5 Key Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Learning

Neha Uddin
Lizzie Ottenstein
girl, studying online with her stationery items beside her | advantages and disadvantages of online learning

There are both advantages and disadvantages of online learning. The increase in the use of mobile technologies has given students a major advantage when it comes to accessing information. Students can save study materials electronically on their personal devices, making them readily available for convenient information retrieval. 

Students can also store and share digital materials, and easily distributing academic work to enhance peer-to-peer collaboration, especially in group or project-based settings. Simply put, online learning can happen anywhere and anytime, allowing for personalization and flexibility.  

Online learning isn’t without some disadvantages, however. Despite developments and the decrease in the cost of computers and mobile gadgets, an imbalance persists among students when it comes to factors such as access to equipment and the internet. In this blog, we will discuss five major advantages and disadvantages of online learning. 

Advantages of Online Learning  

Advantages of Online Learning banner, listing out the points

Better Retention and Efficiency

A girl, on her laptop, attending online classes | advantages and disadvantages of online learning

The Research Institute of America found that online courses increased student’s information retention rates from 25% to 60%.

Online learning tools allow teachers and students to engage with multimedia content. Such tools allow teachers to control how they present information and how students learn it. Teachers can also be efficient educators by extending the traditional lesson plan beyond textbooks to include online resources. 

Integrated with various features such as videos, PDFs, and podcasts, online learning platforms offer an interactive teaching and learning experience. The interactive nature of online courses leads to better information retention. The more engaging the content, the better the learners remember it. 

Easy Accessibility

Online learning is not restricted by geographical boundaries. Because of this, it also allows schools to reach a larger network of students than ever before. 

Online learning allows students to attend classes from anywhere. Students can record online lectures, access archived courses and learning materials, and share schoolwork. This allows students to log in to their virtual campus from the comfort of home.   

Affordability 

Another advantage is reduced costs. Cost can prevent some students from enrolling. This is also an issue for companies who wish to encourage their employees to undergo further training but don’t have the budget. 

Online courses are accessible on smaller budgets and are more affordable than traditional learning. This is because factors such as transportation, meals, paper, and real estate are eliminated. 

Assessment and Attendance

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Another great thing about online learning is a consistent student assessment. Online learning helps make assessment more of an ongoing process. Interspersing multimedia content and courses with short, regular tests can improve engagement as well. 

Harvard showed that using short, regular tests cut student distraction in half, tripled note-taking, and improved retention of material. Teachers are better able to keep track of student progress the more often students are assessed. With increased student tracking, teachers can swiftly step in and assist students when needed.

Likewise, since students can attend online classes from home or from any location of their choice, there are fewer absences.

Personalization and Learning Styles 

Every student has his/her own learning journey and style, and online learning caters to each student’s individual needs. Students can personalize learning through the options and resources made available online. For example, many students are visual learners, while others prefer learning through audio. Similarly, some students thrive in the classroom, while others are solo learners who get distracted by large groups. Online learning can help students create a learning environment suited to their needs. 

Online learning also allows students to choose their own learning path and navigate courses at their own pace. As a result, students remain invested as they decide what to learn, how to take the course, and when. For example, online learning allows shy students to initiate a live, private chat with their instructor.

Disadvantages of Online Learning  Disadvantages of Online Learning banner, listing out the points

Inability To Focus On Screens

Many students struggle to focus on the screen for long periods of time. This is one of the biggest online learning challenges as students are likely to be distracted. 

This may worsen in big classes. It can become next to impossible to provide individual support and instruction to every single student in such cases. 

Technical Issues

the image features the Google dino people get on their screens when the internet gets cut off, with text that says, "It is estimated that between 9 million and 12 million US students lack adequate internet access at home for remote learning, source: Common Sense Media"

Another challenge is internet connectivity. While access to the internet has increased, problems persist in smaller cities and towns. There can be a lack of continuity in the learning process without a consistent internet connection, which can be detrimental.

Isolation 

Learning is an interactive process, and students learn a lot in the company of peers. Another major disadvantage of online learning is the minimal social interactions between students and teachers. In such a setting, students can feel isolated. 

To read more about how online learning impacts mental health, check out this blog: Online Learning and Mental Health.   

In some cases, using online tools may even hinder the learning process. There are many cases where learning is invariably interconnected with specific environments. Examples include learning skill forms that require working with specialized tools, like various types of laboratory and medical training equipment and some musical instruments. 

Insufficient Teacher Training

Insufficient technological knowledge and skills can present another major online learning obstacle. Teachers require a basic understanding of using digital forms of learning, and some may not have the necessary resources and tools to conduct online classes. Schools should invest in teacher training to ensure they are empowered for online learning.

Long Hours of Screen Time

Increased screen time is another concern and disadvantage of online learning. Long screen time can lead to bad posture and other physical problems. Students should manage screen time with breaks from the computer. 

To know more about overcoming online learning challenges, check out this blog: Overcoming the Challenges of Online Learning. 

There are many advantages and disadvantages of online learning. It is best to adopt a broad, open-minded view when it comes to implementing education technology. Like everything, we should embrace the benefits of online learning and carefully navigate its issues to get the best results.