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Are Online Courses Harder Than Classroom Learning?

January 22nd 2024
Home > Blog > Are Online Courses Harder Than Classroom Learning?
Are Online Classrooms Harder?

Online courses are not harder than classroom learning as online courses cover the same amount of information as equivalent courses taught in the traditional classroom setting. In this respect, they are not harder than taking a course in a classroom. However, students require higher self-discipline, good technical skills, effective communication skills, and the ability to set up a suitable learning environment to succeed in an online learning environment. 

What Makes a Successful Online Student?

A stack of books leaning against an open laptop.

Seven primary skills will contribute to success for online students, according to the University of Illinois.

1. The ability to communicate effectively by writing. 

Effective writing that clearly and concisely conveys a student’s thoughts, will assist an online lecturer in providing proper support. All online courses require a high degree of written communication, and students need good literacy skills. 

2. Self Discipline

Online students need to be self-motivated and possess enough self-discipline to complete an online course. The responsibility of completing an online course falls on the student, and those with enough discipline can stick to a study schedule. 

3. The ability to ask for help

The willingness to reach out when they have difficulty understanding the subject matter will help online students. The longer a student procrastinates getting help, the more difficult it becomes to finish the online course. In a traditional classroom, a student can quickly raise his or her hand to verbalize what they do not understand but with online classes, students need to respond online. 

4. Time Management

Research conducted by the University of Massachusetts reveals that students with poor time management and lack of motivation may find online courses challenging. Students are advised to schedule regular study sessions to remain consistent towards achieving their goals. 

5. Meet educational requirements

Courses hosted online require students to meet the exact educational requirements as those in traditional classrooms. Successful online students are mindful of the course level and can assess whether they meet the required educational experience to pass the course. 

6. Critical Thinking 

Online students need critical thinking skills when applying the knowledge they’ve learnt online in different case studies. The absorption of knowledge and implementing correct decisions demand critical thinking and case studies are particularly adept at fostering this skill.

7. Embrace Online Learning

Successful online students embrace online learning and are adequately prepared for this type of learning. Setting up a quiet space in their homes for study sessions, ensuring that they have the correct technical equipment (such as laptop, software requirements, and online textbooks, internet connection), and compiling an effective study schedule all assist in helping students succeed in the online learning environment.

An online course instructor conducting an online class.

The Pros and Cons of Online Courses 

There are 10 pros and 4 cons of online courses. Online courses teach the same content that you would learn in a traditional classroom; however, there are differences in how you learn. Learning online differs greatly from traditional classroom learning, and the choice depends heavily on a student’s circumstances. 

To ascertain whether an online course would be a good fit for you, consider the following pros and cons:


According to Drexel University, there are 10 benefits to online learning:

  1. Flexibility

Online courses offer flexibility and convenience. Learners can study on their schedule and pace, which is particularly advantageous for balancing work or other commitments. Traditional classrooms have a very structured approach, while online students can access online lessons whenever they need to.

2. Financial Savings

A massive advantage of online learning is reducing costs for commuting and accommodation. Students require access to a laptop and a good internet connection. In contrast, traditional classroom learning requires that learners spend extra money on transportation or lodging. 

3. More Free Time

Online students have the benefit of arranging the times at which they study, and they also save on time spent traveling back and forth from attending a traditional classroom.

4. Increased Course Variety

The variety of online courses available from multiple online platforms is easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection. However, to attend a traditional class, students are limited.

to the courses offered at a particular physical campus. Coursera, an online course platform, hosts over 7000 courses. According to BestColleges.com, colleges in the United States have, on average, 422 courses available.

5. Increased Collaboration

Online courses facilitate greater collaboration through virtual groups and message boards, enabling students to engage deeply with peers and professors. This setup also often leads to increased direct interaction with instructors, benefiting learning and networking.

6. Personalized Education

Online classes are ideal for students distracted by classroom activity or who are less vocal in person, offering a more tailored educational experience through self-paced studies in preferred environments. This flexibility allows for study from any location with internet access.

7. Enhanced Time Management Skills

Online learning demands effective time management, teaching students to complete assignments within deadlines. This self-regulated learning enhances time management skills alongside academic knowledge.

8. Immediate Feedback

Digital coursework submission in online learning enables prompt feedback from professors, accelerating the learning process and allowing students to quickly adjust strategies for future assignments.

9. Repeated Access to Course Materials

Unlike traditional lectures, online courses offer video materials that can be revisited, aiding understanding and assignment completion. This repeated access to learning resources effectively supplements students’ study practices.


  1. The Dangers of Procrastination

In a traditional classroom, skipping a class without being confronted by your lecturer is tough. Many formal classrooms still take a roll call to keep track of attendance. Completed assignments are often handed to lecturers directly, and this face-to-face interaction often keeps students accountable. When taking an online course, it is much easier to slip under the radar. If one is not careful, assignment deadlines can go unnoticed until the last moment. 

2. Extensive Writing 

In a traditional classroom, all you need to do to ask a question is raise your hand. Unfortunately, this option is not available in an online course. All communication is in writing, whether via email or specialized chat rooms. You will need to become very good at expressing your thoughts in writing. 

3. Lack of Interaction

While students will benefit greatly from taking an online course, not everyone can cope with the lack of social interaction that a traditional classroom can provide. Online students are often able to foster friendships online. And while they will still not interact face-to-face with these friends, they will benefit from befriending professionals and students worldwide. 

Online learning platforms such as Teach.io offer students access to tailored learning communities. Learn more today!

4. Self Discipline 

Online students do not have the luxury of being kept on track by lecturers and fellow students. Therefore, they must have a high level of self-discipline. Completing an online course requires motivation and time management. 

Strategies for Succeeding in An Online Class

Setting up a quiet place to study every day and preparing a plan of action are important steps toward success in online studies. Allow family and friends to keep you accountable to your goals. This will help to keep you motivated to finish your course. Keep your goals first and foremost in mind and make sure that you keep on track with assignments and revisions.  

Strong writing skills are a very sought-after skill in the workplace. An online course may help you develop this skill if you are not a good writer. Being forced to express yourself through the written word will only improve your writing. 

Joining an online learning community is an excellent option for those who miss the social interaction of a traditional classroom. Here, you can ask seasoned professionals questions and seek career advice, which may not be available in a regular classroom. 

The connections online students make in these learning communities prove invaluable after graduation. 

A good habit to help curb procrastination is to keep a diary with all your assessment deadlines. Do this right at the beginning of the course so you can track your progress. You will then need to schedule enough time for regular course revision and assignments to reach each milestone of the course. Asking a family member or friend to keep you accountable for making a success of the course helps.

The Final Verdict

A group of happy, successful students.

No, online courses are not harder than classroom learning. However, they are more suitable for students who have basic technical, communication, and time management skills.

Online courses also require more self-discipline and motivation than attending an in-person class.

Unlike traditional classroom situations students can complete an online course on their own schedule. This flexibility is one of the best advantages of doing an online course.

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