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  • May 17, 2021

In-Person vs. Online Learning — Can They Compare?

Updated: Sep 22

Can they compare?

Online vs. In-Person Class for Learning — What is Best?

Many may believe with the changes in the way students are being taught that there is one medium of teaching that is better than the other. As technology has developed, we’ve been able to connect with people all over the world through apps like WhatsApp, FaceTime, Zoom, WeChat, etc. Needless to say, education has also evolved to connect students and instructors in virtual classrooms.

It’s clear that things are not the way they used to be before 2020, and many have debated whether or not in-person learning is better than online learning. But how do the two compare? Is one really better than the other?

What is the difference between in-person and online learning?

Online learning is exactly what it sounds like: classrooms and subject materials are all covered virtually. In-person learning is the traditional way of learning, where students attend face-to-face classes at allotted times. Let’s dig into the pros and cons of each type of learning environment.

Online courses offer Classroom setting Person classes Online education Students learn Online programs Face to face interaction Department of education Pros and cons Full time Students enrolled Online students Learning opportunities Person learning Online and in person Online class Offering online Online learning Hands-on learning

Pros of Online Classes

Throughout the course of the pandemic, there’s been an increase in students enrolling for online programs. According to InsideHigherEd , women and Black Americans prefer online learning. 60% of Black Americans have confidence in the quality of online education, and 48% (nearly half!) of women would choose to pursue an education online. With so many opting to pursue online degrees, what are the pros of online learning?

1) Virtual classrooms provide great accessibility for students .

Online classes open the gate for many people who don’t have the means to attend in-person classes or for people who want to go back to school, but may also have other commitments. Online education is great for single parents, military personnel, or full-time employees. Online courses offer the opportunity for a larger group of people to receive formal education. Ultimately, when the barriers of an in-person classroom are removed, all students benefit from the freedom of choosing when to do their coursework on an online platform.

2) Online classes offer self-paced learning and schedule flexibility .

For people who do not appreciate the structure of in-person classroom meetings, online learning is a great alternative. Students all work and learn at different paces , and online classes offer the ability for students to follow their own schedules. With flexible scheduling students can mold the classroom to whatever learning environment and class schedule works best for them.

3) Online learning can be cheaper than in-person learning .

Traditional schooling tends to be more expensive than online schooling because there are in person experience costs. This includes extracurriculars, dorming, dining halls, etc. These are all amenities that students are typically happy to pay for, but the realities of the pandemic lead many students to realize that their want for that experience is less significant. Prospective students now tend to enroll in online classes for the affordability of a formal education with increased convenience and decreased cost.

Cons of Online Classes

Despite the positive aspects of the virtual classroom setup, there are undeniably some things lacking that in-person classrooms have. It is important to note that regular online classes have a different set of downsides in comparison to online classes that had to shift rapidly due to the pandemic. Certain subjects had a more difficult time modifying to the online realm. Nonetheless, here are some of the drawbacks of online learning.

1) There’s been an increase in online fatigue.

If you heard the phrase ‘ Zoom fatigue ’ floating around the internet, that’s because it’s very real. After a whole year of online meetings, Zoom meetings, and whatever it may be, it can start to feel dreary. Every live meeting is the same each time with little simulation, so it’s unavoidable that we all will get online fatigue.

2) There can be a lack of engagement in virtual classrooms.

This is mainly because teacher/student or student/student relationships are hard to maintain virtually - or at least we have less practice in this new learning environment. It’s difficult to get to know people through video calls, and without a palpable connection, students tend to lose focus during online classes because it doesn’t matter to them. Students are also reluctant to learn when attending online classes because they know they’ll just have to watch and memorize along the way (a.k.a. passive learning ). When students do put in the effort to build relationships, they are usually hit with technical issues like spotty Wi-Fi, crunchy mic sounds, or awkward lags.

3) Certain subjects are hard to accommodate online.

Subjects like chemistry, nursing, or culinary arts have a hard time being translated into an online teaching method because, quite literally, those classes are hands-on and require a physical classroom . Instructors in these fields were not prepared for the abrupt changes of the pandemic, so it was difficult for them to come up with ways to teach their students through a screen. Students, as well, likely had a hard time learning because of the lack of materials they had at home.

Online courses offer Classroom setting Person classes Online education Students learn Online programs Face to face interaction Department of education Pros and cons Full time Students enrolled Online students Learning opportunities Person learning Online and in person Online class Offering online Online learning Hands on learning

Pros of In-Person Class

In person, instructors can actively monitor what is going on in the classroom, from discussions to exams to student relationships. Online learning takes away many of these factors. Let’s dig into the pros of in-person learning.

1) Being in person in a lecture makes it easier for instructors to conduct discussions.

For example, students benefit from live conversation on case studies and live role playing activities that can be very effective. When instructors engage students in conversation and see that other students have the same enthusiasm, it naturally pulls them into the conversation to learn as well. Effective communication is key to successful learning. Some instructors may prefer in person classes because they are able to control the dialogue in the classroom more fully than online.

2) There can be more community and relationship connection opportunities.

Without the right tools, building relationships online is often not as effective as building them in person. Connections and relationships can be a great resource or reference, and with in-person classes, they don’t have to feel like they are stuck in uncomfortable isolation. In person classes allow for the before and after chatter in a classroom, catching up on weekends and working through tough problems with fellow students. That chatter is what helps students to feel comfortable , even if the subject is challenging for them. Mental health is a critical aspect of education that often gets overlooked, and in-person friendships and social interactions can greatly reduce levels of stress and anxiety.

3) There are less distractions in the classroom.

At home, when taking classes online, learners tend to be distracted easily. Daily disturbances of the internet or common disruptions at home can make students and instructors loose focus frequently , adding to the lack of engagement. However, when students are sitting in a classroom setting with their peers where they can’t turn their camera off to do something else, they have more of an opportunity to be involved with the lesson because there is nothing else they can do in a more structured learning environment.

Cons of In-Person Class

One of the major disadvantages of traditional in-person learning is that it’s not always easily available to people. This is especially true for higher education institutions. Here are some of the drawbacks of in-person classes.

1) For some students, their local college may not offer their field of study.

Even for those who think they prefer in person classes, going going away for college might be completely out of their budget. This makes learning inaccessible and inefficient. Traditional colleges are expensive , and traveling to out of state colleges is even more expensive, which turns people away from enrolling in either. Online classes offer the ability to find a program that works for them at a more reasonable price.

2) Going to class can be time-consuming.

When attending school in a traditional classroom setting, you have to take into account the commute time and lecture length. Many students will have a class schedule that contains 3-4 classes each day that are at least an hour long, in addition to class time you must consider the additional time to walk, bike, bus, or drive to those classes which makes hours of the day disappear. In-person classes are not as flexible as online classes, which can frustrate many students that pay for the college experience, but have little time to indulge. For example, student athletes miss classes quite often due to athletic events, but are expected to keep up with the rest of their class even though their lectures may not be recorded for them to learn the material.

3) Some students’ learning styles do not align with physically being there.

Social anxiety has been a big issue in younger generations, so there is usually a division in bigger classroom sizes. Quieter, shyer students will tend to sit in the back, which can lower engagement if they can’t hear the professor or see the board. In some cases, big group discussions make students feel afraid to speak up, holding them back from fully participating as well. Online communities offer students the time and space to put together their thoughts, so that they don't feel that social stress that the typical physical classroom experience causes. Allowing students to have course conversations in an online platform like Yellowdig, as opposed to in-person, allows students who may be taking the course in their second language an equal opportunity to participate. This online conversation model enables students who would typically not speak in live classes the opportunity to shine through a less stressful social interaction.

In-person learning vs online learning comparison chart

At the End of the Day, Which is Better?

With all the pros and cons laid out about each type of learning sphere, it’s hard to say that one is better than the other. With increasing advancements in technology, there’s no way to avoid using it in the classroom altogether. Due to the impact of COVID-19, everyone has put the idea of online classes at the forefront of education. Whether it be in-person learning or online learning, both mediums can be great options and achieve exemplary educational outcomes.

We’ve seen many creative solutions arise, whether it is accommodating alternate in-person courses, shifting rapidly to online, or seeking out hybrid delivery modalities at a faster rate in the last year than ever before. While it is not clear that one modality is superior to the other, what can be seen is that the best way to support academic outcomes is by generating active learning communities both inside and outside the classroom.

Yellowdig recognizes that many students do not truly engage in discussion with their peers through traditional discussion boards, which only further constrains relationship building and effective communication. These two aspects are intrinsic to successful learning, which is why our platform was created to build that human bridge. For Yellowdig, learning should not just happen inside the classroom, but outside the classroom as well. Learn how it works here .

Want to talk more about building learning communities in your classrooms? The Yellowdig Client Success team is comprised of former teachers who now support the development of healthy communities in online, hybrid, and in-person classes.

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Online learning vs. in-person classes – what’s better?

Online learning vs. in-person classes – what’s better?

With ever-changing landscapes and new global challenges, educators and learners around the world have had to adapt. In this new era, connecting with friends and family had to happen over WhatsApp, FaceTime, or Zoom, and so education has followed suit.

There’s no denying that digital learning is a very valuable asset – and online education certainly has its merits. But, when the world returns to a new normal, will it still come out on top? Or can nothing really beat meeting face-to-face and learning in a classroom and immersively beyond it? Let’s explore the research.

Online learning makes education accessible

The emergence of online learning has ‘disrupted’ the education system . Schooling has traditionally happened in person, which has had limitations for individuals unable to attend. So, the most obvious benefit of offering learning opportunities online is that you open education up to many more people.

Digital education facilities have enabled many learners to gain qualifications and even retrain for new careers at any stage in their life, by offering online learning courses that can be taken over a long period of time. This opens up formal education for those who can’t leave full-time employment or other commitments to attend university, allowing them to study and achieve at home and at convenient times.

Scientists looking at the effectiveness of distance learning found that in some studies, distance education students performed slightly better in exams and grades than traditional classroom students, but that overall the average performance outcomes weren’t that different. This research also recognized an important opportunity for foreign language students. Interacting with native speakers is a proven method for achieving language competency, and online platforms can connect students easily with native speakers in another country.

In classrooms (virtual or physical), technology offers teachers novel ways to explain things . Technology has also amplified the role of gamification, also known as play-based learning, in online education. Gamification is often seen in the use of language-learning apps , which enable the user to learn the lexicon of their chosen studied language through a series of virtual contests which have instant rewards. The obvious benefit of these apps is the potential for individuals to learn at their own comfort and pace.

But digital it has its limitations too

Delivering online learning requires different approaches and skills to delivering lessons in a physical classroom. Particularly this year, traditional classroom teachers have had to adapt and learn themselves, in order to teach students online.

For online or remote learning to work effectively, the content of the course being delivered has an impact on the student’s progress, and the content has to be of a very high standard and tailored to the online learning environment. Much like a successful physical class will have taken a great deal of preparation and an understanding of in-person teaching theory and best practice, the same is required of digital education.

Interactivity is key to any learning environment. A key barrier to learning, identified by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), is a teachers’ ability to connect with students and identify their needs. This can be harder to achieve without time spent in the physical classroom, particularly if online learning is delivered to a large class rather than in small tutored groups or one-on-one environments.

In-person classes also have some drawbacks

Where students live and their socio-economic background can be a barrier to accessing education. With in-person class sizes capped to the capacity of the school and many schools only taking students who live locally, exclusively offering teaching in person will exclude some groups of individuals from learning. This is particularly true where education is not made freely available.

Though it has been the traditional way of learning for decades, some students’ learning style does not suit that of a full classroom. Many find speaking out in front of their peers intimidating and this limits their interaction and opportunity for valuable feedback. These students may find it easier to participate in class discussions when activities are hosted digitally.

Immersive (language) learning wins out in the end

In the classroom, a teacher’s value extends beyond the class being delivered. To get the best out of their students, a teacher’s role is also to motivate, encourage and supervise. Technology can be brought into the classroom as an effective supplement to in-person classes . For example, including animations, video content, and game-based learning allows students to experience several of the benefits of online learning tools, and is more effective than online learning used exclusively.

Interactivity, personalization, and effective communication are key ingredients for successful learning. Research has identified two-way dialogue as one of the most effective ways of communicating, and it is particularly important in education. This is learning with plenty of back-and-forths, easiest achieved when in the same room. In a classroom, student-to-student and group learning interactions are also vital.

But particularly when learning a language , students often achieve the best results when learning immersively– not just in a classroom, but also when living in the country whose language they’re embracing, using their new skills every day and in a variety of real-life situations. Learning during a study abroad program or working in another country accelerates the rate of language learning and improves a learner’s language proficiency.

Culture is an important and enjoyable part of language learning; language and culture are tightly entwined and understanding the culture help you to understand the roots of the language as well as its use on a deeper level. It changes the motivation of language learning to connection instead of learning for a purely functional purpose such as for career success. It’s even been shown to deepen a student’s sense of ‘self’ . And the best way to connect with the culture of the language and those who speak it is to learn whilst embedded in amongst native speakers.

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Online vs. In-Person Classes: What are the Differences?

online courses vs in person

By DeVry University

September 23, 2022

If you’ve decided to go back to school, you’ve likely wondered whether online courses or in-person classes are the better option, especially if you’re already working or have other personal or family commitments. When it comes to evaluating online vs. in-person classes, there are several factors that you should consider. Read on to learn more in the following sections:

Advantages of Online Classes

Advantages of in-person classes, do online classes cover the same material as in-person classes, are in-person classes better than online classes.

When it comes to earning your degree, it’s helpful to understand  how online classes work , as well as the potential advantages of online classes that might influence your decision. These can include:

Greater flexibility

Because you can watch lectures or complete coursework whenever it’s convenient for you, online classes can be more easily worked into your busy schedule.

More time for other responsibilities

When your schedule is easier to manage, it leaves more time for your social life, family, friends and personal pursuits. It also leaves room for any important commitments you may have.

Online classes go where you go, so you never have to fight traffic on the way to campus to attend class.

Network with peers near and far

Online classes have the potential to connect you with students from around the country, allowing you to build relationships with individuals outside of your local community.

For all the advantages of online classes, there are also many potential advantages of in-person classes. Here are a few of the reasons people prefer in-person classes for their degree or certificate program:

Fewer distractions

You may have a difficult time focusing on school when you’re studying remotely. Distractions like the internet, TV, phones and even family members can make it hard to study. In-person classes can be a chance to step away from these distractions and focus solely on learning.

More structure

The routine of attending a class at the same time each week can be a helpful way to learn. Being in a classroom environment may also help you focus better to internalize concepts.

Face time with peers and professors

While online classes offer plenty of opportunities to connect with professors and classmates, you may prefer to learn face-to-face. In-person learning provides the chance to work directly with your classmates or ask your professor questions in the moment, instead of sending an email or posting a question on the class message board. 

Yes, an online class should cover the same material as an in-person option at the same school. This means that the degree you earn online will be identical to the one that you would have earned by taking in-person classes as well.

At DeVry, for example, all of our  online programs  cover the same curriculum as our on-campus programs. Online students also receive the same tools, resources and support as our campus-based students.

No, in-person classes are not inherently better than online classes. What suits one person may not suit another, and vice versa. At the end of the day, what method of learning works better for you is a personal decision that takes into account your schedule, life commitments, learning style and preferences.

Enroll in Online or In-Person Classes at DeVry

At DeVry, we make it easy for you to pursue your education in a way that fits your life. Our  degree and certificate programs  can be completed 100% online, or as a combination of online and in-person courses with our hybrid format. Classes start every 8 weeks. 

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Pros and Cons: Online vs. In-Person Classes

Posted on February 23rd, 2022 in Helpful Articles

Author: Auris Calvino

Updated: October 6, 2023

Why You Should Consider Online vs. In-Person Classes

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Whether you are planning to start a program or transfer the credit hours you have already completed to earn your degree, you can now reach your goals without worrying about having to sit in traffic after work before making it to class. UTSA Online offers academic programs taught by the same faculty, with the same rigor and the same quality of education that is offered to all UTSA students. These programs are 100% online, which gives you the flexibility to take your classes at your own pace and from wherever you are.

Online Classes Offer Learning at Any Pace

Online classes could be a great option for you if you’re looking for flexibility to accommodate your busy schedule or if you don’t have the resources to attend in-person classes, such as transportation. An online program is also a great option for you if you want an additional degree/certificate to advance your career but don’t have enough time to commute to campus and sit through class without affecting your personal, professional, and academic life balance. The flexibility of being able to fit your online classes into your schedule, whether you’re on vacation, taking care of family members, or working full time, can open up new opportunities for you to succeed.

In-Person Classes are Active and Involved

Hands-on learning is an important part of all classes offered at UTSA. Group discussions and projects help some students better understand course material while also getting to know their classmates and professors and building connections with them. This interaction and relationship-building aspect can be accomplished both in person and online at UTSA . However, if you learn best by being in a classroom, having face-to-face interactions, and being involved in clubs and organizations, then you might benefit more from in-person classes.

Online Classes Offer Flexibility

Online classes would be perfect for you if you work full-time, if you have a family and kids, if you take care of an ill loved one, or if you are experiencing any life changes that would make attending class on campus an extra complication in your life. Taking 100% online classes will allow you to advance your education at your own pace as you can organize your schedule however works best for you.

All assignments and tests are due on a weekly basis with all UTSA Online courses. This will allow you to study and retain knowledge in the best way possible while giving you the flexibility to complete your assignments at your own pace throughout that week. Whether you’re a fast learner or you take your time absorbing information, the flexibility of online classes will let you take courses at a speed you feel comfortable with.

In-Person Classes Make it Harder for Distractions

For some students, taking online classes might be a little too flexible. This type of student needs a more strict schedule to follow. For that reason, online classes might leave room for too many distractions that keep them from staying focused on their class. In-person classes may be a better option for those students since classrooms create an environment that allows them to focus on the coursework. Having a set class schedule to follow might help them organize their own schedule better as well. In-person classes may work for you if education is your number one priority and if you are able to organize the rest of your responsibilities around your class times.

Online Programs are Often More Affordable

Online programs are usually less expensive than on-campus classes since online students don’t need to be provided with the same type of resources as traditional students need. Taking online classes means you don’t need to worry about paying any student amenity fees or about getting expensive on-campus parking passes. Although you won’t be paying for those extra amenities, you’ll still have excellent student support through the resources UTSA Online provides for its students .

UTSA Online’s tuition is $486-$525 per credit hour for undergraduate courses and $550-$825 per credit hour for graduate courses, depending on your area of study. This cost is all-inclusive, meaning that there are no additional fees. Another benefit of enrolling in a UTSA Online program is that there is no out-of-state tuition. You’ll pay the same price regardless of where you live. If you’re looking to save yourself commuting time and money, then online classes may be the best choice for you.

Choosing between Online and In-Person Learning

The choice between taking an online class or sitting in a traditional classroom may not be an easy one, even after reviewing the pros and cons of both. Ultimately, it will depend on the flexibility that you need and the financial options that you have. Another important fact to consider is the time you have available for school. If you have a busy lifestyle, then an online program will allow you to obtain your degree at a pace that works with the other aspects of your life.

UTSA Online has a professional team of enrollment counselors available to help you figure out if obtaining an online degree is the best option for you. If you have any questions, you can contact them by phone at 210-458-4000 or via email at [email protected] .

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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. 

  • Journal of Education:  Online classes versus traditional classes
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In-Person vs Online Learning Statistics

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Catherine Cooke

9 October, 2023

In person learning vs online learning statistics

We have all had to adapt in recent years and that has meant our education system has been forced to be restructured. The traditional classroom setting has had to change rapidly, and online learning has been on the rise ever since . More and more students and schools are transitioning to online learning and enrollment has never been higher.

This raises the question ‘How does online learning compare to traditional learning?’ Stick around to find out the top education statistics and facts in 2023.

Top In-Person Vs Online Learning Statistics & Trends in 2023

  • 70% of students agree that online classes are better than traditional classroom settings (Source: University of the Potomac )
  • Since 2020, 98% of Universities have moved its classes online (Source: Higher Ed Partners )
  • 77% of academic leaders believe online education is equal or superior to learning in the classroom (Source: Forbes )
  • Elearning can help students retain between 25% and 60% more information (Source: eLearning Industry )
  • Online learning uses 87% less energy and 85% fewer CO2 emissions per student compared to learning in a traditional setting (Source: The Open University in Britain )
  • eLearning requires 40% to 60% less time learning than traditional classrooms (Source: Brandon-Hall Group )
  • An online degree is more than $10K cheaper than a traditional on campus degree (Source: Education Data Initiative )

Online vs Traditional Learning Statistics & Trends in 2023 in detail

We will take a look at the top Online vs Traditional Learning statistics in 2023 and compare these two methods of learning.

Infographics In-person Vs Online learning Platforms

1. The number of online learning platform users is expected to reach 57 million by 2027

(Source: Prosperityforamerica )

The rate of users turning to online learning is growing rapidly each year, due to it convenience and low cost. The online learning market is growing on a wide scale globally.

2. 70% of students agree that online classes are better than traditional classroom settings

(Source: University of the Potomac )

A report from the University of Potomac has found a large percentage of its students prefer online learning over a traditional learning setting. This preferred way of distance learning is based on advantages like reduced expenses, time-saving allowing learning to fit around your schedule and by using technology, you become more tech-savvy than ever.

3. Since 2020, 98% of Universities have moved its classes online

(Source: Higher Ed Partners )

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, higher education was quickly moved online and remote learning has now become the norm. This education revolution was already starting well before the pandemic due to technology changes and student behavior, but the pandemic accelerated this change, and it’s here to stay.

4. 77% of academic leaders believe online education is equal or superior to learning in the classroom

(Source: Forbes )

A survey by Babson College Board found that nearly 80% of academic leaders believe online learning is equal or superior to traditional learning. Over 69% of chief academic officers believe online learning is a critical part of the long-term education strategy.

5. Elearning can help students retain between 25% and 60% more information

(Source: eLearning Industry )

The rates of retaining information have increased with online learning because learners have more control over their distance learning experience with the ability to go back and revisit video classes or their online course material at a touch of a button.

6. 95% of online students said they would recommend online education to others

(Source: )

The data collected for this report is from 351 school administrators and 1,800 students. This findings are based on student satisifcation.

7. Online learning uses 90% less energy and 85% fewer CO2 emissions per student compared to learning in a traditional setting

(Source: The Open University in Britain )

Online learning can help reduce the use of raw materials like plastic, wood and metals as there is no need to construct or expand schools and educational institutions. As well as that, it reduces the food waste and disposable lunch products of students and teachers. So, it’s a no-brainer really that online learning is more sustainable and helps generate less carbon dioxide as a whole.

8. Global E-learning Market to reach USD $457.8 billion by 2026

(Source: )

Online learning is one of the most important parts of the modern educational system. The global elearning market is growing at a rapid rate in every corner of the world. So whether you are an elementary student, a K 12 student, in higher education or part of a company and online training, it is very likely you have been introduced to online learning.

9 . Elearning requires 40% to 60% less time learning than traditional classrooms

(Source: Brandon-Hall Group )

Online learning is definitely more time effective than traditional face-to-face teaching when you consider the time it takes you to commute to and from the classroom, plus the typical overrunning of a typical class. If you are looking for a more productive and time effective way of learning than remote learning from the comfort of your own home is the one.

10 . An online degree is more than $10K cheaper than a traditional on campus degree

(Source: Education Data Initiative )

A report from the Education Data Initiative that looked at 4 year degrees in US public colleges considered tuition costs, living costs, food, school supplies combined and found that an online degree worked out at $10,776 cheaper than an in-person degree.

11 . 60% of US graduates choose an online program because of its affordability

(Source: Statista )

A survey by of 1,500 online graduates and undergraduates found that the top factors for choosing an online program from an online community college due to its affordability, closely followed by the reputation of the school/program and the quickest path to getting the qualification.

12 . 63% of educational institutions made significant investments supporting online learning in 2020

(Source: Quality Matters CHLOE Project )

During 2020, over 50% of educational institutions in the US invested in supporting distance learning. At the time this was crucial and for some institutions it is here to stay.

13 . Students can retain 25% to 60% more information when learning online

(Source: Thinkimpact )

On average, students can retain 25% to 60% more information when learning online compared to 8% to 10% when in the classroom.

14 . 73% of US students want to continue taking online classes after the pandemic

(Source: Campustechnology )

A recent survey found that nearly three-quarters of students, said that they would take some or all of their classes online post-pandemic.

15 . Western Governors University in Utah was ranked first for distance learning courses in 2022.

(Source: Statistica )

A 2023 survey by Statistica, found that out of all distance learning institutions in the US, the Western Governors University in Utah was ranked first with 136,139 students enrolling.

16 . Online learning courses that are 4 weeks long have the highest completion rate

(Source: Coursera )

Coursera courses that are roughly a month long have the highest completion rate, if it includes a new concept each week and hands-on learning.

17 . One-fourth of MasterClass students say that taking MasterClass classes have transformed their lives.

(Source: MasterClass )

According to a report by techcrunch it has found that a quarter of MasterClass students say that taking these classes have changed their lives.

18 . Approximately 62% of students taking online courses are female

The number of female students surpassed male students in both full-time and part-time enrollments, making up more than half at 62%.

19 .Elearning requires 40-60% less time than traditional learning

(Source: Shiftelearning )

Learning online typically requires 40-60% less time than learning the same material in a traditional classroom setting.

Online Learning Statistics for K-12 in 2023

The K-12 education system (aged 4-16) was highly affected by the global pandemic and forced to move its learning online.

Online Learning Statistics Infographics K-12

  • 477 full-time virtual schools enrolled more than 300K US KS-12 public school students (Source: NEPC Resources )
  • In 2020, the graduation rate for KS-12 students was just 54.6% (Source: NEPC Resources )
  • 15% of US households with school-age children do not have internet at home (Source: Pew Research Center )
  • Americans with lower incomes have lower levels of technology adoption (Source: Pew Research Center )
  • The Covid-19 Pandemic shut down schools for 1.6 billion students at its peak (Source: UNICEF )

20 . 477 full-time virtual schools enrolled more than 300K US K-12 public school students

(Source: NEPC Resources )

During 2019-20, 40 states had virtual or blended learning schools. There were 477 full-time virtual schools that enrolled 332,379 students, and 306 blended schools that enrolled 152,530 students.

21. In 2020, the graduation rate for K-12 students was just 54.6%

The National Education Policy Center Report 2021 found that the graduation rates of K-12 was significantly lower with just 54.6% of virtual schools and 64.3% in blended schools when the overall average of national graduation rate is 85%.

22. 15% of US households with school-age children do not have internet at home

(Source: Pew Research Center )

A report from the Pew Research Center has found that 15% of US households with children aged between 6 and 17 do not have a high-speed internet connection at home. These findings coincide with the annual household income with the majority of the 15% being from households earning less than $30K a year.

23. Americans with lower incomes have less technology adoption

The Pew Research Center report of 2021 has highlighted that household incomes of less than $30K a year found 24% don’t have a smartphone, 43% don’t have a desktop or laptop and 4 in 10 adults do not have broadband services.

24. The Covid-19 Pandemic shut down schools for 1.6 billion students at its peak

(Source: UNICEF )

Schools were closed for an average of 4.5 months, affecting an estimated 1.6 billion students and creating what the United Nations has called the largest disruption to education in history. Even 2 years into the pandemic, 48 countries had not yet fully reopened their schools, according to the UN cultural organization UNESCO.

Do learners prefer Online Learning?

25. 78% of learners would recommend e-learning to someone else..

(Source: Oxford College )

Oxford College carried out a survey to see what students thought of online learning and how it impacted them. When they were asked if they would recommend e-learning to someone else, 78.2% of students said they would recommend online learning to someone else.

Pros & Cons of In-Person Learning

  • Ask Questions : When you have direct contact with your teacher or lecturer, it makes it easier to ask questions, and you are more likely to engage in a discussion or conversation.
  • Community : It is more likely you will build relationships and friendships in a face-to-face learning in a traditional classroom setting, there is the opportunity for conversation in and out of the classroom.
  • Hands-on learning : In a classroom environment the style of learning is a lot more hands on and interactive.
  • Less Distraction : Depending on the set-up you have at home, for some, learning in a traditional classroom setting is less distracting, and it’s easier to focus.
  • Cost : This has to be the most obvious downside about learning on campus, the significant difference in cost. An online program will save you thousands.
  • Time-consuming : When you consider the distance you would need to travel and the chances of lectures getting delayed or overrunning it is undoubtedly that in-person learning will take more time.
  • Less Flexibility : Learning in a traditional setting will mean set classes on set days and times and if you are someone who wants learning to work around your already existing schedule, it will be difficult to combine the two.
  • Distracting : Learning in a classroom setting can be a lot more distracting, making it harder to focus and get the most out of learning.

Pros & Cons of Online Learning

  • Affordability : This has to be the most obvious and beneficial perk of online learning. The fact that you don’t need to travel or move the campus, plus the cost of food, books and school supplies make a positive impact on your bank balance.
  • Time Saving : The fact that you can learn from the comfort of your own home and in many cases at a time that suits you, means you don’t have to ever consider travel time when learning.
  • Range of Courses : One of the obvious advantages is the number of courses or learning programs on offer when you choose to study online. Platforms like Coursera offer more than 5,400 courses from world-class Universities.
  • Tech Savvy : Distance learning with an online course or online class naturally means you use technology more frequently than you would if learning in a traditional classroom, naturally making you more tech-savvy.
  • Sustainable : Online learning is a much more environmentally friendly than on-campus learning. There are a number of reasons it is better for the planet: no need for commuting and transport and less likely to print materials.
  • Lack of self-motivation : It’s not always easy being self-motivated, especially when you are working from home alone, it requires a lot of self-discipline.
  • No Social Interaction : One of the most obvious disadvantages is the lack of social interaction. Many online learning courses do offer the option of joining an online community, but it isn’t quite the same as face-to-face conversations and peer socializing.
  • Technical difficulties : Technology isn’t always perfect and the chance you may run into technical difficulties like a video lesson freezing or loss of audio.

If you are interested in taking an online learning course or program and not sure where to get started, then feel free to check out our article on Best Online Learning Platforms .

Online Learning Vs Traditional Learning Statistics: Last Thoughts

With all these education statistics as well as the pros and cons, it’s hard to choose one or another. I think it’s important to consider the individual person and their circumstances like age, income, purpose of learning.

But what we can’t deny is that online learning is on the rise, and it is providing access to learning to more people than ever globally. Like anything in this life, both styles of learning have their pros and cons.

Some key takeaways of online learning vs traditional learning:

  • More affordable than an on-campus program
  • Time Saving and Flexibility
  • Lack of social contact and community
  • Less opportunity to ask questions

How effective is online learning than face to face?

A study by IBM has found that students learn five times more with online learning material due to the fact they have full control over their learning and able to work at their own pace.

Do students learn more online or in person?

The majority of studies have shown that retention rates for online students are much higher than for traditional, in-person students. Online learning gives more access to the students, which means they are more likely to finish the online course or program.

How fast is online learning growing?

There are some parts of the world where online learning is growing as fast as 20% annually. Online learning is a cost-effective way for people to access training and education.

Please leave a comment below if you have any questions, and I’ll do my best to help you out.

Article Updates:

10/09/23 – Do learners prefer Online Learning? – Added

07/20/23 – Added in-Person vs Online Learning Statistics 2023

06/26/23 – Added in-Person vs Online Learning Statistics 2023

05/19/23 – Added in-Person vs Online Learning Statistics 2023

05/09/23 – Added in-Person vs Online Learning Education Statistics 2023

03/23/23 – Added in-Person vs Online Learning Education Statistics 2023

03/06/23 – Added in-Person vs Online Learning Education Statistics 2023

02/24/23 – Added in-Person vs Online Learning Education Statistics 2023

02/02/23 – Added in-Person vs Online Learning Education Statistics 2023

01/25/23 – Pros & Cons to In-Person Learning Added

01/17/23 – Added Pros to Online Learning

01/09/23 – Added in-Person vs Online Learning Education Statistics 2023

11/18/22 – Added in-Person vs Online Learning Education Statistic

09/28/22 – Added an FAQ to In-Person vs Online Learning Education Statistics

09/08/22 – General Update on Online College & Community College

08/22/22 – Added Top In-Person vs Distance Learning Statistics & FAQ

08/16/22 – Added Infographics & Top In-Person vs Online Learning Statistics

08/10/22 – Added FAQ to In-Person vs Online Learning Education Statistics

08/05/22 – Updated In-Person vs Online Learning Education Statistics

07/29/22 – Published In-Person vs Online Learning Education Statistics


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Thanks for the comment. So happy you liked the information and it’s helpful 🙂


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Jennifer Wan

Very informative article. In this modern era, most people choose to learn for so many reasons and advantages. Your detailed statistical report on online vs traditional training helps to learn more about the current state. It’ll be useful to choose a better method to learn because you have clearly explained the pros and cons of the two learning methods.

Thank you, Jennifer, for your comment. So true it’s important to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of both methods of learning, to help decide which one is best 🙂

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You mentioned in your post that since the COVID-19 outbreak, higher education has quickly shifted online, and remote learning has become the standard. I would also like to enroll in my elementary online because I don’t want to risk my daughter’s health. Even after the pandemic, I’m unsure if I want her to get exposed to more people because it means more chances of getting infected with other diseases and bacteria. Aside from that, I have observed the technological development that is more on the internet.


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In-Person vs. Online Training: What Does the Research Say?

Continu Team responsible for Continu's content.

Delve into the pros and cons of in-person versus online training, examining effectiveness, engagement, costs, and which suits various learning needs.

online courses vs in person

With the increase in spending on online training, you'd think the debate of in-person vs online training was settled. You might be surprised to learn that it's not. Research, trends, and opinions are still split between the two.

Research shows that by 2026, the corporate online learning industry will grow by over 250% hitting almost $50 billion .

In 2019, 59% of learning and development pros spend more of their budget on online training than they did three years ago. Over a third of them also spend less on instructor-led training (ILT).

That's a big shift in three years. But is it a good chance for the industry? Does it really help people learn more effectively?

So what's a training manager, HR executive, or talent developer to do? Let's take a look at the real state of in-person vs. online training.

What's the difference between in-person and online training?

The main difference between in-person and online training is where the learning happens. In-person training is hands-on and requires physical attendance usually on a specific schedule in the presence of an instructor. Online training allows learners to complete training activities online at their own pace with or without an instructor.

Online Training Isn't New

Before we dig into the research, it's important to realize this fact: online training is no longer the "new thing" in learning and development. Josh Bersin's timeline of corporate training shows that e- and blended learning started taking hold in the late 90s.

We've been using these kinds of tools for 20 years. So if you're considering making the switch from ILT to online training, don't be in the mindset of trying "the new thing." Online training is here to stay (and Bersin says we've actually moved far beyond it to newer, better models of learning—but we'll get to that a bit later).

Whether online training is actually better than face-to-face training, however, is still a contentious issue. There are lots of factors at play, and getting a straight answer from the research isn't easy. But there are some important lessons to be learned. Let's start with the basics.

online courses vs in person

Training That Helps Employees Grow

Does online training result in more learning.

This is one of the main questions people ask in this debate. As we'll see shortly, there are other questions that might be more important. But there's a reason why L&D professionals ask about learning right away: because it's their job. If they can show that training programs result in learning, they have success to show their bosses.

So let's take a look at the research:

  • Johnson, Aragon, & Shaik (2000) : Online learning is as effective as face-to-face learning for graduate students.
  • Coppola & Myre (2002) : Online training is as effective as face-to-face training for learning corporate software.
  • Neuhauser (2010): Online learning is as effective as face-to-face learning.
  • Dimeff et al. (2015) : Online training resulted in superior knowledge acquisition when compared to instructor-led training for clinicians.
  • Brady et al. (2018): Online training is as effective as face-to-face training for learning a specific medical interpretation procedure.

Are you seeing a pattern? Online training is just as good as—if not better than—instructor-led, face-to-face training across industries and disciplines. Few studies show that online training results in more learning outright. Most of them says that online learning is "as effective" as ILT.

When combined with other advantages of online learning, we start to see a compelling argument in favor of digital learning techniques .

But the story doesn't stop here.

Is Online Training Cost-Effective?

This is one of the biggest draws of online learning. If you're in the talent management world, you've almost certainly heard that digital learning tools save money. But is it true? All signs point to yes. Strother (2002) puts it like this:

E-learning is less expensive than traditional classroom instruction. In addition, many expenses - booking training facilities, travel costs for employees or trainers, plus employee time away from the job - are greatly reduced.

It's hard to argue with that (though Strother does point out that not all companies investing in online training are saving as much money as they'd hoped).

Of course, there are upkeep costs involved in online training, like:

  • learning management system subscriptions,
  • outside course materials,
  • keeping courses and systems updated, and
  • administration.

That adds to the price of online training. But when compared to ILT, it's a safe bet that most companies save money on training .

So online learning is cheaper and just as (if not more) effective than face-to-face learning. That's the end of the discussion, right?

Not by a long shot.

But, Do People Actually Like Online Learning?

Are you surprised to see this question? Many L&D professionals don't think to ask it. But learner satisfaction is important. If your employees don't like online training, they'll struggle to complete it.

As learning and development have begun to focus on learner experience and design thinking, learner satisfaction has become an important factor. Low satisfaction and poor experience are detrimental to learning.

And online training tends to generate lower satisfaction scores. Summers, Waigandt, & Whittaker (2005) found that students were significantly less satisfied with an online course than they were with an equivalent in-person course.

But this study was released almost 15 years. What does the research say about the new generation of learners?

Unfortunately, it's equivocal. While academia and parts of the workplace training industry are worried about the efficacy of training methods for "digital natives," others are skeptical. Bennett, Maton, & Kervin (2008) say that this is more akin to a "moral panic" than an actual concern.

This means we're still looking at a method of training that, while cost-effective, just doesn't provide the same experience for learners. That's true across generations. And that means online learning does have some notable drawbacks.

Are there others?

Where Does Online Training Fall Short of ILT?

Face-to-face training does have specific advantages. Here are a few that come up often:

  • Social interaction during training sessions
  • The ability to get immediate answers to questions
  • Hands-on training is easier in a physical setting
  • Fewer chances for multitasking and decreased focus
  • Flexibility and personalization of each training session

There's little point in arguing these advantages. Instructor-led training provides some things that online training can't. There's no way to adjust pre-recorded training to focus on the issues that learners are having trouble with. But good instructors do that every day.

Organizations using online training have tried to make up for many of these downfalls with varying degrees of success. Audio, video, forums, and instant messaging increase social interaction in online courses. Augmented reality helps with hands-on distance learning. Self-directed learning tracks enable flexibility.

But there are some ways in which online training just can't compete. Instructors can shine in face-to-face settings, and that's extremely valuable. So what's a modern organization to do?

The Best of Both Worlds: Blended Learning

Many organizations have started moving to blended learning to maximize the benefits of both face-to-face and online training.

The idea of blended learning is simple: learners use both online and instructor-led training. The proportion of both can vary greatly; it might be 90% online with very occasional in-person training. Or it could be once-a-week instructor-led sessions with self-selected follow-up digital courses.

Does blended learning really make a difference? Evidence points to yes.

For example, Hewett, Becker, & Bish (2019) found that the human interaction element of workplace blended learning "linked with more active behavioral engagement, higher cognitive engagement and stronger and more positive emotional engagement than where human interaction was absent."

‍ Reavley et al. (2018) looked at blended learning and eLearning options and found that members of the blended learning course were more likely to highly rate the course in terms of

  • usefulness,
  • amount learned, and
  • intention to recommend the course to others.

Research on the effectiveness of blended learning is still ongoing. But early results indicate that this approach mitigates the problems associated with online-only learning while still taking advantage of some of its advantages.

To be fair, some other studies (such as Liu et. al's (2016) meta-analysis and U.S. Department of Education's (2016) study) have found that blended learning shows similar results to online-only interventions.

But even with similar results, the added "soft" benefits of blended learning speak for themselves. Learners who are more satisfied with their courses and feel that they're more useful and applicable are more likely to engage with their training.

Let's not forget that learners have preferences, too. And most of them want to self-pace their learning in their spare time at work. You can't do that with in-person training. But you can offer smaller, quickly consumable training options between sessions if you're offering a blended approach.

online courses vs in person

In-Person vs. Online Training: The Final Say

That's a lot of research and information to digest. Here's the short version. Instructor-led training has significant benefits :

  • More fluid exchange of ideas
  • Social interaction during training
  • Good retention due to decreased likelihood of multitasking
  • Improved hands-on training
  • Faster response to questions and instructor feedback
  • Higher satisfaction scores

This makes ILT great for jobs that require physical skill, as well as situations in which learners need information quickly.

Online training, however, has big advantages as well:

  • More cost-effective
  • Option for bite-sized and self-paced learning (which are becoming increasingly necessary in the modern workplace)
  • Higher completion rates
  • Ability to re-access materials increases retention

So who should use online training methods? Just about everyone. Companies get stronger results for less money. But they lose some of the social benefits of instructor-led training. This brings us to the final option.

Blended learning provides the best of both worlds:

  • Less resource-intensive than ILT
  • More engaging than online-only training
  • Wider appeal to learners with different preferred methods

Blended learning is the solution for organizations that want the best results possible. By using a blended learning methodology with modern techniques like bite-sized, continual , and active learning, you'll deliver great results with a high return on investment.

There you have it. There's no hands-down, definite answer to whether in-person or online training is better. But by combining the two, you get the benefits of both.

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online courses vs in person

7 missing pieces: why students prefer in-person over online classes

online courses vs in person


A group of York University students got together to discuss what aspects of in-person classes they miss most while studying remotely.

We are a group of undergraduate and graduate students from York University connected with each other through sociology professor Cary Wu’s research methods courses. Led by Dr. Wu, we recently came together as a virtual group to discuss what makes in-person classes unique and different from online-learning. Through this productive discussion, we were able to determine what it is about in-person classes that we long for. Here, we share with you seven main themes that emerged in our conversations.

 1. Community and friendship

The physicality of in-person classes presents a sense of community that can easily be lost online. Students note that in the classroom they can make personal connections with like-minded peers who share their scholarly interests. This kind of bonding experience is not easily replicated online, as most students rarely converse with each other during and after an online class.

When you are all in the same physical setting, making connections feels natural and it is unquestionably easier to reach out to classmates and professors alike. In-person classes lead to organic discussions where students can bounce ideas off of one another. For remote classes, by contrast, the on-screen dynamic we have been thrown into is impersonal and largely anonymous. “There is no sense of friendship or relationship between the students that would usually be built in traditional in-person classes,” says one student. “I feel like it is a missed networking opportunity.”

“There is no sense of friendship or relationship between the students that would usually be built in traditional in-person classes.”

With regard to peer support, options are especially limited for students in online classes. Generally, when students have questions about course directions, university processes, Moodle, and so on, they will reach out to their peers. However, now that virtual classes have deprived students of the opportunity to build rapport with others, some of them do “not feel comfortable emailing a stranger.”

Graduate students are hit especially hard. One such student indicates that, “As a graduate student, we often don’t have much spare time for hobbies and seeing friends. Class time, group meetings, etc., provide us with what is often our only social interaction during a given week. The loss of this, I believe, is causing a lot of loneliness and grief that should not be understated.”

2. Presence of social cues

Social cues are often missed in online classes, and when we fail to pick up on these cues, we misunderstand people and situations. Students observe a missing “human aspect” in online interactions. “It feels as if I’m speaking to myself or filming myself rather than engaging in a conversation.”

Exacerbating the issue, students may turn off their cameras during an online class and, without these visual cues, they may not feel safe during classroom discussions and find it difficult to “develop a sense of trust and familiarity” toward their peers who, against the backdrop of faceless learning, feel more like “strangers.”

online courses vs in person

3. Sense of motivation

“ I like seeing other people studying in the library because it gives me a sense of motivation and comfort,” observes one student. Without the option of studying in the library or other shared study space, students feel their motivation to complete their assignments and prepare for tests ebbing away. Indeed, the library seems to be a place that nurtures resilience and provides a sense of comfort and solidarity among students. Another student observes that seeing other students study makes them realize that they are not the only one struggling, and this drives them to do their best.

Graduate students also mention that staying after classes to meet with their professors allows them to connect with their professors in ways that additionally benefit their learning. “Sometimes it’s not only about learning the material. Establishing a good relationship with a professor allows me to connect with them in ways that makes me more eager to ask more questions and seek more answers.”

4. Staying focused

Engagement and focus are vital to the learning process, but are in poor supply under the regime of online learning. “Without in-person interactions with professors and classmates, some students can struggle to focus during class and refrain from asking questions.” More directly, online classes are rife with ready distractions, including “online notifications, chat functions on Zoom and other household or neighbourhood distractions that cannot be controlled.”

Just the belief that they would do better if schooling were done in-person may subliminally drive a self-fulfilling prophecy among students in which they feel that they are not well-equipped to study online and subsequently, care and work less. “Obviously, students have lectures, tutorials, assignments, tests, quizzes and exams they must do. However, there are more chances for you to push it off to another day because you do not have to be at the location personally.”

Graduate students are in the same boat. “The act of going into a specific space to study, with a group of people who can also be interacted with before and after, or during breaks, helps [them] to remain focused and interested in the topic of the class.”

At home, but no privacy? Yes, this has become the reality for many students. Virtual meetings in one’s home does not afford the same level of privacy that in-person and closed-door meetings do. More likely than not, family members will be home due to the pandemic, and hence, students may forgo making appointments due to privacy concerns, depriving them of human interaction.

Similarly, some students cannot talk about their issues from home because they do not wish to have anyone else listen in on what they have to say to their academic advisors. Students also tend to feel more supported and comfortable when they talk to their academic advisors and counselors in person.

online courses vs in person

6. Sense of routine

Perhaps the cornerstone of high achievement is discipline. Online schooling, however, lacks structure, and this can affect a student’s grade and experience of the course as a whole. One student says, “Being at home has taken away this sense of routine because there is no necessity to wake early to commute or be somewhere at a given time.”

More troubling are the opportunities for procrastination that asynchronous classes afford. Indeed, without scheduled times, reminders by the professor and regular conversations with classmates in the lecture hall, it is almost guaranteed that students will fall behind on course readings, content and lecture material.

This lack of structure can also cause a blurring of boundaries between home and schoolwork. “I work hard at school so I can relax at home,” but “being home, there are a lot of things that can distract you from starting work whether it be family who are also staying home, or other things.”

Staying focused is especially hard for students who do not have their own proper learning space to study at home. “It is hard to focus because I have no space in my room to put a table to study and in the living room there is so much noise going on. My only solution is to do my work and study at night when my family goes to bed.”

7. Just being on campus

The simple act of being on campus makes for a positive educational and social postsecondary experience. Campus provides a sharp distinction between work and home, rather than the nebulous space students are finding themselves in at present. “I envision my home to be a safe place, a place that I don’t have to stress in, where I simply relax and forget about the day.”

Campus also provides a necessary common ground for students who live far away from each other to meet and connect. Perhaps most importantly, campus provides the right kind of learning atmosphere to study, concentrate and complete assignments. One student notes, “I go to York every day, even when I don’t have class. I’d arrive at York every day at 7:00 in the morning and just study till my class started – most of my classes were in the afternoon and I would stay at York even after all my lectures and tutorials were done till around 5:00. York was the place where work got done.”

“Even thinking about how long we are going to have to put up with online schooling is scary … Is this going to be the new reality of learning for university students?”

Thus, for undergraduate and graduate students alike, online schooling seems to hinder both educational outcomes and social experiences. “Even thinking about how long we are going to have to put up with online schooling is scary … Is this going to be the new reality of learning for university students?”

Students struggle to remain focused, motivated, committed, and there is no longer a sense of familiarity and community among students and professors. This is not to say that online learning can only produce negative outcomes, but rather, to acknowledge the difficult challenges it poses for all students.

Yes, the global pandemic has given students the opportunity to contemplate their educational experience and truly appreciate the physical space and face-to-face interactions they have had with their peers and professors on campus. In the midst of the global pandemic, we are experiencing what it is like to be left to our own devices both figuratively and literally, and the consensus view among students is that meaningful social interaction stems from campus.

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None of the challenges faced by mature students or students who were parents were mentioned

With respect, these seem to be problems faced by student who prefer in-person classes. It’s not that classes move online and suddenly students realize they prefer to be in person, but rather students who enjoy going to class in person do not like online classes for the reasons listed in this article.

Some of my students are absolutely thriving. A few students with severe social anxiety, for example, are doing better than they ever have before. Some others find that the written discussion space gives them a chance to revise, rewrite, and change the tone of what they’re trying to ask. In person, the social cues for them are that they should be quiet. Absent those cues, they are able to take more time shaping how they participate.

Online education is awful for some students but, for others, they’re finally getting what they have wanted and need (actually wrote about it in the link below). I hope there are options for both in the future.

It is very important to understand the experiences of students and faculty who have been pushed into web-based learning as a result of the pandemic; however, they are a particular group of students and faculty. I dare say, for example, that characterizations of military life would differ between volunteers and conscripts in a time of war. By implication, it is reasonable to expect that the experiences of students who voluntarily enrol in web-based courses would be different from those who are given no option. The same holds for faculty.

It is also important that we don’t stereotype all in-class and all web-based courses. A great deal of empirical evidence shows that the ‘community’ that many students and faculty associate with in-class courses only exists for a small minority. Other evidence shows that when designed properly, web-based courses can be more inclusive, and promote more learning, than their in-class equivalents.

Maybe, though, one could say the same for in-person classes: maybe if they were designed well, and maybe if universities were not such alienating places in general, they would generate greater community and so on.

I think one thing we see in discussions of the benefits of online learning is that their supposed “advantages” are advantages only in the context of a higher education system that has degenerated.

And instead of asking “what do students prefer” we should ask “what type of university do we want to create? Just like we should ask “what kind of world do we want?” Do we want one where more and more of our experience is mediated digitally or actually constituted digitally? Or do we value sensuous human interaction?

Do we want a university where there are 2 IT people for every 3 faculty (like an external review of SFU’s IT services showed a few years back)? Or do we want more people directly involved in education, teaching, mentoring, and so on?

—And instead of asking “what do students prefer” we should ask “what type of university do we want to create? Just like we should ask “what kind of world do we want?” Do we want one where more and more of our experience is mediated digitally or actually constituted digitally? Or do we value sensuous human interaction?

We should be asking neither of these things, but rather what method is most effective. There is also no single correct answer, some students benefit more from in person, others from online. Also, I would hesitate to ever use the adjective “sensuous” with regards to in person teaching – it seems ripe for misinterpretation.

When you say “what method is most effective”, I would have to ask “for what” and “for whom”? I think we need to be careful making generalisations (as this article does) about “what works”. University is not just about learning “content”, but also learning to deal with stress, interact with people you would not normally encounter, having assumptions challenged academically and, for want of a better word, morally, and learning to think critically, not just in a discipline, but about how we live our lives.

A really motivated student who is clued into what university courses want can do very well remotely. This often is also a great benefit to mature learners or those who cannot move to go to university. Other students benefit from close interactions with study groups (which need to be managed as well so as not just to reinforce the existing advantages that some students aarrive with), faculty as role models, student support systems. We have a number of refugee students and young people who have no social support system and they gain so much more than learning acadaemic content. I agree that we need to talk more about what we think a university should be – and that is more than just what “methods” students have for delivering content.

While I don’t disagree that something is missing from online learning that may be present during in-person classes, I believe we, as professors, can mitigate some of these by providing more discussion, more small-group exercises, and more hands-on learning and discovery. Technology allows us more opportunity for interaction with colleagues around the world and how many of us take advantage of that? If we devolve, as professors, to ‘talking heads’ that do not encourage/require participation by learners, we are to blame, not the ‘distance learing’ model.

I would like to point out how difficult online learning is for students in the arts. I am a Vocal Performance major so there are several aspects of my degree that are impossible for me to accomplish under online-only schooling. The cornerstone of my degree is my voice lessons with my studio professor. Between the limitations of technology and a tiny screen, much of what my professor can observe and correct is lost. The guided practice of an in-person, one-on-one teacher in regards to music is priceless, and I find myself at a loss for how to compensate.

Yes, and for sciences too! I taught a large science course last semester, and the on-line teaching went OK, but the students most appreciated the two in-person labs that we were able to offer. That was a course with a small lab component, but this term we are going to try to run a laboratory course in which the lab activity is the major component. We will offer a video recording of staff doing the lab, but that cannot be the same as going in person. Year 2 students in particular have had their practical experience decimated, and it is challenging to see how to replace it.

i don’t think this is very reliable

Case Western Reserve University's independent student news source

The Observer

Case Western Reserve University's independent student news source

In-person vs. online classes: which are better?


Courtesy of News 5

We weigh the pros and cons of in-person vs. online classes so you don’t have to.

Christie Lanfear , Life Editor February 4, 2022

The week of Jan. 24, Case Western Reserve University students saw the return of in-person classes. Many students welcomed this step in the direction of normalcy. But for some, the allure of attending online Zoom classes in pajamas from the warmth of their dorm rooms put a damper on the excitement. There are clear mixed feelings among CWRU students between learning online versus in-person.

Now to the real question: is either form of learning superior to the other? Or is it merely a personal preference? I hope to provide an honest and unbiased “review” of the two types of learning, with the goal of encouraging students to see both the positive and negative aspects of both mediums.

Seeing as we began the semester with online learning, it seems logical to discuss this novel and controversial form of learning first.

Pros – Online classes

Increased flexibility

The increased workability of our jam-packed student schedules is arguably the most appealing attribute of online classes. With lectures recorded and no time wasted walking to Case Quad, students have a much easier time fitting in their hobbies and sports practices or even just hanging out with friends.

Increased class engagement

A rather shocking advantage to online classes that we all discovered during the shift to Zoom was the greater number of questions that came from students. This was, at least in part, due to the removal of the intimidation of raising your hand in front of your peers, with the Zoom chat now a compelling option. Instead of having 350 students all staring up at you, expecting a profound statement, one can ask any question they want without fear of judgement. Being behind a screen brought forward a plethora of students who just needed that little extra push. 

Focused environment 

For lots of students, sitting amongst hundreds of peers for over an hour is akin to a nightmare when it comes to focusing and being productive. Concentrating on organic chemistry is quite challenging when the people behind you are trying to resolve a long debate about which shoes they should buy or are discussing what the best Saturday night plans are. Online learning provides an escape from these annoyances, and many students welcome it with open arms. 

Cons – Online classes


An insurmountable beast for most students, procrastination rears its ugly head especially when the classroom is replaced with the dorm room. Indirect or direct motivation from being around fellow students is taken for granted until online classes take it away. How can we be expected to motivate ourselves when we don’t have that support? 

Demand for independence and self-motivation

The need to actually manage oneself is the most devastating aspect of online school. In the absence of face-to-face interactions with professors and peers, students are cast off to fend for themselves in the treacherous sea of Canvas, with the dreaded “To Do” list as their only company. It is up to us to make schedules and eliminate distractions such as the glorious and seductive Netflix.

Some would consider this a pro of online learning when it comes to the current public health situation of COVID-19, but socially, isolation is a major con. Unless one works hard to actively make plans with friends, attend club meetings and go to sports practices, social interaction is hard to come by. Even if you manage to make it to a previously populated study spot, no one seems to be there to keep you company. 

As you can see, there are clear positives and negatives to online learning that make both sides of the argument strong ones. But what about in-person classes? Are they as amazing as students make them out to be when complaining about learning through Zoom?

Pros – In-person classes 

Social interaction 

This seems like an obvious point. However, spending time with others genuinely is one of the most appealing aspects of in-person learning. Going to class and seeing people outside of your close-knit group is essential to your mental health and well-being. Learning amongst your peers makes the college experience exponentially more fulfilling than sitting alone in your dorm room. 

Higher-quality education 

Based on my observations around campus, an extensive amount of students feel very strongly about this one. For some classes, there is not much of a difference in the delivery or type of information delivered, whether it be over Zoom or in a lecture hall. But for classes such as labs, discussion-based seminars and other hands-on courses, being in person is essential. Students will simply not get the same quality of learning when, for example, attending a virtual lab. 

Fewer distractions 

Categorizing increased focus with more social interaction might sound silly. Surely, being around more people would be more distracting? This is simply not true. Being surrounded by other people who are studying and paying attention can have a facilitating and motivating effect, making you more likely to join in those activities. 

Cons – In-person classes 

COVID is a big one, obviously. Daily gatherings of hundreds of students who frequently remove their masks to eat or sip some water is risky business during these times. Wouldn’t it just be safer for all of us to remain online? Are the pros of in-person learning worth the risk? Well CWRU made its decision to bring us back in-person anyways, but whether they were justified is up to you to decide.

Getting to class

Living in Cleveland makes all of us bitterly aware of the term “lake-effect snow.” The wind and slippery sidewalks make walking to class a liability. To make matters worse, every single member of the first-year class seems to be trying to get on the shuttle the moment that you decide to try your luck. In the current situation, we have to strategically plan our choice of shuttle stop if we are to have any chance of getting to class without braving the harsh conditions.

After all of that, what is the answer? Which is better? In short, neither. The purpose of this article is to encourage students to adopt logical and rational thinking in terms of their feelings towards the two types of learning. Keeping an open mind during these times is the most fruitful way to be as conditions keep changing. Use this article to remind yourself that despite any strong feelings you have towards online or in-person learning, neither is perfect—both are good and bad in their own ways. Think rationally, and no matter the form of learning, you will succeed. Remember what this time has taught us. As Max McKeown said, “all failure is failure to adapt, all success is successful adaptation.”

Photo of Christie Lanfear

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online courses vs in person

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The Key Differences Between In- Person vs. Online Classes

Home » Resources » The Key Differences Between In-Person vs. Online Classes

online courses vs in person

Nikita Nath

  • 2 years of experience working as a content writer with various start-ups
  • 1 year of experience working as a child psychologist with Insighte
  • Working on various projects of inclusion for neurodivergent children
  • 2+ years of experience teaching psychology online

Find your school is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

  • Introduction
  • What is Traditional Learning

What is Online Learning?

  • 4 Key Areas Online & In-Person
  • Which Is Better &
  • FAQs About Online

Related Content

With emerging technologies and changing educational landscape, most colleges offer more than one learning mode. Recent global challenges like the pandemic have changed how education is delivered today. Regardless of the degree pursued, students can choose the online, offline, or hybrid mode — which integrates both components. This article will systematically contrast the two main options to help you decide which program type will suit you better.  

Featured Online Programs

online courses vs in person is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Southern New Hampshire University

Program: online masters degrees.

Southern New Hampshire University is a  private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students,  making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.

We’re proud to provide affordable, accessible education that students can pursue on our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH, over our innovative online platform or at our regional centers in Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth and Salem, NH, and Brunswick, ME.

SNHU has earned the  Best Buy and Best of Business – Best Online Degree awards  and is consistently ranked as a top Military Friendly® School by G.I Jobs®.

What is Traditional Learning or In-Person Learning?

In traditional learning or in-person learning, students and teachers are physically present inside the classroom. The instructor will deliver instructions and lessons on a specific topic. Several pedagogical methods and tools are used, including chalk or whiteboard, student-led demonstrations, group studies, and more. Students get to experience college in real-time, build interpersonal relations, take advantage of on-campus student resources, and connect with professors or counselors. In-person learning is preferred by those who want to participate in hands-on learning experiences with teachers and peers.  

How Are Classrooms Structured?

Traditional classrooms typically have a set time for students to attend the class, and the instructor will deliver lessons to students in-person. The duration and frequency of classes differ depending on the college and curriculum. Graduate classes tend to have research opportunities, independent study and thinking, and working closely with an advisor. 

What Can You Expect?

In a traditional classroom, one can expect in-person teaching in which the teacher actively engages face-to-face with their students. Several academic activities are conducted, like active discussions on essays, research papers, and other study materials. Learning is structured and scheduled by colleges and delivered based on a standardized curriculum. Teachers conduct tests and exams under the supervision of faculty members. Students set up meetings with their professors or guidance counselors to understand their performance in class, get feedback on projects, and more. Those with a thesis-based degree can access libraries and research materials to study individually and work collaboratively with their peers or dissertation guides. For some degrees, students can get hands-on training in the classroom or field, enhancing their knowledge of that subject.  

Online learning is also referred to as remote learning or e-learning and is provided through the internet with the help of digital tools and software like Zoom, Google Meet, etc. In this mode of education, students attend their classes, study courses, and interact with classmates and teachers online. This kind of learning is appealing to learners who want accessible programs that have a flexible curriculum and can be accessed from any geographic location at their comfort. We can further elaborate online learning into asynchronous and synchronous learning . Individuals can asynchronously learn at their own pace by accessing pre-recorded lectures, videos, and other materials whenever they get time. In contrast, in synchronous learning, designated online meeting times are followed. In both modes, there are assignments with deadlines, required reading, and tests similar to in-person class work.

How Do Online Classes Work

Online classrooms are executed digitally, and the learning happens over various learning platforms, often called Learning Management Systems (LMS). Teaching and delivering learning resources is through the designated online platform recognized by the institution. The online learning environment differs from college to college, depending on the kind of software and tools used. However, most colleges offer their programs through an online platform that is centralized and easy to use by students across different geographic locations. Learners can access their classes through laptops, desktops, or mobile devices.

What Can You Expect

Online classes are in a digital space, supported by an internet connection, and deliver learning in a real-time format where both teachers and students are present, and the course is taught as a live lecture. Another format is where learning materials, resources, and lessons are delivered to students as pre-recorded modules, which they can access on their own time. Several feedback systems are also in place, like query forums, emails, messaging, or other digital ways to contact the learner and instructor. Even though students can flexibly go through the modules and lectures, there will be deadlines for completing assignments and projects and reading materials for classes.   

4 Key Areas Online & In-Person Classes Differ

Online and in-person classes have four key areas – location, interaction, flexibility, and cost – that sets them apart. Assessing these differences can help you choose between the two learning modes.

1. Location

Depending on where a student lives, location can be a factor in choosing which school to attend. A student who lives in an underdeveloped area or small town will only be able to access a narrow range of educational opportunities. In such cases, they must either relocate to cities where they can take up traditional programs or choose online learning to access quality education. The curriculum of a program remains the same whether accessed in-person or online. However, some degrees require on-field experience, in-person laboratory work, and so on.

2. Interaction

The highlight of a traditional class is the face-to-face interaction students get with their teachers and peers; communication is constant as the teaching in the classroom is simultaneous. Two-way communication is also possible in online classes, but the interaction between students, peers, and teachers is determined by whether the learning is asynchronous or synchronous. Interaction can happen through informal chats, classroom interactions, group interactions, work, breakout rooms, and online forums in an online degree. Social interaction is an essential aspect of any education. Even though online learning allows students to share their opinions with others, the scope of communication beyond the screen is generally limited. The communication students have with each other on campus is immeasurable regarding the human contact one receives. Studies have shown the importance of social interaction in maintaining one’s mental health [1] ; hence, one must evaluate this factor critically before deciding about online or in-person schooling. 

3. Flexibility

In a physical classroom, there is generally less choice about the times and location of classes. Students must attend classes with their peers at the specific time and place allotted. Some colleges typically allow students to select the kind of courses they want to pursue and sometimes might give choices of times to attend, but they are mostly expected to follow the college schedule. For an on-campus degree, there may also be a certain number of minimum classes one is expected to attend, failing which one might be denied the opportunity to sit for their final exams. Someone with family or career commitments may need help to keep up with such stringent schedules. Learners can expect much more flexibility in an online learning environment than in an off-campus program. Since there is the option of synchronous and asynchronous learning, the curriculum can be completed at the convenience of the learner in a self-paced manner from any geographic location they choose.  

Several costs are borne by students, including tuition fees, transport, meals, general living expenses, housing, and so on, that add to their decision-making process of considering an online or offline degree. A cost comparison made by the Education Data Initiative team reports the cost of online education from a public university in the U.S. to be $37,920 vs. $37,320 paid for the same degree on-campus. In contrast, private institutions charge $58,560 on average for an online program compared to $148,800 on average for an on-campus program  [2] . Even though there might be some exceptions to the tuition fee disparity, online programs are generally more affordable than their traditional counterparts. Online programs also usually offer better financial budgeting options by providing more ways of payments that can let one pay on either a per-class or installment basis. 

Pros & Cons of In-Person Classes

Pros of In-Person Classes – One of the most significant benefits of in-person classes is the hands-on learning and networking opportunities gained. While working on group discussions, projects, involvement in clubs and organizations, and classroom debates with your peers and professors, you could build connections that sometimes last a lifetime. The institution gives a schedule to follow, which can help you learn and be more organized, making education a priority. Having an organized timetable would also mean that students may be dealing with high-pressure situations while meeting deadlines and keeping up with classroom expectations; skills developed under such conditions can be applied throughout one’s lifetime. While interacting with one another, individuals develop critical interpersonal skills that benefit them both personally and professionally, building their confidence levels.

Cons of In-Person Classes – Despite the considerable advantages, traditional learning has shortcomings. Conventional classroom setups have higher costs, meals, transport, housing, materials, etc. Even though the curriculum scheduling gives it a structure, it does not provide much breathing space for students. In-person classes also make it difficult to manage other schedules like work, household chores, etc. There are rigid timelines and dire consequences for failing to meet those timelines. Students also depend on the teacher’s plan to reach out to them, which could sometimes limit their engagement with the faculty.

Pros & Cons of Online Classes

Pros of Online Classes – The flexibility of schedule offered in terms of both curriculum and location of completing the courses taken up is one of the most significant advantages of online degrees. The quality of an online degree is at par with a regular on-campus program. For those transitioning to new careers and who want to balance a degree without it affecting their personal, academic, and professional lives, an online curriculum gives them considerable control over their class schedules. Online degrees are far less expensive as students are not provided with amenities like parking, housing, on-campus resources, etc. There are also other conveniences of distance learning, such as the ease of taking down notes and materials at one’s own pace and accessing recordings of lectures as many times as required. The possibility of having esteemed guest lectures or experts from the fields conduct classes increases in an online platform. Students also have various options for interaction with their instructors through digital communication tools.

Cons of Online Classes – One of the biggest challenges of an online class is the lack of motivation that could develop when one has to take courses continuously while sitting behind a screen. Even though advanced technology has made online virtual classrooms appealing, the lack of human touch might lead to a sense of social isolation in students. Since the curriculum is primarily self-paced, one would need immense self-discipline to complete courses and assignments on time; the accountability enforced by the traditional classroom setting is missing here. Sometimes teachers extend lessons and add numerous reference materials, as they cannot gauge students’ understanding of a particular topic; this could lead to burnout due to the additional hours students need to put towards their degree. Instructors may also find it difficult to track students’ honest efforts as they need to review their work in person, increasing the chances of plagiarism, cheating, and other malpractices. Such learning also limits the student’s scope of interpersonal communication, especially in an asynchronous online course . A critical disadvantage is the potential health hazards, including irritable eyes, strain injuries, stiffness in joints, and other health complications caused due to the extensive hours of the student being glued to their screen.

Which Is Better & How Do You Choose?

With technological advancements today, students have more than one way to obtain their degrees. Therefore, they should take the opportunity to evaluate if traditional or online learning is conducive to their education. Let us understand these opportunities through the example of John, who wonders if he should opt for an online master’s . He is a working professional with limited opportunities to travel on-campus for classes. He wants to take up an affordable program that will allow him to advance his courses at his own pace, as he can organize his schedule around his other commitments and complete the curriculum requirements simultaneously. An online degree will give John a cost-effective solution, and the flexibility of an online class will allow him to take courses at the speed he wants to progress. On the other hand, let us say John wants a structured curriculum to build face-to-face connections with people and avail of student resources on campus; then, a traditional degree will suit him more.

To summarize, choosing between learning modes can be critical for a student’s personal and professional growth. It primarily comes down to curriculum flexibility, financial options, time at hand, and lifestyle.

FAQs About Online & In-Person Classes

Frequently asked questions, can you use scholarships and financial aid for online classes.

A student can apply for many scholarships and financial aid, even for online classes. Distance learners can access the same need-based financial aid, grants, and scholarships as traditional degree students; some are specifically designed for online students. Several institutions also provide free master’s programs with little to no cost to the student.

Can you transfer from an online school to attend in person?

Individuals can easily switch from an online degree to an on-campus degree. It is also possible when the school offers courses in hybrid modes. If one is attending an accredited college and earning their education through online programs, they can quickly transfer to another accredited on-campus college.

Where can you find accredited online programs?

Legitimate accrediting agencies regionally or nationally accredit online degrees and institutions that offer them. The best places to check accreditation status are the official U.S. Department of Education (USDE) [3]  or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) [4]  websites.

Do employers hire those who have an online degree?

If you have completed your degree from an accredited college, when employers hire you, they will know the quality of education you have received. Employers typically do not differentiate between an online or offline degree and focus on the skillset and knowledge of the job applicant.

What are the success rates for online vs. in-person classes?

A  New America  survey indicates that a majority of the population (55%) believes that the quality of education online is similar to or exceeds an on-campus degree [5] . The success rates beyond the curriculum may depend more on individual characteristics than on program mode.  

Does a student learn more on-campus or online?

Online learning gives more opportunities for students to learn concepts at their own pace, and therefore the retention rates are likely to be higher. However, students could probably focus more on studying in a traditional classroom with fewer distractions and a stringent schedule. Ultimately, a student’s learning rate could differ from individual characteristics and preferences.

Do you need a GRE or GMAT to enroll in an online program?

Where institutions require the GRE or GMAT score as part of their admission process, they seldom distinguish between an in-person or online program. That said, universities sometimes waive the GRE or GMAT requirement for online students who are working professionals and have considerable work experience.

As you decide which type of learning is best for you – whether that’s in-person or online, here are a few related articles to help you in your educational journey.

  • 10-Step Guide for Transferring Colleges : Learn when is a good time for you to transfer schools and how to do it in ten steps.
  • GRE vs. GMAT : The GRE and GMAT are both standardized exams for getting into most graduate programs. Learn what the differences are and which one you should take.
  • What are the differences between an MA and an MS? : While these are both types of master’s degrees, there is a difference between the two. Learn how they differ and what play they play in your career path.
  • 1. Psychreg-How Social Interaction Affects University Students’ Mental Health
  • 2. Education Data Initiative- Cost of Online Education vs. Traditional Education
  • 3. USDE – Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs
  • 4. Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
  • 5. New America- Varying Degrees 2023: New America’s Sixth Annual Survey on Higher Education

The rankings, average tuition (based on the degree type for in-state students), and average graduation rates are based on information from several sources, including Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and may vary. All rankings and figures mentioned are subject to change. Based on our proprietary methodology , the rankings are purely Online Masters Colleges's (OMC's) opinions. They do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the institutions or organizations mentioned, nor any official government census or survey. Additionally, any views or opinions expressed on this page are those of OMC's researchers and teams. Unless specifically indicated, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the people, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page's provided content is solely for informational purposes, with information drawn from several sources, including IPEDS. OMC or its employees make no guarantees of the accuracy or completeness of any information on this page or found by following any link. OMC will not be held liable for any mistakes or omissions in this material, nor will it be held liable for any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the material on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, reader discretion is always advised because part or all the provided information may have changed over time, potentially leading to inaccuracies. Please read our Terms of Service for more information. Logos and trademarks are properties of their registered owners

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online courses vs in person


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