Physical Learning vs Online Learning

Physical Learning vs Online Learning

The pandemic had left us in unprecedented times with empty schools, colleges, and universities, thus leading to a new model of teaching and learning. Consequently, we were forced to start things online. But it also raised a vital question: classroom learning vs online learning; which is effective?

With the rise and popularity of online learning, education is taking place remotely and on different digital platforms. However, as many people have become accustomed to new technologies and transformation, they are still confused about whether “is online learning effective or not?

The sudden shift from classroom learning has left many wondering whether online education will continue post-pandemic and how it will affect the physical classroom system. Here we will sketch a comparison between the two learning modes, i.e., online learning vs. traditional learning. We’ll also discuss their major advantages, disadvantages, and fundamental differences.

What is Classroom (Physical) Learning?

Classroom learning refers to a form of education where you create a face-to-face environment for instructors and students. In this mode of learning, real-time interaction happens between students and teachers. The classroom's physical environment includes boards, projectors, teachers, and class monitors. Therefore, it holds learners accountable, and there are lesser chances of distraction.

Advantages of Classroom Learning

Physical classrooms offer many advantages that are not found in online ones.

Relationship Building

Learners develop close relationships with teachers and other students in a physical classroom. It allows students to receive feedback from their teachers in the form of their voice tone, movement, body language, facial expressions, and lessons taught on the chalkboard or whiteboard.

Exchange of Ideas

Students are present with their peers in the classroom, allowing them to share ideas, clear their doubts, collaborate, and network with fellow learners and teachers.

Reduced Distraction

Physical classrooms have fewer distractions or challenges, unlike at home, such as television screens, calls, kids, or other noises.

Disadvantages of Classroom Learning

Until recently, there were no significant drawbacks found in traditional learning.

However, with online learning making a name in the world of education, some significant flaws have been identified in traditional classroom settings. They are:

Time-Consuming and Costly

If the courses are taking place at a distance from your home or workplace, you must travel from one place to another to attend classes. Hence, it adds travel time and expenses like meals, tolls, etc.

Inflexible Schedule

An inflexible class schedule can cause serious issues if you have a static work routine. Having to cancel attending a lesson or your work, mainly because you are not the only student, can make completing the course challenging.

Learning Speed

In face-to-face learning, everyone is expected to pick the lessons at a particular speed, making personalized learning almost impossible. In addition, some learners may not relate to a fixed learning schedule or class environment and need to study at their own pace and convenience to excel at education.

What is Online Learning?

Online education is a learning experience that lets learners and instructors connect virtually. This learning mode uses online whiteboards, video conferencing, and screen sharing to conduct live sessions and discussions with students.

As online classrooms are cloud-based learning solutions conducted digitally, they are customizable and accessible to all learners on various devices like desktops, smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc

Advantages of Online (Virtual) Learning

Online classrooms offer the following benefits;

Multiple Multimedia Options

Although in physical classrooms, there are many multimedia options available, like videos and PowerPoint presentations, the choices in online learning are unlimited, with quizzes, screencasts, videos, and a variety of other technological functionalities.


Where in-person learning requires students to commute, bear extra expenses, and disturb their work schedules, online learning doesn’t demand learners to do so. A significant portion of e-learning courses doesn’t need teacher-student interaction. Learners can take lessons whenever and wherever they want through laptops, smartphones, or offline.

Endless Opportunities

Besides online learning sessions, virtual courses will likely improve students’ understanding of the study material. Students can achieve their educational goals through tutorials, certifications, or standalone courses in the corporate sector.

Shrinking Distance

With online learning, taking training from outside the country becomes an easy task. Remote classes let multinational companies train their employees across borders. Likewise, it is easier to teach learners no matter which part of the world they are in. Students can make online study groups and learn with their peers.

Virtual Quizzes

Online quizzes are more effective than the traditional pen-and-paper mode. They ensure the active engagement of students in the subject material. Moreover, they increase their motivation, help them recall information, and gain better grades.

Another significant advantage of online quizzes is that it reduces students’ stress. Platforms like Kahoot! And Quizizz has a live dashboard with background music. Learners can see their own and others’ rank. So, they get involved in healthy competition to get higher scores. The fun and interactive features make students excited and forget they are taking a quiz.

Tracking the Results

In physical classrooms, teachers used to do manual checking of the answers. But in the virtual world, quizzes and their solutions can be sent to instructors, aiding them in tracking students’ progress.

Managing Study Materials

Learners submit assignments online and can email questions to their instructors. They can also get the study materials before the class starts, helping them to prepare in advance for the lesson and even understand things at their own pace.

Disadvantages of Online Learning

Those who think online learning is a boon are not correct. It also has flaws.

Technology Issues

Although the internet has been part and parcel of daily life for a long time, not everybody is tech-savvy. That’s why it can lead to feelings of frustration and loss of time while dealing with such issues. Moreover, some students cannot handle the virtual sessions' tech requirements, like reliable WiFi and a fast processor. So, online learning will be a waste of time and energy in some cases.

Lack of Socialization

In face-to-face spaces, you can interact with fellow students and build a bond with them. On the contrary, in online classes, the scope of social interaction is limited, and the chances to meet and communicate with your peers are lesser.

No Routine

Though learners benefit from attending classes at their will, it can result in unnecessary delays. The disadvantage of online learning is that any environment away from the classroom has plenty of distractions. One must create and follow a consistent schedule to reduce the impact of these distractions and delays.

Classroom Learning vs Online Learning

Virtual classrooms have resulted in maintaining information and saving time, whereas physical classrooms offer greater socialization and accountability.

Here are a few key differences between classroom learning vs online learning.

Time Management

Time management plays a significant role in the difference between online learning vs traditional learning. Virtual education is more flexible, and one can attend lessons anywhere and anytime, saving students time and travel expenses.

Which is More Flexible?

Another difference is the flexibility online classes provide. Also, virtual education seems more organized with smaller parts that are easy to learn and manage even on busy schedules.

Learners can also appear for tests at their selected time and don’t have to be physically present in a class. Moreover, if they cannot understand a particular lesson in an online course, they can go through the subject material plenty of times to grasp the concepts.

On the other hand, traditional classes have rigid schedules, where an instructor must manage many students simultaneously.

Interaction & Collaboration

Mode of interaction is another difference between online and face-to-face classrooms. In physical classes, learners can interact face-to-face with each other and their teachers. They can ask questions and get answers on the spot, thus offering a dynamic learning experience. They also get to share their views and ideas about the subject matter at hand.

Whereas such interaction is missing in online spaces, it is somehow made possible via chats, emails, forums, and webinars. The only thing missing from them is any practical experience, for example, activities or illustrations practiced in real-time.

Mode of Instruction

An exciting feature of online learning vs traditional learning is the mode of delivery or instruction.

In-person classrooms require teachers to deliver lectures verbally or through PowerPoint presentations. In comparison, instructors use tools like graphs, videos, presentations, and visuals in online education.

Additionally, traditional classes need the physical presence of teachers and students, but virtual classrooms demand instructors to be tech-savvy.

Teachers also need to monitor students’ progress. Manual tracking is the standard in physical classes, where educators verbally instruct.


So, you might want to choose between classroom learning vs online learning. But the answer is we cannot conclude which is better as both have their distinct advantages and disadvantages. 

You can use any or go for a blended approach depending on the needs of the course material and your students.

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