Last updated on August 28th, 2023.
For centuries, students pursuing an education from accredited institutions had to physically attend classes until they received their desired certification or degree. For this reason, many people believe in-person schooling is the only way to receive a quality and reputable education. However, technological advancements of the past two decades have significantly changed this mentality and how people can obtain an education, resulting in countless students opting for online schooling. But which is best?
This article will delve into the highly relevant and debated decision of online schooling versus in-person schooling. It will describe what each educational path entails and the most significant advantages and disadvantages of each. It will also lay to rest the question of whether one of these options ultimately outweighs the other for all students.
What Does It Mean to Study Online Vs. In-Person?
When it comes to obtaining an education, there are two approaches students can take nowadays: online or in-person. Although there are much both of these educational paths share, they differ widely in how they function.
Online schools are exactly what the name implies—a school that students attend through online programs they access using a computer, mobile phone apps, or other electronic devices. In-person schooling differs in that students are expected to physically attend classes in a brick-and-mortar institution, meaning an established structure.
As you can see, the biggest difference in how these types of schooling work are whether a student can attend a course from anywhere using the internet and electronic devices or if they must go to a physical building and sit in a classroom to obtain their education.
Which Is Better: Online School or In-Person?
One of the most significant reasons there is so much debate surrounding online vs. in-person schooling is that people have very firm opinions that one is better than the other. We’d like to formally put this debate to rest here.
Both online and in-person schooling are legitimate ways for students to obtain an education, and one is not inherently better than the other. This ultimately is a matter of opinion, as both options have advantages and disadvantages that might benefit one student while hindering another.
It is not uncommon for people to believe that in-person schooling is the superior option considering it has been around for centuries.
There is also the question of whether degrees or certificates obtained through online programs are legitimate. To that, we say, as long as the online institution is accredited, meaning it adheres to educational standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Education, then degrees obtained online and in-person are of equal value. The only element that might increase or reduce one’s value over the other is the institution it was obtained from, not the style of schooling.
Countless institutions worldwide, including Ivy League and State colleges, offer students online programs of the highest quality. For some, the freedom this permits them in terms of their schedule and lifestyle makes online schooling the better choice. For others, attending school in person might help them focus better on course material and provide the ideal social atmosphere they enjoy.
This demonstrates that whether in-person or online schooling is “better” solely lies on the individual level. What works for one student in terms of their lifestyle and learning might not be the same for another. Therefore, it is important to know the pros and cons of each option so students can choose the schooling approach the best suits them, not what others deem superior.
Online School Vs. In-Person Pros and Cons
Now that we’ve established that online and in-person schooling are legitimate options of equal educational value let’s discuss their overarching pros and cons. This will help any students weighing each option find the one that fits their lifestyle and learning needs and ensure future success in their educational journey.
The most significant pros and cons of online and in-person schooling are as follows:
|Online Schooling||• Schedule flexibility|
• Reduced tuition cost
• Students can learn at their own pace
• Increased accessibility
|• Requires equipment that might be costly to acquire or inaccessible
• Students must be self-motivated due to reduced structure
• Distracting atmospheres
• Reduced social interaction
|In-Person Schooling||• Optimal atmosphere for focus and accountability|
• Permits hands-on learning
• Easier to connect with fellow students and professors
• Higher quantity and diversity of classes
|• Strict schedule
• Requires some form of commuting
• Increased costs
• Atmosphere might be uncomfortable and inhibit learning
While some people might think some of the pros and cons in this chart are on the wrong side, remember that much of this debate is subjective.
For the most part, these are the elements of online and in-person schooling people deem either beneficial or a hindrance to their learning. Therefore, we’d like to discuss each in more detail so you can see the reasoning behind each and use this to your advantage when deciding which method would be best for you.
Online School Pros
The pros of attending online schools largely revolve around convenience and comfort, whether that is in terms of schedules, financial burdens, or mental health.
|Schedule flexibility||The most significant advantage of online schooling is undoubtedly its schedule flexibility. Students can tailor their course schedules to fit their lifestyle, making it the optimal choice for parents or individuals trying to obtain an education while working a full-time job.|
|Reduced tuition cost||While this isn’t always the case, most online programs are significantly cheaper than in-person schooling due to the reduced necessity of course materials (ex., facility costs, tools for all students, etc.).|
|Personalize learning pace||Many students prefer online schooling because it allows them to obtain their education at their own pace. This greatly reduces pressure and stress because they don’t feel like they have to cram their education into a set timeline.|
|Increased accessibility||Online programs are highly accessible to anyone with an electronic device and internet connection. Students don’t have to move to their desired institution’s physical location or work commutes into their schedule with this option. Some can even attend programs in other countries if accepted.|
In-Person School Pros
There’s a reason the vast majority of students opt for in-person schooling over online, even despite online schooling’s growing popularity. Most enjoy the pros of increased opportunities for genuine socialization and the structured atmosphere that comes with this option.
|Optimal atmosphere for focus and accountability||Some students thrive off of having more structure in their life, particularly when it comes to school. With in-person schooling, there are specific times students have to be present, and once they’re in the classroom, there are significantly fewer distractions present, making it easier to focus on course content.|
|Permits hands-on learning||There are some things in online schooling you can’t do. Any form of hands-on learning, such as scientific experiments are artistic studies, isn’t possible online unless the student happens to have all the required materials. This could hinder students who thrive off of hands-on learning.|
|Easy social connections with fellow students and professors||Social interaction is much easier and genuine in-person than online. It isn’t uncommon for students online to keep to themselves (many won’t even turn their cameras on). If you prioritize speaking to people in person and making school friends, in-person is best.|
|Higher quantity and diversity of classes||Although online schooling is expanding, there are many classes you can take in person that aren’t available online. Sometimes, an entire field or program must be acquired in person if a student wants to pursue it because online isn’t an option.|
Online School Cons
Although we’d like to say there are no downsides to online schooling, there are a series of cons to this choice that render it less than ideal for some students.
|Requires equipment that might be costly or inaccessible||Online schooling might be cheaper for students in the long run regarding tuition costs, but if they don’t have the necessary equipment (ex. laptop, camera, headset), it might cost them a hefty sum to start. Additionally, if they don’t have a decent internet connection at home, they’ll either have to upgrade it or attend classes elsewhere with a stronger connection.|
|Students must be self-motivated due to reduced structure||The absolute hardest part of online schooling is holding yourself accountable. For some students, the freedom to log on and do their work whenever they please fuels procrastination and could increase stress if they aren’t self-motivated.|
|Distracting atmospheres||Without the structured atmosphere of the classroom, students might find online schooling distracting. They are subject to whatever is happening around them in their immediate environment (ex., noises from animals, kids coming into the room, etc.), which can be difficult to ignore. There’s also the challenge of focusing solely on your work rather than giving yourself numerous breaks to use your phone, watch a show on your laptop, or simply leave the room.|
|Reduced social interaction||This is one con that some people might see as a pro, but if you’re a social butterfly, you’ll find online schooling difficult. Communication using this method isn’t always at its best, and students will usually keep to themselves during class. Then, once the class is over, you don’t have the opportunity to chat with them as you could in person.|
In-Person School Cons
While there are countless people who prefer in-person schooling, online schooling was created out of necessity to overcome many of the in-person schooling cons we’ve listed below. Whether it’s general certifications, degrees or even certifications in higher education, these tips or study apply to all.
|Strict schedule||When students sign up for in-person classes, there are strict time slots they can choose from and no alternatives. If these times don’t fit your schedule, odds are, you’ll have to miss out on that class or change things in your life to work around it. Professors also won’t wait for you, so if you’re late, you miss out on class content as opposed to online schooling, where many lectures are recorded, and you can start and stop them as you please.|
|Requires some form of commuting||Commuting is unavoidable with in-person schooling. Either the student drives to campus or the institution every day, or they have to walk to class (most likely if they live on campus). This can take an hour or more out of your day and needs to be considered their daily schedules.|
|Increased costs||In-person schooling is expensive, no matter where you go. Although higher education is egregiously costly in its own right, attending classes in person will cost significantly more because you are paying for additional materials and resources online students don’t have access to.|
|Atmosphere might be uncomfortable and inhibit learning||While some students would struggle with the self-motivation required for online schooling, others might find the strict structure of in-person schooling difficult. Many students find it challenging to sit and focus continually for an hour or more in a classroom. Many find their learning improves if they take more breaks in between. Additionally, those with social anxiety might find their mental health affected by attending in-person classes.|
As we discussed previously, both in-person and online schooling are legitimate ways for any student to obtain an education, and each has its pros and cons. Whether one option is better for you depends on your learning style and priorities as a person and a student. If you need a low-cost education that permits scheduling freedom, you’ll want to look into online schooling. Alternatively, if you prioritize structure and social interaction, in-person schooling is for you.
It is essential to your educational success to weigh the pros and cons of each option and determine which aligns with your priorities best before choosing. Of course, many colleges and other institutions allow course credits to transfer between schools, students could realistically test out one method for a semester or year and then decide if they want to stick with that method or switch to another.