Traditional Learning vs. Online Learning: A Primer

Over the years, online training courses have become more popular. Thanks to ever-evolving technology, distance is no longer a concern. The COVID-19 pandemic has also served to underscore the viability of digital learning methods, ensuring the health and safety of both teachers and students.

This doesn’t mean, however, that traditional learning has no more place in modern society. In fact, there are still those who prefer a classroom set-up especially for younger students who benefit for engagement.

In short, there are pros and cons to both methods. To help you decide which one is the most suitable for you or someone close to you, take a look at the comparisons below:

A Look Into Online Learning

Online learning, as its name implies, relies on online or digital methods to deliver the course program. Usually, the lessons are conducted through virtual classrooms hosted in messaging services or apps. With the help of web cameras and presentation tools, a teacher can share the course material and also interact with their students.

Of course, online learners can also opt for other methods of delivery. For example, there are some digital programs that provide reading materials in PDF and/or video tutorials. Students are encouraged to learn at their own pace and then take an examination at the end of the prescribed period.

There are also training programs that combine digital and traditional methods. This is often due to the practical nature of the subject matter being studied. For instance, the online component of safety training courses involves theory, legal requirements, and the like. Afterwards, students may be required to appear in-person in a classroom for practical demonstrations and to take exams.

In most situations, online learning is more ideal for adults who need to increase their qualifications for career advancement. Unlike traditional schools that are constrained by specific operating hours, online learning allows people to take their lessons anytime, anywhere.

A Look Into Traditional Learning

Traditional learning or classroom learning refers to the method of teaching in which students come to a learning institution to attend classes in physical classrooms. It’s still by far the most popular model for learning, particularly for younger students.

More often than not, students are given copies of learning materials such as books or printouts. Taking notes may not be explicitly required, but highly encouraged. There are also mandated examinations to assess how much of the lessons have been retained.

Aside from the required physical presence, another thing that separates traditional and online schooling is structure. This obviously doesn’t mean that online learning is disorganised. However, with traditional learning, attendance is a big part of the process. This helps foster proper interaction, not to mention instill discipline.

As such, traditional learning is ideal for school-age children and adolescents who have yet to join the workforce. With the personal presence of a teacher, it’s also easier to perform evaluations. When students know their strengths and weaknesses, they can better see the possibilities ahead of them.

Finally, classrooms afford students with live feedback. This is especially important for children, who may need more hands-on assistance. Interactions with classmates and teachers can also help develop crucial interpersonal skills.

Pros and Cons of Traditional and Online Learning

With all of that being said, it’s easy to see the differences between the two methods of learning. It’s also easier to see which one is more applicable depending on the purpose, kind of student, and the subject matter.

For a quick summary, here are the pros and cons of online and traditional learning.

Online learning pros:

  • Learn anytime, anywhere
  • Minimised physical interaction can be beneficial at times (e.g., during pandemics)
  • Exhaustive resources such as online references
  • Wide variety of subjects
  • Saves time and money
  • Ideal for adults

Online learning cons:

  • Requires independence, which not all learners may have
  • Requires personal resources (e.g., own computer or smartphone)
  • Some courses are impossible to be taught digitally (e.g., medicine)
  • Can sometimes feel isolating

Traditional learning pros:

  • Personal interactions can increase engagement and boost learning
  • Provides easy-to-follow structure
  • Live feedback and guidance from instructors
  • Can cultivate other crucial skills
  • Ideal for younger students

Traditional learning cons:

  • Constrained by distance
  • Limited flexibility
  • Can get expensive
  • Some students may feel pressured to perform well

In the end, the choice will depend on the student and the subject. Remember, too, that different people have different learning styles, not to mention personal circumstances. Sometimes, only one method is available. (Again, look at how COVID-19 has changed the way learning is approached around the world.)  On others, both may be possible or even ideally combined.

The key here is to conduct a thorough assessment of the student. Gauge their capabilities, not just based on hard skills but soft skills as well. Then, factor in the situation. This way, you’ll find the most suitable method of learning for the person and thus receive optimum results.