Are Online Classes Easier Than Traditional Classes?

This is one of the most common misconceptions about online learning. Too many students take online classes because they think they might be easier. In fact, almost every term, several students in my class comment that they are “surprised” at the difficulty level of their online classes.

Online learning is not necessarily easier or harder than a traditional classroom. However, online learning provides a different environment that some students might find a bit more challenging.

Self-motivated attitude required
What makes online learning a little tough for some students is that it requires an above-average amount of self-motivation and self-discipline. Most online schools give you a set time to complete work, and it’s up to you to make the deadline. Too many students suffer from poor time management skills, and the rush to complete all assignment on the last day of the deadline often results in disaster.

In a traditional school, you often meet with a class and go over lecture materials and group exercises. So you get at least some benefit of “required” study time. In an online class, you are provided a set of materials and if you choose not to read them at a steady pace throughout the term, you’re going to get a rude awakening when it comes to the final exam.

Asking questions is essential
Online schooling also relies on students to ask questions if they need help. Typically, the instructor and students never physically share the same physical space, so an instructor will not be able to read a student’s body language to see that he/she might appear confused. So the student needs to take the initiative to send the instructor an e-mail or post a question on the message boards.

Benefits to going online
If you’re up to the challenge, there are tons of reasons that online schooling might be a good fit. If you are self-disciplined, excel at time management, and feel prepared to ask questions, then you have a reasonably good chance of succeeding in an online learning environment.

Online learning provides access to education to people who might otherwise need to forego on their degrees: stay-at-home parents with small children, people with disabilities, people stationed overseas in military service, people who are sole caregivers to ill family members, etc. So going online might serve as a key pathway to educational success.

Some tips to consider
If you feel online school might be fore you, be prepared with the following:

• A high-speed internet line – dial-up can be unreliable. You should have internet access that is capable of uploading and downloading large files in a moderately short period of time without shutting down.

• Backup internet sources – the internet is the only connection to your online classroom materials, and if this goes down, you must have a backup internet source ready (internet café, library, friend’s house, etc.)

• Back-up external hard drive/flash drive – whether you go to school online or in a traditional classroom, regularly back up everything. This is a wise investment.

• Time management – take a good, objective view of your schedule at work and at home to see how much time you really have to devote to school work. Avoid overloading your schedule at school to the point where it becomes unrealistic.

Good luck making your educational choices. Thanks for your question. Keep them coming!

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Professor Kim
The Online Professor

Eson Kim has been teaching College Writing and Literature for nearly 10 years. In addition to her blog,, her work has recently appeared in flashquake. She is also a fiction reader for Ploughshares Literary Journal. She strives to improve the quality and accessibility of education for all students from all backgrounds.

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