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Online vs in-person classes: Is one method better than the other?

person reading a book and looking at computer

During the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all students had to get used to learning in alternative ways since in-person classes were not an option. Now that we are in a transition state of still having some online options and in-person classes, it might be a good time to weigh the pros and cons of each.

Online learning

When looking at online classes, the most obvious pro is that it allows people to access the class from anywhere that has WiFi. This may be crucial for those that are living far away from or don't have reliable transportation to campus. Online classes also offer flexibility as you can view the material at any time you want. This is beneficial to those that work or have other obligations that they need to tend to. It was found that around 74% of undergraduates had a part-time job.   Also, if there is an emergency it allows the student to plan their classes accordingly.

On the other hand, for those who have difficulty managing their time and get easily distracted, online classes may not be for you. This is because a typical three credit course will require you to put around eight hours of work per week.

In-person learning

When looking at in-person classes, there are offered features that online classes do not have. There is less distraction and more hands-on learning activities. These may be critical for those that learn best when they are involved in the learning process. In fact, according to a study, 64.4% of students believe that they learn better in a face-to-face setting. There is also more accountability as there are other classmates that are there with you in real-time. The instructor can answer questions and feedback right away. This can also encourage students to be more active in learning and ask questions.

However, in-person classes are less flexible and may take more time if you have to commute.

Looking back, we can see that there are many benefits but also shortcomings for both online and in-person classes. Depending on one’s learning style and the type of subject or topic that is being taught, one option may be better than the other. Being able to have a combination of both online classes and in-person classes can offer students the flexibility and quality education they need.

AUTHOR: Sharon Kim, Interdisciplinary Health Sciences student, University of Illinois and Illinois Extension intern.