Why Traditional Classroom Learning is Better than Online Courses


Online courses are becoming more and more popular. The ability to relax at home and use our own personal computers to obtain college credit is taking more and more students out of classrooms and putting them online.

Technological evolution has obviously made our lives easier and more efficient. With that said, it only seems fit that we should utilize online learning in our colleges and universities. Or should we? While it may seem fit that we adapt our learning style to keep up with the technology available to us, there are reasons to believe that online courses are not nearly as beneficial to us as traditional style classroom learning.

Lack of Interpersonal Skill Development

Online courses usually require no face to face interaction with classmates or teachers. Information on assignments is posted online and may be completed at leisure without having to attend class meetings. While the leisure of this concept is nice, it takes away from the interpersonal skills that students need to acquire along with their education.

When in a classroom, students may be required to speak their mind. They may be required to give presentations or speeches. They will have to work in groups with all kinds of people with many differing viewpoints. Online courses require none of that. Businesses often tell university faculty that they wish graduating students had more interpersonal skills. They say it is crucial to success in their careers. Traditional style learning teaches these things. Now obviously if businesses are telling universities they wish these skills were more evident, there is room for improvement. Still, online courses are not the answer. If anything, online courses will only hurt a students ability to speak and interact with others in a way that will help them in their life and career.

When students are required to interact with classmates and professors, they gain confidence in their ability to speak and interact with others. It grants them the opportunity to learn how to carry themselves in a professional manner. Because online learning can't do this, it's value to a student is significantly lower.

Lack of Memory and Learning Development

Why do many students sign up for online courses? Well, one reason is of course the fact that they do not have to attend an actual class and can learn at home. A more serious, unspoken reason however may be the fact that online learning does not require the student to study or memorize material in the way that traditional learning does.

Students taking a test or quiz online do not have to worry about a professor catching them cheating. Students have the ability to use a book and quickly look up answers online. Even while many tests are timed and many professors don't mind the use of a book on certain things, is this really the way a student should learn? When someone does not have to study and memorize material, it does not embed in his or her long term memory the way it does when they do study it. This is a serious flaw with online courses. It does not promote memory development. Students may not realize it while enrolled in a difficult course, but they will better appreciate the education they receive in college if they are required to put in more effort in obtaining it. A child does not learn how to spell by looking up words in a dictionary, he memorizes the words using flashcards or something similar. This is what enables him to actually learn.

Lack of Student Motivation

One problem with online classes is that all too often, they motivate us to get a degree, but not to learn. Having debates and in class discussions with multiple professors who all have unique personalities motivates students to develop their own opinions. It motivates them to want to voice their opinions. If a student is scared to voice his or her opinion, the classroom is the place he will practice overcoming that fear, not online.

When students receive face to face verbal feedback and constructive criticism from their professors, it instills in them a motivation to not want to let their professors down. It is the relationships and bonds that are formed that give face to face learning an advantage over online learning.

Motivation is a skill that cannot be developed when students are allowed to complete task at their own leisure. They may get the work done, but this does not teach a student how to complete task under the pressure of time. During their careers, they will need to complete task in a certain amount of time on a whim when they are told. If a professor assigns a paper at the start of class and requires it be handed in at the end, that is good preparation for a career. Reading about a similar assignment online that is due in six days doesn't teach this.

What Employers Look for in Graduates

A recent seminar consisting of 85 companies was held in Ireland. Business leaders from these companies were asked which competencies they most wanted to see from graduates. The two highest percentage answers chosen were teamwork and communication.
A recent seminar consisting of 85 companies was held in Ireland. Business leaders from these companies were asked which competencies they most wanted to see from graduates. The two highest percentage answers chosen were teamwork and communication. | Source

Make the Smarter Choice

There are some things that need to remain the same as time goes on and societies evolve. Education is one of them. While there is an argument that online learning allows people to learn at their own pace, it is still not as valuable as the education obtained from a traditional style classroom. Keep in mind, this is only true if the teachers and professors are good at what they do and if the student is willing to learn. If not, then regardless of the method, nothing will be learned. It just does not make sense to pay for online education when you gain more skill sets and knowledge with traditional style learning (which is typically less expensive).

Now, many people cannot attend regular class meetings and therefore must utilize online learning. This is the case much of the time with graduate degrees. That is another story and understandable. But for the person who is able to choose online or traditional education courses, the decision should be clear.

A student must ask himself, "Am I going to college to develop life skills and learn, or to get a diploma?"

What kind of course do you think is more effective?

  • Traditional
  • Online
  • They are equally effective.
  • It depends on the person.
See results without voting

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Comments 31 comments

Jbern117 profile image

Jbern117 4 years ago from Dunmore, PA

Very interesting, nice to hear the other side of the argument - it seems to me everyone is pushing for online courses such as those offered by udacity and coursera, but I definitely agree with you (having taken some of these online courses) that it has it's downfalls...but it also seems to me that those downfalls primarily are found in the user, not the system itself... If you really want to learn and can't for whatever reason (financially or physically) online courses can be a great asset. Nothing beats a classroom and hands on learning though!

Sethughes profile image

Sethughes 4 years ago Author

It seems to me the problem usually lies with the user as you said. If people were truly motivated to learn, they could get better results from online courses. Although, they would still be missing out on some things. Still, even if a classroom, a student wont learn if he is not engaged in the class and discussion. But yes I agree online courses are good for those with full time jobs or with the inability to attend physical classes.

Lizam1 profile image

Lizam1 4 years ago from Victoria BC

I would hate to think that all learning will be done online one day. Howerver I think for certain subjects it can really help students. My daughter is taking math online and out of high school because math is a challenge and online - with visits to the tutor available at the homeschool program is more successful. I have also started counselling online and am pleasantly encouraged by the comfort of the face to face via Skype - Good hub and thought provoking. thanks.

Sethughes profile image

Sethughes 4 years ago Author

Thanks for the comment. I think you're right about online being ok for certain subjects like math. It may actually benefit some people if they are truly doing their best to learn. Good point. There are some subjects that don't require much interaction or discussion. Hopefully if we do transition into nothing but online learning one day, it will be in a way that teaches the skills we need that can't currently be taught online.

HLKeeley profile image

HLKeeley 4 years ago from Charlotte, NC

I hate online classes. I forget when I have work due. I dropped that class quickly.

beingwell profile image

beingwell 4 years ago from Bangkok

I would go for this if I really don't have the time! Great hub!

Sethughes profile image

Sethughes 4 years ago Author

Understandable! Many people don't. Thank you very much!

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 4 years ago from Midwest

I have taken both types of classes and I have to tell you I prefer the online courses. Of course, I am motivated to learn because I enjoy my subjects. I also like the convenience of doing work when it's convenient for me and in my experience anyway, I found the instructors tend to make the online courses more challenging. I can see your point for younger students especially, about gaining social skills and life skills by attending an actual class. For me, the campus is 45 minutes away and I have more important ways I can use all that driving time :) - Voted up and interesting, definitely some points to consider that you brought up here.

Sethughes profile image

Sethughes 4 years ago Author

Thank you, and I understand your points. It kind of depends on someones own personal situation. You live a ways away. That is understandable.

The focus on the younger students is really what I was thinking of here. If you feel you have developed these skills already and enjoy the subjects enough, I think online is perfectly fine. Still, many people (especially freshman and sophomores) will tell themselves they don't need the skills learned from a traditional classroom. They are only hurting themselves.

Thanks, good points.

JamiJay profile image

JamiJay 4 years ago from Somewhere amongst the trees in Vermont.

I agree with this hub completely, and always prefer to take classes in the classroom. It is more effective in learning and obtaining the information when it comes to discussion, debate, and lecture. With that said, I am very thankful for on-line classes, without them I would not have graduated with my associates degree after my baby was born. After my daughter was born my full priorties shifted, but my education was still and is very important to me. Online classes helped me to proceed in college without taking time off and still being able to stay home full time with a small child. I also think on-line classes are useful for independent study and learning. I took my creative writing classes on-line, and without doing that, I don't know if I would have felt comfortable enough in my writing and computer skills to join hubpages. I believe my on-line creative writing class was more effective than the one I took in the classroom, but I'm not exactly sure why (even though both were very, very good learning experiences, and I wouldn't be where I am today in my writing if I had neglected to take both of them). Very good article/hub.

Sethughes profile image

Sethughes 4 years ago Author

I think it is great you had the ambition to stay enrolled and not take time off when your priorities shifted. Your own education will be important to loved ones as well. Writing is another subject that can be done just as well online as it can in the classroom. I do think if you have a good teacher who is inspirational, it helps to be in a classroom. Still, if you have the motivation (it seems you do) to truly learn and better yourself, you will do just that no matter how it is done. I think any sort of education is better than no education and I admire your motivation and ambition in pursuing yours. Thank you for sharing.

Dr Billy Kidd profile image

Dr Billy Kidd 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

You make a great case for classroom learning, Seth. There's a lot more going one here. Most accredited universities give timed tests. The open book part doesn't much help if you've only got 30 minutes.

There's also the issue of how people learn. Some people learn best while interacting within a classroom. Other peoople learn best when they can read the lecture notes at the beginning of the week, and then dig into the online reseach, using dozens of scholarly journals.

Many colleges require the entire class to interact online, along with the professor, in an ongoing 24/7 12-week discussion session. Part of the grade is one's participation. There's group projects too.

Still, all your points are valid for some people and some schools. (try a PhD level course is psychoneuroimmunology, like I did. That took about 4 hours a day, 5 days a week!)

Hope things work on the job maket for you.

Sethughes profile image

Sethughes 4 years ago Author

Thanks for the comment and the great points! I wrote this hub based on my own experiences and experiences from those I have known that took online courses.

I suppose this is an issue that also may come down to the individual professor and his or her own requirements. Some classes that take place in a room may be less educational if the professor is sub par at what he does.

Im sure upper level classes are more demanding as you have pointed out. I am nearing the end of my undergraduate degree and so have not yet experienced that. I am glad to know those that take online classes for PhD's are getting a good education and are required to earn it.

Thank you again for reading and for the commentary.

Marcela Arnaut 4 years ago

You make valid points here. I'm married, have two girls, and a part-time job with no family around to help me so I feel my best option is on-line. I'm on my way to obtaining my BA in English on-line. I do agree that on-line education makes it easier for many people to make it through simply to obtain a degree more than a real education but as many here have said, it also depends on the student. I'm a perfectionist and I tend to study more than required. I'm the type of student who if allowed to use an open book for a test I would rather do the test closed book and risk getting a lower grade knowing that's what I deserved. I also research and read other material beside the material provided by the institution. On-line schools do use the method of writing many essays and research papers to prove learned knowledge as well. In on-line schools, if you really want to learn you have to take matters into your own hands, so it does take more discipline and drive. No one will be pushing you to advance. Pretty much you reap what you sow. Nevertheless, when my daughters grow up I will encourage them to go in person to a traditional school. I think that as you implied, being around people face to face is very important for our social skills and to prepare us for the work force, so for younger or single people I would recommend going physically to school. I’m glad that the on-line option is available for people in my position though. Interesting and informative hub!

Sethughes profile image

Sethughes 4 years ago Author

Marcela, I think in your situation it is probably better to take online courses. When we have immense responsibilities it is usually makes things run smoother. You seem to be an exception to many in that you believe in truly obtaining an education and not just a degree. English is an especially important area to ensure you truly do learn. I think if at all possible, it is better for younger students to take traditional classes as you also suggest.

Thanks for reading and for your comments.

SisPeter 4 years ago

This was a great piece. Valuable points. In response to ChristinS who said that she is able to do her assignments at her own convenience, I believe classroom is much better in that regard as you would have gotten use to meeting deadlines as required in the work place.

FSlovenec profile image

FSlovenec 4 years ago from San Francisco, CA

Very well said. The more senses that can be impacted by a subject, the greater the learning On-line without an instructor will affect possible sight and heating, the live interaction is lost or subdued. In subduing this interaction the learning becomes less. You are right online for completing the check boxes for a degree will provide dramatically less learning. I believe a combination of on-line and personal / group interaction will make both more valuable and improve the learning experience. Well done.

Missy Mac profile image

Missy Mac 4 years ago from Illinois

Great article. You are correct, online learning does not require a student to memorize facts as in a traditional college. Depending on the online university, students have opportunities to participate in collaborative projects, but student location will determine meetings. Thanks again.

Janis Goad profile image

Janis Goad 3 years ago

Hi Sethughes, I enjoyed your article. I am currently taking a course with Coursera, and am really enjoying it. You make some good points about young learners needing to develop social skills in presenting their ideas publicly and engaging in debate and conversation.

For older learners, like me, who have developed those skills through life experience and the working world, online courses are wonderful.

I linked to your article in my own hub, Review of a MOOC Massive Open Online Course with Coursera.

pinkhawk profile image

pinkhawk 3 years ago from Pearl of the Orient

I think it really depends upon the person and the situation... Both approach could be more effective. ^_^!

RychardeManne profile image

RychardeManne 3 years ago

I studied (and taught a bit) at the Open University in the UK. This started as a home-based learning university for working adults, with paper materials and live tutorials. It has now expanded to online materials and live tutorials... with the added benefit of student-student interactions online, previously not possible unless you swapped phone numbers.

For a teacher, giving the same lectures year in year out is very boring. Put the video lectures online and spend that saved time in tutorials with real student participation.

rss.k-12.blendedlearning 3 years ago

I think that blended learning is the best way to go. It combines traditional classroom learning with online learning and it makes for a great education system!

Stina Caxe profile image

Stina Caxe 3 years ago from Virginia

This is a great hub with valid information and points. I have attended college both online and in the traditional classroom. Personally for me, online just works better. My work schedule wouldn't allow me time to take classes so I could study in my own time and even during my down time at my job.

I was very nervous about not interacting with other students because I agree that is an important part of learning. Luckily, the school I chose does make it part of a grade requirement to participate in online discussions with the instructor and rest of the class. I also worried about the open book exams, however once I started taking my exams I realized that the questions were formatted in such a way that even though I had the book open in front of me, I really had to know and understand the material to get the question correct.

While I enjoyed the college atmosphere as a younger student and even miss it now, I do have to admit that my grades were much higher in the online classroom. I think that in large is due to the fact that it was easier to focus on my studies when social activities were not also on my mind.

All that being said, I think that for a younger student out of high school, a traditional college is a good choice. I believe that going to a University and being on your own is a good way to learn responsibilities of the real world. For someone a bit older with a full time job and kids, like me, online just fits better into that lifestyle.

I really enjoyed reading your material, I think your views can really help somebody who is trying to make the decision about which type of school to attend!

msmmba profile image

msmmba 3 years ago from New Delhi

I totally agreed with you. Traditional class where we learn the way of developing skills and solve real-time project while online courses help us to gain theoretical knowledge. I wouldn't suggest the online course if you are student.

wooleywriter profile image

wooleywriter 3 years ago from Southern United States

I have enjoyed reading your hub. As an online instructor, I totally agree with your article. However, I like to think that I am helping to educate non-traditional students who don't have any other options to further their education. If given a choice, traditional learning is definitely best.

mbuggieh 3 years ago

I strongly disagree with the notion that online courses do not foster the development of inter-personal skills. In fact, online courses exceed the requirements and expectations of inter-personal skills development and exercise of the traditional lecture. Try participating in an online discussion without inter-personal and net-etiquette skills and see what happens. It is not "pretty".

In addition, lack of motivation is a student problem and not a function of the medium through which the course is delivered.

As for cheating or lack of development of "memory" and learning skills: There are many mechanisms in place to catch cheaters. I use them effectively in all of my courses. And, learning is NOT about memorizing. Assessments properly designed and managed for the online course environment do not and should not focus on memorization, but on learning---meaningful learning.

Nitesh 2 years ago

Tradition classrooms are best but online education is also best if we join private coaching of important topics of course. I think course syllabus does more matter for any course. I have completed my higher secondary school course in distance e-learning and also joined tuition for some important topics according to my choice. Online education is more flexible than regular and traditional courses. Also I had prepared well for my IIT JEE Main Exam and expected to get good result at

Leslie Bank 2 years ago

There's a difference between online classes and online programs. I've taken online classes at my local community colleges and am enrolled in an online bachelor of science program at a university. For the B.S. program they require us to go to testing centers for exams while most of my online community college classes did not require this, so I suggest you revise your article to include this. I think it is ridiculous how many people assume that just because a class or degree program is online that everyone in cheats their way through. As well, the majority of people in my online B.S. program are extremely motivated, much more so than those pursuing the same degree at my local university "traditionally." Those in the traditional program are generally younger, not working, and have few responsibilities while those in my online program are juggling school, work, children, and more. For your comment about memorizing, my online program is very much about application of the subject matter. I've been in many more classes "traditionally" that required memorization and I believe this factor varies by teacher preference and class requirements and is not dependent on whether or not the class is online. For my online statistics class I still have to memorize the same formulas as "traditional" students and take my exams on campus.

nadinelopo profile image

nadinelopo 23 months ago from ohio

I am a traditional student and have always taken classes on campus, in classrooms. This is the first semester I have taken an online class and I believe that online classes do not teach students anything. I do not even study for my online class, nor did I really learn anything this semester. I am getting an A in the class too, yet I know nothing? It is easy to do well when taking online classes, but you really do not learn anything.

I this many points in this hub were very correct! thank you for sharing.

amanda5577 profile image

amanda5577 19 months ago from Michigan

Your article shows a lot of bias with favoritism towards traditional classroom settings. This would be fine, except your argument is only based on assumptions. I think it would be important remember that a student determines his or her own success by choosing whether or not they want to apply themselves to their coursework. Online learning has many advantages, as does traditional learning. Personal learning styles and intelligence strengths also factor in. To say with black-and-white certainty that traditional classwork is the "smartest option" reflects how one-sided your article is. Having said that, I do agree with you that critical thinking is very important when it comes to education. One thing to consider is that critical thinking comes from questions and conversation, something which a good professor should be able to do online or in the class room. Very interesting hub, thanks for sharing.

Your hub was so inspirational that I decided to write a hub in response to your topic.

pantaron profile image

pantaron 10 months ago

Online courses are great help for students who are working somewhere and have less time to prepare and read bunch of books. There are online sites such as and that offer learning via assignments and homework to students.

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