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Is Distance Learning better than Classroom Learning?

14th January 21

The concept of distance learning is not new. In fact, while we now recognise it as dynamic internet provided education, it first appeared by post many years ago.

As it has evolved in its sophistication over the years, its popularity has gained momentum. With it now so commonplace in society, many people question if distance learning is better than traditional classroom learning.

The answer to which is not so clear cut. Whether something is better or worse largely depends on how well it meets the needs of the individual. In this case, the student.

Both distance learning and classroom learning have their place. With students seeing benefits to either learning style. While they have their differences, one thing they have in common is the quality of qualifications they provide.

If you’re looking to take an A Level or degree online, for instance, there is no difference. All recognised qualifications no matter where they are provided are regulated and accredited in the same way. So, that’s one thing you don’t have to consider when comparing the two learning styles.

Outside of this is where the differences start. Distance learning doesn’t have to bend to the same restrictions as classroom education. Which, arguably, leads to more benefits. Though, whether this is better for you is down to how you learn best. 

Below we compare how both stand up to key considerations in education.

learndirect - Is Distance Learning better than Classroom Learning?


Classroom education requires teachers to delivers lessons, heating, plumbing and a campus large enough to house all the students. These among other expenses all add up and affect what you pay for a course.

Courses must be profitable in order to cover the overheads of the institution. So, prices are often higher to pay for the additional services involved. After all, you have a teacher specialised in the subject in the room with you, helping you and offering guidance.

Distance learning providers, however, have far fewer expenses to worry about. They don’t have teachers delivering classes since students work through the course materials themselves. Plus, with everyone learning from home there is no physical premise to run. Just the online platform where the courses are housed, which is far less expensive to maintain.

This is generally reflected in the price students pay. Providing a great saving opportunity for the student, but at the cost of full-time teacher assistance. However, a dedicated tutor is available via email should you need any help.

Is Distance Learning better than Classroom Learning? - Cost


The expenses incurred by learning providers also affects the variety of courses they provide.

To be provided on campus, a course must generate a certain level of interest. If too few students enrol, it won’t be profitable and therefore won’t cover the costs associated with delivery. Resulting in classroom learning providers only offering the most popular courses and qualifications. Students looking for more niche subjects will likely struggle to find them in a physical campus.

Whereas distance learning providers have more freedom to deliver quirky courses or those related to particular specialisms. After buying a course and setting it up for online use, there is little maintenance required. These minimal overheads mean it doesn’t take much for a course to be profitable. Even if only a handful of students enrol, it has still been worthwhile. Giving students greater choice and allowing them to gain the exact knowledge and skills they need to meet their goals.  

learndirect - Is Distance Learning better than Classroom Learning? - Course Variation

Study/Life Balance

Classroom learning operates in line with a rigid timetable of classes. This structure is pre-determined by the institution and students must adhere to it without question. Leaving no room for movement unless you were to skip a class.

For many, having non-negotiable times and dates keeps them accountable. They must be present at a certain time and have work completed by particular dates. Teachers check in on their progress which deters many students from falling behind.

However, this approach isn’t feasible for everyone. Before distance education came along, many students couldn’t attend traditional courses for a whole host of reasons. They could live too far away from campus and not have transportation. Or they could have employment commitments, family responsibilities or disabilities that make it impossible to attend.

Whatever the reason, anyone with an internet connection and a computer are now able to continue learning. Plus, with no set classes or timetables, you decide when you study. Meaning things like jobs or childcare duties are no longer a barrier to education.  

Distance learning is a more efficient use of your time and doesn’t disrupt your lifestyle.

learndirect - Is Distance Learning better than Classroom Learning? - Study/Life Balance

Time to Completion

By removing the set structure of education, students have more control over the duration of their course.  

Classroom learning spaces out lessons, assignments and exams. No matter how quickly you learn a topic you still need to wait for these dates to come around. Dictating the rate of your progression and how quickly you’ll complete the course.

While some online courses have set exam dates, most do not. In this instance, the flexible nature of distance learning allows you to set your own end date. If you can complete the course materials in a matter of months, nothing is stopping you. Once you enrol everything is available online, so you can work through the course as quickly as you like.

Plus, there’s no waiting around for term time to start. You can begin your course the minute you enrol. This allows you to shave off a considerable amount of time and reach your end goal much quicker. So, you could be on your way to that promotion, new career or university sooner than you might think.

learndirect - Is Distance Learning better than Classroom Learning? - Time to Completion


Both classroom and distance learning can be enjoyable experiences for students. Again, this comes down to preference and the environment in which you’re more likely to thrive.

In the classroom, you tend to bounce ideas off each other, have open debates and partake in group activities. Learning as a group can give you different insight and expose you to new ideas, which can be very beneficial. It’s also enjoyable if that is a way you are comfortable learning.

Many people, however, prefer to learn independently. They perhaps don’t feel comfortable expressing their ideas or questioning concepts in front of others. Or they just learn better without the distractions of a group.

With distance learning, you are free of interruption and can focus on the areas you need to. You don’t need to sit and wait while the teacher explains a concept you’re confident with to someone else. Your time is spent on your needs and moving towards your goals.

learndirect - How enjoyable is classroom learning vs distance learning?

While distance learning is an increasingly popular method of education, classroom learning still provides an important service. An active learning environment is the preferred option for many students every year. Whether this is because they perform better in a structured environment or simply enjoy the experience.

If you’re looking to take a course and like the idea of distance learning, explore your options further today. learndirect is a leading UK distance learning provider, offering many online courses that can help you reach your goals.

Click below to view the range of courses available or read our blog to find out more about distance learning.

learndirect - Take a distance learning course


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