Online courses have their pros and cons just like in-person courses. In this article we explore 7 pros and 6 cons to give you a good outline of what it is like learning via online courses and then you can decide if online courses are for you or not.
For a long time I was very sceptical about online courses. Then I took one and found that I learnt a lot from it and enjoyed it. I have been to plenty of in-person courses in my business career and enjoy them too.
You will learn lots from both formats – online and in-person. What you are looking for in terms of learning experience and your own approach to learning will make online or in-person learning more suitable for you.
Let’s take a look at the pros of online course first.
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7 Pros or Advantages of Online Courses
1. Learn from Anywhere
A huge pro of online courses is that you can learn from anywhere with an internet connection.
You could take a course while on holiday, when travelling on the train to and from work, in your own home, in the office – the list goes on.
Online access makes a big difference if you live in a more remote area or outside the cities where most of the in-person courses are held. If you have poor transport links or would have to stay over-night to attend an in-person course, an online option might be a lot more appealing.
You can choose where you want to learn. This might be in the comfort of your own home, the garden so you can enjoy some sun and fresh air, or it might be somewhere quiet to keep away from distractions. You get to choose.
Of course, essential to online learning is having an internet connection. Internet connection is becoming a standard requirement for more and more of the world, so the limitations are reducing quickly.
2. Learn at Your Pace
Another great advantage of online courses is that you can learn at a pace that suits you. You don’t have to wait for the slowest in the class to catchup or be made to feel slow by the fastest in the class.
You can go over learning points until you are absolutely sure you get it without annoying the rest of the class. And you can do any exercises at your pace or redo them to suit your needs.
You can spend at much time reflecting on what you have learnt as you need. This is very useful in the learning process as many studies have shown. If you zoom through a course, you often only remember the last few points made rather than those throughout the course. Stopping and reflecting improves your knowledge retention.
Again, you can choose the pace to suit you and your learning style.
3. Saves you lots of time
Another pro of online courses is that you will save lots of time.
Just think about all that time spend travelling to and from where the in-person course is taking place – dealing with traffic jams and finding a parking space or late running trains. And time spent finding the right address and the right room.
If you have been organised and arrived early to make sure you don’t miss the start, you have that time waiting around until the course starts.
And finally, you can start an online course a few minutes after signing up for it. You don’t have to wait days or weeks before starting the course as you might need to do with an in-person course booked in advance.
So while the online course itself may take just as long as an in-person course, you don’t need much time outside of the actual course unlike in-person courses.
4. Online courses are more affordable
Another advantage of online courses is they are usually, but not always, less expensive than their in-person equivalents.
Online courses are more expensive to create than in-person courses. There is a lot of additional investment in equipment and filming and editing costs. Once they are made, the on-going costs or running the courses are usually much lower. With in-person courses, you need to rent space and provide refreshments, and pay the trainer with each course you run. These factors have some bearing on the price charged.
These cost differences usually translate into online course being less expensive.
The cost of production often does not relate to the value of the learning provided. Both in-person and online can provide you a huge amount of value or very little depending on many factors, such as:
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- What your learning requirements are compared to what the course is teaching
- Who has written the course and who is teaching the course?
Make sure you know what you want and do your homework.
5. Longer access to the knowledge taught
Many online courses give you access to the full content of the courses for a lot longer than in-person courses.
With in-person courses, once you and the presenter go home, you lose access to all that expertise.
You usually get copies of the slides and then you have to make notes if you want to capture the additional information that is verbally communicated during the course by the presenter.
This can mean a lot of writing. I always struggled to balance listening to and taking in what I was being told and writing furiously to capture all the key points.
With online courses, you can just replay the video lesson again. So you don’t have to take notes, you can focus on taking in what is being taught safe in the knowledge you have access for months or even years to the expert rather than just a day.
6. Lower risk – you can get a refund much more easily
Another great pro of online course is that you can have a good look at the course, or even do the whole course and if you don’t like you can get a full refund.
You have 14 days by UK law in which the provider must be refund you if asked, and many course providers offer a lot longer.
In contrast with in-person courses you often loose the option of a refund within the last week or so before the course take place. If you pull out or don’t like the course, getting a refund is a lot harder or not possible.
So online courses gives you a great opportunity to check that you will learn what you want to learn from the course without the risk that you can’t get a refund if the course was not suitable for you.
7. You can be anonymous
If you don’t want to, you don’t have to interact with anyone. You can take a course without anyone knowing.
This might be useful if you have a work situation where there is an expectation that you must know X and it is now too late to ask for help. Taking an online course to fill your knowledge gap would be a practical solution. You would get the help you need without any negative consequences at work.
Or you might find meeting a room full of strangers stressful and difficult. You choose the level of interaction you want.
Now let’s look at the cons for online courses.
6 Cons or Disadvantages of Online Courses
1. Less Social Interaction
In-person courses give you a lot of opportunity to interact socially with other attendees and the course presenter. The networking opportunity available is a large advantage of in-person courses. This social interaction remains an important part of the learning experience for many.
Online courses simple do not have the same level of interaction. Many online courses encourage interactions through forums or group emails yet these don’t match the in-person experience.
If interaction or networking with peers or the course presenter is a big part of your learning experience, then an in-person course will be better for you.
2. Harder to learn from other attendees
Another con of online courses is that it is much harder to learn from your peers or other attendees of the course.
With in-person courses, there is much more sharing of experiences, from frustrations and problems through to solutions from the other attendees. You can tap into the collective experiences of the group rather than just the course presenter.
These peer interactions are valuable learning experiences and can make the course a lot more enjoyable.
Often you realise that many others are facing the same challenges you are and as a group, solving them is a lot more fun and productive.
This experience is hard to replicate in an online course.
3. Online courses need self-discipline and self-motivation
A con of online courses is that you need to have the self-discipline and self-motivation to sit down and do the learning. We all have busy lives full of distractions – from friends calling, kids demanding attention or the latest episode of our favourite TV series.
With online courses, you don’t have the peer pressure nor the course presenter moving you through the course material and learning points.
This can be a big deal for many people.
If you struggle more with self-discipline and self-motivation than the average person, then ask yourself if online courses will work for you as well as an in-person course.
4. Online courses have higher drop-out rates
Online courses have higher drop out rates because of the self-discipline and motivation needed to complete them.
When you have a group sitting around you, pushing you on or you have travelled for an hour plus then you are much more likely to complete the course. I have not seen many in-person course attendees get up and walk out part way through the day.
With online courses, you can easily just stop doing the course. You might think – I have access for the year, I can complete it later and then don’t get round to it.
5. Technology issues can prevent learning
Not having access to a laptop, computer or tablet makes learning a lot harder for online courses. Learning on a phone is of course possible, just not as easy due to the smaller screen.
If a lot of the content is shared via recorded videos and the internet connection is poor and the videos keep freezing, your learning experience will not be great.
So you do need access to a good internet connection and a reasonable computer or tablet to make learning easier and practical.
The need for good technology is definitely a con of online courses. Great when it all works, really not when it doesn’t.
6. Study time and personal time clashes
Another disadvantage of online courses is that study time and personal time are more likely to clash. When attending in-person courses, you have a defined start and finish time and a different location to learn at.
When learning online the study is less defined and therefore can clash more easily with other demands you place on your time.
Creating boundaries is harder with online courses as you have easy access to them 24/7.
So there you have 7 pros or advantages of learning via online courses and 6 cons or disadvantages. As you might have guessed there is no right or wrong – many people get a lot from both online and in-person courses.
In the business world today, one of the most important things you can do to help your career is keep your skills up to date and adapt and learn new skills as company requirements change.
After reading the above, I hope you have a better idea on which type of courses – online or in-person – is likely to suit you best.
We hope you enjoy learning whichever route you choose.
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