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Is Online Learning Better or Worse for students?

29th January 21

Online learning can be just as good for students if not better than in-person classroom education. Studies have shown that overall, student satisfaction with online learning is high. Of those assessed, 94% said it has or will have a positive return on their investment. And 95% would recommend online learning to others.  

These are undeniably great stats, but whether online learning will be better or worse for students depends on many factors. Mainly your preferred learning style.

It’s well documented how beneficial the flexibility of online learning is for students. Now working professionals, international students and many others can all receive high-quality education to advance personally and professionally. Despite any geographic constraints or existing commitments they may have.

There’s no need for travel and you get to learn from the comfort of home. Which all sounds incredibly appealing. But that doesn’t give you an idea of how well you’ll fare in an online learning environment. You need to weigh it up in other areas.

learndirect - Is Online Learning Better or Worse for students?


There are undoubtedly distractions in both styles of learning. However, you need to consider which will be the most difficult for you and which you have more control over.

By choosing to learn at home, you have free reign to access your mobile, TV and the internet. If you’re not careful you can become too comfortable and find it hard to stay focussed. But you also have the power to control your learning environment.

You can set up a dedicated workspace which moves these out of your reach. Organise a clear space with everything required to learn set out before you. Keep it free of clutter and away from your mobile phone, the TV or radio. This will make it much easier for you to remain focused during your study sessions.

In class, the distractions are different, but they are still present. While you don’t have free access to your mobile or TV, you are subjected to the behaviour of others. Which at times can be pretty distracting.

If other learners start chatting and going off-topic, you might find it hard to focus on your work. They could also be asking the teacher to clarify areas of the topic you already know. Which disrupts the class from moving in line with your ability.  

You also have to put up with other students arriving late and interrupting lessons. Or teachers being late themselves and holding up the class. None of which you can control.

learndirect - Find out if Online Learning is Better or Worse for students


In class, you have a teacher on hand the entire time to help with your learning. You and other classmates can interject and ask for clarification on points of unfamiliarity whenever you need.

While this is useful, generally there is only so much capacity the teacher has for questions in each lesson. They have a list of things to get through. So, once they answer a few, they’ll likely have to move on.

With online learning many assume the lack of a teacher being present means they won’t get the support they need. The truth is quite the opposite. While you don’t have a teacher physically by your side, you have a dedicated tutor on hand to help.

They are an expert in their field and are just a phone call or email away. You might not get an answer instantly depending on how you contact them. But you can ask as many questions as you need without fear of holding up the class or what others might think.

They also provide constructive feedback on your assignments, so you know exactly what your strengths and weaknesses are. This helps you focus your attention on the areas that need it and better prepare for future assignments or exams.

While your tutor is there should you need them, they won’t be actively checking on your progress. So, it’s on you to make sure you’re putting in the time and effort to stay on top of your workload.

learndirect - Dedicated Tutor Support Provided with all Online Courses


The resources in classrooms have become much more advanced in recent years. More utilisation of computers, projectors and video technology has moved it on from simple textbook and whiteboard learning.

The same can be said for online learning resources, which have come a long way. Course providers tailor their resources specifically for the online experience. They don’t just scan and upload textbooks. Each element has been reviewed and adapted to make the experience enriching and rewarding for students. Now they are delivered via a mixture of written, audio and video means.

What you have to take into consideration is the availability of these resources. In class, textbooks are typically available for the duration, but video and other elements may be a different story. Unless they are uploaded to an online platform, viewing them could be a one-time thing.

With online learning, the materials are available for the duration of your course. If you need to re-visit a video or audio file, you can go back to it whenever you like.

Another consideration is the extension of the resources that are available with online learning. Classroom education doesn’t typically incorporate free use of the internet. Whereas with online learning you can search any topic you like for more information online.

learndirect - dynamic and engaging online learning materials

Group vs Independent Learning

Clearly online learning cannot provide the same level of informal social interactions that students have in class. However, that’s not always a bad thing.

For many, group work and learning alongside others has its benefits. You can gain more insight as you listen to others discuss their ideas. There is also room to practice debate and presentation skills which can be harder to develop online.

Being in person with teachers and other students can also create social pressures. Which can benefit some as it motivates them to learn and engage. However, while people often think it’s easier for online students to shy away, it’s easier to hide in a classroom.

Bigger personalities tend to dominate conversations and the teacher’s time. Leaving more reserved and introverted individuals overlooked whether they wanted it that way or not.

The online chat features, replay-able lesson materials and generally comfortable learning experience encourage more students to be engaged and accountable. Giving everyone an equal opportunity to shine.

learndirect - group learning vs independent learning


Classroom learning operates in line with rigid timetables, pre-determined by others with no room for movement. Some learners like having non-negotiable times and dates in the diary to keep them focussed. They operate better when someone else sets the structure and checks in to see how they’re doing.

For others, this either isn’t preferable or an option altogether. The flexibility of online learning opens education to everyone as it is widely known. But it also reduces the time spent studying.

By removing the set structure of education, students have more control over the duration of their course. In classroom education lessons, assignments and exams are spaced out. 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.

With online learning, you can move through the course as quickly as you see fit. Setting your own end date and moving onto the next stage of your goal much quicker.


So, there are many things to consider when determining if online learning would be better or worse for you. If you’ve read this and feel like online education suits your learning style, we can help with the next stage.

learndirect is a leading UK online course provider. With many online courses available to help you achieve your personal or professional goals.

Click below to start browsing and find the best one for you.

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