Distance Learning Vs. Classroom Learning: A Definitive Comparison

Distance Learning Vs. Classroom Learning
Out of the different methods of education, distance learning and classroom learning are the two methods that have been largely discussed and debated on. Here is an account of the advantages and disadvantages of the two methods in a nutshell.
Education is an important aspect in a person's life. People acknowledge this fact, and hence spend a lot of time and thought about which school they want to put their children into, which college or university they would like to get their children admitted into, what kind of courses they think are going to prove beneficial to their children, etc. Along with the actual field or discipline one chooses to study, the method of learning is also important. Distance learning and classroom learning are two types of education systems that come with their own pros and cons. However, before we take a look at them, let us try to understand both these methods of learning.
Understanding the Concepts
Boy with laptop
Distance learning is defined as a form of education in which the source of information or knowledge and the students are separated by time and space. Hence online learning, e-learning, home learning, everything is included in distance learning.
Teacher teaching
As opposed to distance learning, classroom learning is the traditional method of teaching or education in which all the students of a course are united in a class, with a teacher. Classroom learning is something we are all familiar with, for we have all received a major chunk of our primary education by attending classes in a classroom.
Distance Learning vs. Classroom Learning - Advantages and Disadvantages
Distance education, it is claimed, was first offered by the University of London as early as the 1850s. Distance learning is hence quite old. However, it is a concept that is gaining popularity now. As people are becoming more receptive to new ways and methods of learning, distance education is gaining more followers. However, some people still believe in the old school method of classroom learning. Here is an account of distance vs. classroom learning.
Distance Learning
Advantages
  1. Pace of Learning: Different students will find different concepts difficult. When you enroll in a distance learning program, you can study it at your own pace, spending more time on concepts you find difficult and less on those you find easy. The structure of the course is hence less rigid.
  2. Study Hours: You can choose your study hours when in a distance learning course. This leaves you enough time to pursue your other interests.
  3. Independent Learning: The information or knowledge you acquire will have greater scope in case of a distance learning course. Your knowledge will not remain confined to your course material or the teacher or professor. You can explore the domain that interests you, and you can choose the depth to which you want to study a subject.
  4. Time, Money and Comfort: This saves a lot of time and money with respect to traveling. Other expenses like stationary material, bags, books, etc. can also be saved on. Plus you can choose a study environment you are most comfortable with - your room, the terrace garden, or a local cafe.
Disadvantages
  1. No Teacher: This is the most significant disadvantage of distance learning. With no teacher around, you have to learn completely on your own. You do not have somebody who will explain things to you that you don't understand.
  2. Personality Development: Distance learning cannot add all those facets to your personality that a classroom learning course would. You may not develop such traits as confidence, assertiveness, ability to mix up with people, make friends, etc.
  3. Limits Social Interaction: One of the benefits of classroom learning is that it allows you to meet different kinds of people. It gives you the opportunity to learn about different cultures. This will not happen in a distance learning course.
  4. Periodic Evaluation: A teacher in a classroom sees to it that students fare well in all the subjects. Apart from the regular exams that are conducted a teacher may hold quizzes, or surprise tests to evaluate students. This doesn't happen in a distance learning program. You may not always be able to evaluate yourself properly.
Classroom Learning
Advantages
  1. Presence of a Teacher: A teacher is an indispensable catalyst in education, in my opinion. A teacher can guide the students well. He/she can help them understand difficult concepts, and thereby develop efficient studying techniques. This is the biggest advantage of classroom learning.
  2. Group Study: A classroom provides the perfect setting to fuel brainstorming and group study. Helping each other is one of the best ways to clear your concepts and strengthen them. You can learn how to prepare better for your exams by taking tips from each other.
  3. Presentations: Oral presentations and seminars give you the opportunity to get over stage fright and gain confidence too. This goes a long way in making you more able when you step into the professional world.
  4. Wider Exposure: In terms of subjects you study as well as people you meet, classroom education gives you a wider exposure. Through interaction with students from different disciplines, you can better evaluate your own interests and choose a career that is perfect for you. In the process, you may even make friends for life, who knows!
Disadvantages
  1. Rigid Structure: Classroom learning has a rather rigid structure with respect to the studying pattern, evaluation methods, strategy to tackle different topics, etc. Much of this depends on the teacher and how he/she approaches different concepts. This can itself become a limiting factor.
  2. Peer Pressure: Peer pressure is a significant and unavoidable aspect of classroom learning. An education should give you an opportunity to make a life you desire, irrespective of your family background. However, peer pressure can prove to be a negative influence to this. Pressure to have good friends, wear good clothes, use certain gadgets, do certain things can affect students rather deeply.
  3. Innovation: At times the rigid structure of learning can limit the growth and scope of a student's creativity and innovation. Classroom learning may not always provide an environment that is conducive to developing such traits as imagination, novelty, etc.
  4. An Expensive Affair: Classroom learning can be a lot more expensive in terms of course material, tuition fees, accommodation fees, commutation expenses and myriad other expenses. 
So that was an account of distance learning vs. classroom learning. In my opinion, an education system that incorporates the benefits of both and tries to minimize the disadvantages of both would be the best for students. Already a lot of schools and universities are opting for blended learning - a method that incorporates mobile learning, classroom learning as well as online learning. The day isn't too far when everyone will adopt this method of learning.
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