’s important for students to understand what to expect before they step foot—or log into—the classroom. We focused this side-by-side comparison on three key areas that make an impact on a student’s experience. We’ll also take a closer look at what a “blended learning” model has to offer.

Online vs. traditional education: Flexibility

One of the key components to consider when weighing the options is the amount of time you have every day to dedicate to schoolwork. Are you willing and able to attend college full-time or do you need more flexibility to work around your busy schedule?

Online education:

A benefit to taking online courses is that they offer flexibility to the student. This is a great option for those who already have time commitments with family and work. Online classes will mold with your schedule—and allow you to log into your online course at a time that works best for you, as opposed to having to attend a lecture at a specific time.

Most online courses will follow a weekly format where students are expected to log in, read course materials, contribute to online class discussions and complete assignments prior to the beginning of the next week. You’ll still have plenty to do for each class—but you’ll have more options for fitting this work in around other commitments.  

Traditional education:

Generally speaking, this is the best option for students who have a little more freedom in their schedules. That said, traditional students do have some flexibility in their scheduling in that some schools offer night classes or classes that follow a schedule where they meet only once per week.

One easy-to-overlook factor when it comes to scheduling is travel time to campus—a long commute can certainly make schedules difficult, especially if you’re planning on working while in school.

Online vs. traditional education: Discipline & self-motivation

Something else to consider while weighing your college options is your level of self-discipline. Both traditional and online education certainly require some discipline to succeed, but there can be significant differences in how learning is structured. These structural differences can have a significant effect on your ability to stay on track.

Online education:

The increased flexibility of online learning comes with a bit of a trade-off—you’ll need to be highly self-motivated. All college classes require students to keep up on required reading and assignments, but some students may struggle to stay motivated when learning from the comfort of their home.

The best online students develop strategies for staying up to date on their coursework. Things like setting aside time every week for studying and creating a work space with minimal distractions can help immensely.

Traditional education:

When it comes to discipline and motivation, traditional education does have an advantage in the eyes of many. The structured schedule of attending class a handful of times per week and having routine face-to-face interactions with instructors can help keep students on task. Students in traditional, on-campus settings have more opportunities to be reminded of upcoming assignments, which can help if you tend to procrastinate on large, time-consuming assignments.

Online vs. traditional education: Social interaction

One final area to consider is the level of social interaction you’re hoping to have as you earn your degree. Do you need interaction from your peers and instructors to succeed and stay motivated? Or do you thrive in an independent study environment?

Online education:

Social interaction with instructors and other students, while not as common in online courses, still happens regularly. The biggest difference is in the form it takes, with many online student interactions happening via video chat or through online discussion posts.

Some courses may also offer pre-recorded videos of the same lectures given to traditional, on-campus students. If you’re a social learner who likes to ask questions and pick the brains of your instructors, these video lectures can help you earn a deeper understanding of assigned reading materials.  

Traditional education:

Despite technological advances, traditional education is still likely the better option for those who thrive on face-to-face communication. Seeing and interacting with your instructors on a regular basis can be motivating for some—it’s a little easier to go the extra mile if you know your instructor is likeable and invested in your education. Traditional, in-class settings may also offer more opportunities for spur-of-the-moment questioning or interesting tangents that may help a concept “click” in the minds of students. 

Online vs. traditional education: The blended education model

By now, it’s probably becoming clear to you that both online and traditional education each have their perks. So is there a way to get the best of both worlds? One option that is increasing in popularity is called “blended learning.”

In this format, curriculum is designed to implement both traditional, in-person learning and online coursework. The implementation of this can vary greatly, depending on the subject and instructor. But as an example, instructors may require only meeting once weekly for lectures, while assigning projects or other activities for students to complete online on their own time. This allows students to receive some of the positives from face-to-face social learning while still allowing for scheduling flexibility.

Another example would be a program that offers some courses on campus and others online. For example, a nursing program may include an online anatomy course, and a nursing simulation lab on campus. The idea here is that certain courses involve material that is conducive to online learning, while other lessons can only be taught in a physical classroom or lab.

The decision is yours

In the case of online versus traditional education, there is no right or wrong answer. Much of it comes down to personal preference and knowing how you learn best. These learning formats can all be very effective, no matter your personal learning style and situation.

It’s important to do some self-evaluation before diving into a full college course load. To learn more about which options best fit you, check out our article, Ways of Learning in College: Identify Your Ideal Educational Environment.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published February 2014 and has been updated to reflect information from 2017.