Distance or Classroom Learning: which is best for you?

We know ourselves better than anyone else knows us, so making the decision to distance learn or classroom learn should be easy.

Distance learning is education where the student learns remotely; it includes online learning, e-learning, home learning, and correspondence learning.

Classroom learning is the traditional method of teaching in which students learn together in a class, with a teacher. Almost all of us will have experienced that format but before you make a decision for your higher education, do think about the pros and cons of each style of learning.

Distance Learning Advantages:

Cheaper, Convenient, Time efficient: Distance learning is a good option when you live a great distance from an appropriate college or university. Fewer costs, little or no travel, learning where you want to whether it’s your bedroom, a library or a café, are all possible if you choose to distance learn.

Learning at your own pace: Students learn at different speeds and distance learning allows you to spend time on aspects that you find tricky, and less on those you find easy.

Independence: Distance learning can offer more scope to go into more depth or go off at tangents on subjects you are particularly interested in. Choosing when you study instead of having to get to your college, gives you the opportunity to tailor your learning to your lifestyle.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But there are what some students might see as disadvantages.

Distance Learning Disadvantages:

Solitary Learning: This is the most significant disadvantage of distance learning. With no teacher around, you’re on your own – no-one to pose questions to, explain difficult concepts, put you on the right track.

Stunts Social Interaction: Solitary learning also limits who you are meeting on a day-to-day basis. In the classroom, you would interact with students from different backgrounds and learn about their cultures. Working on your own can mean that you don’t have the opportunity to make new friends or develop your social skills. It can also inhibit a growth in confidence.

No monitoring: Evaluating your own progress is difficult. Without a teacher present giving you feedback or spontaneously testing, it can be tricky to know whether or not you’re learning effectively. 

Still not sure? Then let’s look at the upsides of classroom learning.

Classroom Learning Advantages:

You have a teacher: A teacher is a hard-to-beat aspect of classroom learning. A teacher guides students, helps them understand difficult concepts and helps them learn how to study efficiently.

Throwing ideas around: Being in a classroom with other students is a great way to get heads together in group study. Class discussion and helping each other is one of the best ways to learn and can be particularly appropriate when it comes to preparing for exams.

Prepares you for the outside world: Often, class learning involves standing up in class and addressing your fellow students. The more you do this, the better and more confident you become and it will help once you start a career.

Mixing with students studying other subjects: Classroom education has the edge when it comes to interaction. Getting to know students on your particular course and those from different disciplines can help you understand better the direction in which you should go and, in the process, you will make new friends.

Healthy competition: Solitary learning can never provide you with the healthy competition you get in a classroom, with students pitting their wits against each other to strive and improve.  

Classroom teaching sounds engaging and effective. However, there are some cautionary notes to be sounded…

Structured learning: Because of the group nature of classroom learning, it has a rather rigid study structure. Of course, how rigid depends on the teacher and how he/she works, but it can be a limiting factor.

Negative competition: Peer pressure is a significant and unavoidable aspect of classroom learning. Feeling pressure to be popular, wear the ‘right’ clothes or have fashionable hobbies, can all affect students deeply.

Inhibits imagination: At times the rigid structure of learning of classroom learning may limit the growth and scope of a student’s creativity, independence of thought and innovation.

Cost: Classroom learning can be a lot more expensive than distance learning which has far fewer, if any, costs for course material, tuition fees, accommodation fees and commuting expenses. 

If you’re still unsure how to decide your best learning style, think about what kind of person you are. Are you independent, motivated, or with a preference for solitary study? Or do you have a liking for structured and supported education and being with like-minded people with whom you can bounce ideas around?

Maybe also your age is a factor. Young, straight-from-school students may be attracted to classroom learning, a tried and tested method for them and one that develops their social lives. Older people, on the other hand, perhaps with full-time jobs and busy lives away from education, may find distance learning enticingly convenient.

It’s horses for courses and, if you plump for classroom learning, then ICM has many opportunities at education centres around the world from which to choose.


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