What Are the Differences Between Online and Traditional Education?

Differences between online and traditional education, in terms of instruction and social interaction, might be worth considering when choosing between these two options. Discover some of the key differences and find out more about each option.

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Online and Traditional Education Differences

When students are considering choosing between online and traditional education, they may only think about the most obvious difference of computer versus classroom. There are many other differences that could significantly impact a student's ability to succeed. Before choosing between education options, consider such factors as learning styles, classroom setting, and technology.

Learning Styles

Typically, online learning tends to favor independent learning styles, particularly visual learners. In addition to relying on technology, online programs expect students to be self-directed in achieving their academic goals while balancing other responsibilities. Although there are still misconceptions that online courses are easier and take less work, most online education programs have adopted active learning environments that incorporates activities, peer-peer communication, and student-instructor interactions.

Traditional courses often cater to collaborative learning styles, especially for auditory and kinesthetic learners. Likewise, traditional learning environments offer opportunities for face-to-face interaction in and out of the classroom. Furthermore, at a brick-and-mortar school, social and academic support may come from peers on campus.

Classroom Setting: In-Person vs. Virtual

In a traditional course, multiple students gather to learn at a specific time and place. Students may attend lecture discussion sessions, independent study groups with peers, or interact with the instructor after class or during office hours. The style of instruction at traditional universities is most often teacher-driven, in that the knowledgeable instructor lectures on the subject of his or her expertise.

Online courses allow students the flexibility to choose the time and place to learn that is most convenient for them. The style of instruction in online programs is more user-driven. Depending on the course, students may experience varying levels of control over the pace of learning and when they attend the class. Given technology and student learning styles, instructors have had to adapt both their teaching styles and the way they present information to online students.

Technological Concerns

Online courses rely on such technology as Web pages, email, software programs, message boards, chat rooms, webinars, webcasts, search engines, and social media. To do well in online courses, students must understand how to utilize these different resources. Likewise, teachers must understand how to incorporate these resources into lessons, and teachers must be able to provide instruction on how students can use the resources.

While traditional classes may take place in the classroom, students and faculty still require some technology skills for using document creation programs, conducting Internet-based research, and using other technology resources. Therefore, traditional classes will not save students or faculty from having to learn how to use and incorporate some technology into their education programs.

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