There are many benefits of online learning and there are disadvantages of learning online too. In this objective article we explore both sides of the fence so you can decide if online or classroom learning is best for you.
Whatever you choose, learning remains a key activity throughout our professional lives if we want to improve and progress. We hope you love learning as much as we do.
So let’s start with the benefits of online learning.
Learn your way
Benefits of online learning
1 – Learn anywhere
A huge benefit of online learning is that you can learn anywhere you have access to a phone, tablet or computer and internet access. You could be at home, at work, on your commute, on the beach, literally anywhere.
You can choose the place in which you learn best or move between different places to suit you or your lifestyle. Using travelling time to learn is a favourite of many as they don’t feel the commuting time is “wasted”.
2 – Learn 24/7 – anytime you want
Another benefit of online learning is that you can learn anytime you want and how you want. You might find getting up in the morning and doing a couple of hours works best for you. Or the evening might suit you better because getting up early is not your thing.
Or you might do 5 mins here, 20 mins there if you are hectic or want to learn a little bit and then reflect on it for a bit before taking the next lesson.
You can learn at a pace that suits you rather than having to keep up with the average pace of the overall class or wait for others to catchup. This makes learning easier. And of course, you can go over parts you find difficult as many times as you want and zoom through parts you find easy. This is harder to do within a classroom setting.
3 – Less disruption to your working week.
Attending classroom training takes a large block of time out of your week. It might be a day or half day, plus travelling time and this might be a real barrier to booking that course that you want to do.
Most online learning is usually built around small bite-sized lessons from a few minutes upwards. This provides you with a huge amount of learning flexibility and the opportunity to stop and reflect on what you have just learnt.
You can fit learning in around a busy work week which means that you don’t need to take large amounts of time out of the office. This is very useful to busy individuals.
4 – Online courses cost less
Online learning usually cost less than classroom learning. The cost to produce an online course is considerably more than a classroom course, yet when completed, the ongoing costs of providing that training are lower. For instance, there are no rooms to hire for each class.
The lower cost does not mean the quality of the course is lower. In many cases, the quality of the course can be higher and there are more learning tools available to use helping cement the learning better.
5 – Try before you buy (almost)
Another benefit on online learning is that you can sign up to the course and if you start the course and quickly decide that the course is not right for you, then you can usually get a refund. This is almost try before you buy.
Other online training providers let you go through the first few lessons of the course before buying.
With a classroom course, once you have booked the place and the provider doesn’t have enough time to fill your space, you will be charged. If you find out the course is not for you, it is very hard to get a refund.
Signing up to Online learning is usually much lower risk and choosing the wrong course for you is much cheaper!
6 – Revisit the training materials as much as you want
Have you ever gone to a classroom course, had a little bit of learning overload and then a week later you are struggling to remember some of the key parts? You look in your binder of notes and the copy of the slides doesn’t really help?
I have been is this place a few too many times for my liking. With online courses, you are usually able retake the full lessons as many times are you want.
It has been proven that having lots of breaks and a chance to reflect over what you have just learnt increases knowledge retention considerably.
And when developing skills, practice is needed. Therefore being able to come back to the lesson and refine how you are using the lesson to build your skills is incredibly useful.
As you can see there are many fantastic benefits to online learning. Let’s look at the other side of the fence – the disadvantages of learning online.
Disadvantages of learning online
1 – Much less social interaction
A key disadvantage of learning online is that you don’t get to meet new people in the same way as you can through classroom learning. This reduces the opportunity to build networks within or externally to the company in which you work.
In classroom learning, you can ask questions of other attendees or the instructor whenever you want. These interactions help with learning and make taking the course more fun.
The ability to call or email the course presenter to ask question and discuss areas you are unsure about make a difference when taking online courses. Having the social aspect of the classroom experience is hard to beat.
2- Need to be self-motivated and self-disciplined
Attending a classroom course forces you to dedicate time to learn, getting you away from the multiple distractions that we have in modern life. This can really suit some people.
If you are not disciplined or motivated enough to sit down to learn on your own, then online learning is probably not as good an option for you as classroom learning. The lack of peer or teacher pressure to learn and keep up with the class is disadvantage of learning online.
Some online courses offer exercises with deadline or with the course presenter marking or providing feedback. Both help to keep course delegates stay motivated and moving forward.
3 – Harder to learn from other
Attending classroom courses provide you opportunities to learn from other attendees. Sharing experiences and solutions can be really useful. Generating ideas is much easier in groups as you spark ideas off each other.
Sharing stories and experiences can also provide attendees a lot of confidence for instance knowing that the problem you have is a common one.
These benefits can be hard to replicate with online courses. Providing forums for course delegates to ask questions and message each other does help capture some of the benefits of being in a classroom together.
Online courses and classroom courses both have their own advantages and disadvantages. Have a think about the above points and decide which approach most suits you.
There is nothing to stop you using both online and classroom learning approaches. In you want to progress your career, or get better at what you do, then it is pretty much essential that spend time learning.
“Sharpen the Saw” is one of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey famous best-selling book) for a very good reason. This habit is all about learning and improving what you do.
Whatever you choose, set aside time to learn and improve.