Online vs Traditional Education - All You Must Know

Online vs Traditional Education - All You Must Know

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, several industries had to make certain changes; it enforced innovation across all the sectors, education is no exception.

Schools and universities had to make a shift to remote teaching. However, like most cases, there has been some mixed responses from both students and parents. It has sparked a debate among experts on how the teaching methods will evolve and bring a change for good, which is better online education or traditional education? Will online learning continue to persist post-pandemic?   

Through this article, let's look at the differences and similarities between online and traditional education to conclude with the winner.   

What is Online Learning?

Online learning is an interchangeable term of "eLearning." It is a form of distance learning, the education that takes place over the internet; where learners get access to education anywhere, anytime. If your schedule makes it hard to attend classes, if you prefer studying at your own pace or if you live far from campus, online learning might be for you.

The online education providers usually use LMS (learning management system) that typically stores the platform's training content and resources. 

In eLearning, learners are free to submit their assignments online, discussions are held in a forum format, and emailing professors is very prompt. This amazing model of learning comes along with convenience, greater flexibility, and greater accessibility. They can complete lessons around the self-made schedule without leaving home. It also costs lesser than traditional learning methodology. The reason can be no room and board requirement, parking, books and attendance, and of course lessor fees.    

What is Traditional Learning?

Being the most dominant form of pursuing an education, traditional learning, and takes place in a classroom setting. In this old learning methodology, an instructor moderates and regulates the flow of information and knowledge in face-to-face instruction. Then, expects the learners to deepen their knowledge through the provided exercises to do at home.   

Traditional learning allows students to interact with one another and discuss with teachers in person. Probably this is why it is still so much in demand. Students feel more responsible regarding their exams, every deadline that comes their way, and regularly attend the classes. However, this might not suit the mindset of some other students.   

What are the differences between Online Education and Traditional Education?   

Social Interaction

One of the major aspects that must be considered when planning to opt for either online or traditional education is Social interaction. Students should ask themselves before enrolling; whether they need one-on-one interaction with their instructors or peers?   

Usually, online education provides lecturers and students with an opportunity to interact with one another through an online portal or video conferencing software. With such online meeting software, it is more comfortable to hold or attend classes from anywhere at any time. These platforms allow students to enjoy live streaming of full HD and crystal-clear audio classes. Teachers too can take advantage of the screen sharing feature to easily begin their lessons by using the software.    

Contrarily, the traditional brick-and-mortar classroom is an excellent option for those looking for face-to-face communication. Traditional learning makes it possible for students to have direct engagements with instructors and students. Students can also have detailed discussions, ask lots of questions, and cover many concepts in one topic. In the long run, it will improve students' performance and competence in the field of specialization.   


When comparing online education and traditional education, we cannot afford to leave one of the major aspects of education –flexibility. eLearning offers flexibility to students, particularly those who have family responsibilities or are already committed to work. With online-based courses, students can take classes in their free time, without being forced to attend lessons at any specific time.   

While on the other hand, traditional education can be excellent for students who have time to attend classes. This option is ideal for students. Although it is not entirely as flexible as online education, some schools offer class schedules for mornings and evenings, as well, it might be a convenient option for working students. The only challenge might be the long distance between the student's home or workplace and the school campus.   


Online courses and programs offer cheaper options for learning than traditional education options. According to reports, a degree course in a traditional university or college costs a total average of $85,000. On the flip side, an online degree costs $30,000. This means enrolling for a course online offers students the opportunity to save more tuition fees and boot camps while enjoying greater flexibility.   

However, traditional education might be insanely expensive, but it does offer tangible learning programs and materials that match the amount paid. These institutions tend to offer real-time learning or study experience. Students get access to the library, sponsored school trips, or dining in school. In essence, it might end up saving a little time the student or parent has kept aside for studies.   

Methodologies and Facilities of Teaching

Many students prefer online education because they believe today's online courses offer tailored experiences to meet each student's needs. It is often challenging to take practical classes online as easier it is to deliver on theory lessons. When practical lessons are carried out, they fail to provide the "one-on-one experience" as the traditional education system would.   

The offline mode of education often provides a hands-on experience to all students who need to learn from practical lessons. Unlike online education, it has several necessary facilities and equipment for practical studies and activities. Whether a student takes Chemistry, Biology, Dentistry, or other practical based courses, they would enjoy plenty of lab lessons and/or field training. They cannot achieve the same in online education as most students often take classes while lying on the couch or in bed.   

Time Management

Whether it is an online or traditional class, it requires the student to manage their time wisely. They can structure their time outside of the classroom to study, projects, and homework in a traditional class. However, the absence of regular class meetings in online education requires students to acquire and learn course materials on their own set time. This is what makes online classes attractive to non-traditional students who may have additional jobs or family responsibilities that may make attending regular classes a challenge state the "Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks."   


Both online and traditional education also assess student participation. In a traditional class, students voluntarily participate in discussions or question-answer session. However, as per the University of Connecticut's Instructional Design and Development Guide for Online Students, some students may be shy or unwilling to contribute, leading to a lopsided class dynamic where the same people tend to carry the weight. Students' participation is mandatory in online courses, usually through written discussions in chat rooms or message boards. Therefore, students have the opportunity to come across a wider range of perspectives, including those who may struggle with participating in a traditional learning environment.   

Student and Teacher Relationships

Another major factor to check which is better is to assess the students' teacher bond. In a traditional class, face-to-face communication creates a different dynamic for every class. However, online classes lack these interactions. It requires teachers to use forums, chats, and other online discussion media to build a community, creating complications. Similarly, students also lack the opportunity to know the instructor personally. However, traditional classrooms let students gain support and personal relationships from teachers.   

Assignments and Tests

In a traditional classroom, instructors can offer almost every assessment type, from written work to tests to oral examinations and presentations. However, in online classes, there are more limitations in the types of assignments students can complete. Usually, online instructors grade students through papers, open-book examinations and student contributions to online discussions. Since online students must be self-directed, online instructors usually practical design assignments.   

Retention Rates

The offline courses, often, struggle to retain students throughout the length of the course. However, the case is different with online education. The Research Institute of America has found that this is not the case with eLearning. Instead, online courses have increased student retention rates from 25% to 60%. It also suggests, the more engaging multimedia content, the more control over how they take in the material, and less likelihood of classes clashing with other commitments. Thus, making it more preferable.   

Discipline & self-motivation

When planning to opt for any mode of learning, you need to weigh your level of self-discipline. Both pedagogies certainly require some discipline to succeed, but there can be significant differences in how the learning process is structured. Learner's ability to stay on track can have a significant impact by these structural differences. 

Aforesaid, online learning is more flexible in comparison to traditional learning. It comes with a bit of a trade-off—require learners to be highly self-motivated. Also, students need to keep up their works like reading and assignments, but some students may struggle to stay motivated when learning from their home's comfort. In such cases, they can set aside time every week for studying and create a workspace with minimal distractions.   

Coming to discipline and motivation, traditional education has several advantages. The structured schedule of attending classes as per the set schedule and having routine face-to-face interactions with instructors can help students stay on task. Also, on-campus settings provide more opportunities to be reminded of upcoming assignments, helping to procrastinate on time-consuming assignments.   

Learning Pace

In online-based courses, students get complete control over their lessons. They are allowed to learn as per their "own pace" and "learning capacity." The reason behind is that each student learns differently. Few might be quick learners, while some might require a longer time to understand a certain topic.    

On the other hand, a traditional classroom teacher explains the concepts and answers doubts, but there is only so much that they can do. There are possibilities that some students' doubts could remain unanswered. Some students might find the teacher's pace of teaching too fast. A teacher cannot pay attention to each student, and also students get dependent on teachers to disseminate information and get their questions answered.   

Coming back to online education, it addresses this issue by offering additional information and explanations via eBooks and other forms of online resources. Students no longer need to wait for the teacher to start/finish a chapter; they can do it themselves. They do not need to depend on teachers. They can go through the content, read chapters, listen to audio-books or external links. Precisely, online education helps students become active learners and take full responsibility for their own studies.   

In our opinion, both have several offerings in online education and traditional education, and it would not be fair to call either of the learning methods as "the best over the other;" because both have their pros and cons. Which learning method is right for an individual, depends completely on their needs and demands.     

 What is your opinion? Which mode of learning suits your requirement?   

About the Author
Author: Saniya Khan
Saniya Khan I am Saniya Khan, Copy-Editor at EdTechReview - India’s leading edtech media. As a part of the group, my aim is to spread awareness on the growing edtech market by guiding all educational stakeholders on latest and quality news, information and resources. A voraciously curious writer with a dedication to excellence creates interesting yet informational pieces, playing with words since 2016.

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