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Online Vs In-Person Classes: Is One Better Than The Other?

Trying to decide between online vs in-person classes? Only you can determine which is best for you, but understanding the pros and cons of each can help you make the right choice.

In today’s modern world, many colleges and universities offer in-person classes, online classes, or a hybrid of both. You can often mix it up depending on your schedule, the type of course, and the sections offered. In this post, we explore the advantages of both types of learning and look at the most current research to answer the question, do students learn better online or in a classroom.

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Unity offers online and hybrid degree programs with rolling admissions and flexible start dates.

Online School Vs In-Person: Is Online School Better Than In Person?

With in-person classes, students travel to a physical classroom at a scheduled time. This is the traditional form of schooling. In online classes, all coursework and engagement happen virtually through digital platforms. Some online classes include a live class time component or a video lecture you can watch anytime. Others just feature message board discussions, PowerPoints, and other learning materials uploaded online.

Objectively, online school is not better or worse than in-person school. People may gravitate towards online school vs in-person school depending on their:

  • Preferred learning styles
  • Academic and professional goals
  • External responsibilities 
  • Ability to commute

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Looking for engaging online classes? Unity’s Distance Education programs provide real-world learning.

Benefits Of Online Classes

As more institutions offer online classes and fully online degree programs, you may be wondering why is online school better. A meta-analysis by the US Department of Education found that students learn better in online classes, on average. This could be due to the increased accessibility for all learners that comes with online learning compared to many traditional classrooms. Also, because online degrees are more accessible, they play a major role in promoting social mobility in the USOnline higher education doesn’t just serve individuals but society as a whole. 

While online classes are popular, they may not be for everyone. Let’s look at the advantages of online learning so that you can decide if it’s right for you. The benefits include:

  • Flexibility
  • Self-paced learning
  • Technological integration
  • Access to a broader range of course offerings

Flexibility: Mastering Your Own Schedule

Online classes allow students to tailor their school hours around personal and professional commitments. For most online classes, all learning and assignments are asynchronous. That means you can watch recorded lectures, participate in class discussions, and complete other learning activities anytime you want. Usually, there will be tasks that need to be done each week, but as long as you submit them by the due dates, exactly when you complete them is up to you. 

This makes online classes great for students who have children or work. If you already have a busy schedule, online classes save time on commuting to campus. However, this level of flexibility requires self-discipline to be successful. Each semester, create your own schedule for classwork and stick to it so that you don’t fall behind. 

Digital Learning Environment: The World At Your Fingertips

Technology can simulate a classroom learning experience. There are many ways to engage with peers and content in virtual classes including: 

  • Discussion boards
  • Chat rooms
  • Video calls
  • Group projects

Digital learning environments can be much more inclusive than traditional classrooms. Students can slow down the pace at which they consume learning material. They can rewatch a lecture multiple times if needed and take time to process it before responding to online discussions or assignments. Technological tools also allow for customized content to cater to individual learning styles and needs. This is sometimes referred to as adaptive e-learning. Leveraging technology in this way is shown to increase student engagement and learning outcomes

Virtual Interaction: Bridging Distances Digitally

Taking online classes gives you opportunities to interact with people all over the country. You may be exposed to different cultures and perspectives as online classes are often more heterogeneous than in-person classes. According to Forbes, online schools enroll more women and people of color than in-person schools. 

Furthermore, the average age of the online student is 32 years old, and 84% of online bachelor’s degree students are already employed. This makes online classes a great place to build a diverse professional network. You can potentially build your professional network in a city you may want to work in after graduation by meeting people in online classes who already live and/or work there. 

Cost And Value: Maximizing Education On A Budget

The cost of online school vs in-person school varies. Some schools charge less for online degrees than in-person degrees. At other schools, the cost of credits is the same no matter how the course is delivered. Based on a report from the Education Data Initiative, the average cost for an online degree from a private institution is $60,593 while the average cost for an in-person degree from a private institution is $185,252. That’s a huge difference! 

Even when tuition costs are the same for online and in-person classes, a virtual student saves money on gas and parking by taking classes from home. Students who attend in-person school away from their homes need to pay for housing and moving costs in addition to tuition, fees, and books. Overall, online degrees can be a lot cheaper than in-person degrees.

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Apply to Unity today for free and begin earning your online degree from the comfort of your home. 

Benefits Of In-Person Classes

For much of history, in-person classes were the only type of formalized learning. Now that there is another option, it’s prudent to expound on the advantages of in-person learning rather than assume them. The benefits of in-person learning range from creating a sense of structure to hands-on learning to more interactions with peers and professors. 

Structure: The Discipline Of A Set Routine

Some people prefer in-person classes because they follow a set routine each week which creates structure in one’s life. If you are a full-time student, in-person classes give you a reason to get dressed in the morning. You may also be more motivated to focus on school work away from the distractions of your home. 

Schools have designated quiet spaces in libraries and potentially other spots around campus. If your home environment is always loud with people coming and going, it may not be conducive to learning time. You may benefit from being on campus where you can take time to study and do school assignments before or after class rather than at home.

Physical Environment: The Tangibility Of A Campus

In-person classes mean being on a college campus and all the benefits that come with the campus experience. This includes:

  • Hands-on labs
  • Study groups in the library
  • Immediate access to various facilities and services

By immersing yourself on a college campus during your degree program, you can reap many of the benefits of a college education

Face-To-Face Interaction: The Power Of Direct Human Connection

Lack of participation is a chronic issue with online classes. Students may feel awkward or struggle to connect with their professors or classmates virtually. Technology issues exacerbate these challenges because they can make communication seem unnatural. Because of this, online classes tend to involve more passive learning which is shown to be less effective than active learning

In-person classes provide regular face-to-face interactions where people can engage in natural, spontaneous discussions and develop genuine connections. This can aid in building your professional network because many of your classmates will likely be working in the same industry as you after graduation.

Cost And Value: Investing In A Comprehensive Experience

There are extra costs associated with in-person classes – gas, parking, and on-campus meals. However, the value that a college campus offers can outweigh these extra costs. Many campuses have amenities that are free to in-person students such as a gym, movie theater, and health clinic. Through on-campus organizations, clubs, and free social events, you can make friends and build your professional network. 

Being on campus can also help you academically. You can visit tutoring or writing centers for free to get support for fellow students or volunteers. One of the greatest benefits of in-person learning is that you can receive immediate feedback from your professor in class. This is particularly helpful for subjects you struggle with. And, in general, some things are easier to explain in person than in writing. 

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Get the best of both worlds with a hybrid learning program at Unity Environmental University.

Comparing Learning Outcomes: Do Students Learn Better Online Or In A Classroom?

Now that you know the online school vs in-person pros and cons, let’s look at learning outcomes for each type of class. Some research shows that students perform equally or better in online classes than they do in traditional in-person classes. As expected, the amount of engagement in the online class affects its efficiency for students. Evidence from 2020 shows that when students are not engaged in online courses, attendance and course completion can suffer.

Additionally, some types of learning such as labs for STEM majors must take place in person. While technological integrations in online classrooms make some degrees such as environmental science and GIS available through distance learning, online education is unlikely to completely replace in-person learning. Instead, many experts recommend a mix of online and in-person classes

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Attend Unity Environmental University From Anywhere In The U.S. Or In Person At Our Technical Institute

Is online school better than in-person? That depends on who you ask. But, is there value in online learning for preparing students for the real world? The answer to that is a resounding yes! Whether you want to travel to Maine to attend our Technical Institute in person or complete your degree online, you can expect an engaging, high-quality education from Unity Environmental University. And, with our hybrid degree programs, you don’t need to debate virtual learning vs in-person learning because you can try both and see which works best for you. 

With a robust offering of online degrees for undergraduate and graduate students covering sustainability, agroforestry, animal and marine sciences, vet technology, and more, and affordable fees for tuition and other expenses, Unity is making education more accessible in order to further the impact of environmental sciences globally. Our affordability and comprehensive programs are making Unity America’s Environmental University of choice for thousands of students each year.