Online learning: advantages and disadvantages

In the United States, 63% of studentsdaily engage in online learning activities. Equally compelling is the global perspective: 70% of students worldwide prefer online education, while 80% of businesses offer online learning solutions. Sounds large, right?

No wonder universities, organizations, and people have adopted such a convenient approach so widely. With it, you can minimize early wakes to dress, drink coffee with eyes barely open, and go to the classroom. Instead, you can embark on your learning journey from the comfort of your own home, or even your bed, utilizing online learning tools that facilitate your educational pursuits.

Such an approach has many incredible benefits and immense transformative potential. However, as is often the case with revolutionary methods, potential drawbacks can diminish its effectiveness significantly. How can we utilize all the benefits to obtain the best result possible? How to avert all possible disadvantages and problems? We’ll explore that here, as everyone deserves high-quality remote education.

So, let’s start our journey and explore the peculiarities of online education.

What is online learning?

According to the online learning definition, it combines all educational activities conducted online, fully or partly. Is everything so simple? Or not…

Distance learning spans various types and subtypes, incorporating diverse implementation techniques, specifics stemming from its remote nature, and potential problems that can substantially impact its efficiency. It is crucial to evaluate all processes related to distance education comprehensively, understand when and how they can be effectively applied, and be cognizant of the ensuing consequences. Subsequently, we'll dissect its advantages and elucidate how to harness them while mitigating the associated disadvantages.

Lastly, you need to implement an online learning system into your organization. It is a learning management system (LMS) application with online course constructors. It serves as the nexus that connects your learners with all educational resources. As you'll discover, various types and examples of such systems exist. Within this framework, you can create or upload your courses and educational materials, effectively orchestrating your distance and online learning initiatives to ensure their efficacy.

Let's start by typing. By knowing what we're working with, we'll understand how to make it perfect.

Typing online learning

  • merges online and offline education, transferring activities online when possible. For example, a major part of education can proceed in video lectures and discussions, while offline meetings are conducted once a week.
  • similarly combines online and offline education but for different purposes. The objective here is to create a comprehensive educational environment where each learner can access a variety of learning materials. Key educational activities still take place offline, such as hands-on practical tasks and interactive seminar sessions.
  • is based on utilizing well-organized online courses composed of video lectures, demonstrations, infographics, ebooks, and other relevant information material types. For example, a student can learn basic physics or dive into more advanced concepts from this science step by step.
  •  is an approach to providing information in small portions dedicated to learning some skill or concept specifically. It combines concise video explanations, demonstrations, and visual aids like diagrams and infographics, complemented by practical exercises. This method allows for rapid skill acquisition without overwhelming the learner.
  • Synchronous online learning
    is a learning with clear schedules and deadlines that should be followed in order to remain on the course. It cultivates discipline in learners, ensuring they progress through the course in a timely manner, following a predefined plan.
  • Asynchronous online learning
    is a relaxed and self-paced approach when a learner complete tasks on their own without clear deadlines. While it grants significant flexibility and minimizes stress, it may potentially lead to feelings of detachment.

Online learning vs. Traditional learning

As we see some online learning strategies and approaches, we can compare them with more traditional offline classrooms. This analysis will cover the methods and opportunities of online education, coupled with the strengths of physical classrooms and traditional learning. The table below shows the comparison results.
  • Online learning

    Is based on virtual classrooms, video lectures, and live communication, so it can connect people from various corners of the world but is limited by online communication instruments.

    Can be very diverse based on the type of learning materials, online interaction, and the percentage of offline activities, such as blended learning, micro-learning, and others.

    Can easily be personalized, as it’s quite easy to communicate in private messages regarding any issue, feedback, or question

    Needs to be properly organized, with learners' maximum involvement, in order to be efficient.
  • Traditional learning

    Is based on classroom education, so it implies physical contact and verbal communication while learners should visit classrooms regularly.

    Has some strategies, usually based on various types of interaction between learners, such as lectures, seminar lessons, practice lessons, or interactive lessons.

    Can hardly be personalized, as it requires regular face-to-face meetings that take time and resources.

    Needs to be organized well, but the necessity to visit offline classrooms itself organizes students.
Let’s evaluate distance learning advantages that follow from its essence and provide several tips for online learning to see how to utilize these advantages.

Advantages of online learning

Online education revolutionizes the learning experience, significantly reducing the conventional classroom necessity while introducing a plethora of advantages. Here, we'll dive into the benefits of online learning.
  • The convenience
    of remote education is immense. You can acquire knowledge from the comfort of your home or any other location that suits you. This translates to fewer distractions, reduced stress levels, and an enhanced ability to concentrate on your chosen subject matter. Nevertheless, as we'll later discuss, it also has the potential for isolation and detachment, which can pose challenges.
  • Flexibility 
    increases immensely, as the constraints of physical location evaporate. Digital world is limited only by the memory and CPU speed. You can access educational resources from virtually anywhere with an internet connection, liberating you from rigid schedules and enabling the creation of customized, efficient study plans.
  • Various learning approaches and methods
    that cannot be applied offline are feasible here. You’ve already seen several of them. The ability for instructors to remain digitally accessible streamlines communication, allowing for swift responses and prompt feedback. A rich knowledge base ensures comprehensive coverage of the subject matter, fostering interactive, engaging, and personalized learning experiences for diverse scenarios.
  • Cost efficiency 
    is another important aspect. Embracing online learning eliminates the need for physical classrooms, slashing expenses associated with rent, transportation, and physical textbooks. While costs are still incurred for learning materials and instructional services, the overall financial burden is significantly lighter.
So, we need approaches that will utilize all these benefits. Let’s overview such techniques shortly to see three important elements of the distance learning implementation.
  • Clear organization
    includes schedules, deadlines, and lists of objectives that should be learned. Online learning flexibility and convenience need to be organized properly; in other cases, they may turn into disadvantages. So, online learning should always have a well-organized learning schedule, clear objectives, descriptions, and a community around it.
  • Motivation and gamification
    in online learning are important elements for the engagement of learners. Given the isolated nature of online education, these elements must be thoughtfully integrated to ensure that learners aren’t detached. Leveraging the interactivity of learning management systems and actively involving learners in the process are key considerations.
  • Plan and implement relevant strategies
    for your case. Employ strategies like blended learning to ensure the efficient and progressive environment or microlearning for targeted skill acquisition. Crafting a personalized strategy is foundational.
Is online learning effective? With the utilization of these benefits, it can be very efficient indeed. However, you should always know the dark side, too.

Disadvantages of online learning

Remote learning transforms the traditional student-teacher dynamic by diminishing both physical proximity and the opportunity for in-person interaction. Furthermore, it heavily relies on personal computers, laptops, smartphones, and digital tools. Unlike their physical counterparts, virtual classrooms and online discussion forums tend to restrict students from fully expressing themselves, thereby curbing their engagement. While the convenience of online education is alluring, it can inadvertently lead to detachment, miscommunication, and decreased student involvement.
Definition of hard skills
Even more, the effects of online learning on the well-being of students and employees can be adverse in certain instances. Isolation, an inherent attribute of online education, needs to be handled.  Initially, the prospect of working and studying from the comfort of one's home appears appealing. However, it can eventually give rise to a host of problems. Various studies, such as the article of Rutkowska et al., explore how such isolation impacts students and show that the consequences are disappointing. Prolonged engagement in distance learning can render individuals susceptible to depressive states and hinder their ability to effectively communicate with others.
Why are hard skills important?
Hence, it comes as no surprise that the prevailing online learning trends for 2023 emphasize social learning, collaboration and communication. This approach empowers learners to counteract potential negative effects by maintaining vital social connections with their peers. Whether orchestrating various forms of distance education, be it blended or fully virtual, for educational institutions or corporate settings, establishing a vibrant community of learners around the program is of paramount importance.
In addition, all learning processes should be clearly coordinated and written out. No matter whether your learning plan will have clear deadlines or not, it should be planned well and clearly. When we learn online, we have no physical “ground,” such as in the case of offline classrooms. So, we need to compensate it with clear plans, tasks, and event schedulers. It’ll help us overcome detachment and reduce efficiency problems.
Now, we see how to apply online learning advantages and eliminate disadvantages. Let’s wrap the article up and see the tools and platforms for online education.

Best online learning platforms

Online learning implementation implies the usage of learning management software (LMS) that optimizes and organizes all learning processes. Let’s overview the typical feature set of platforms for online learning and then see some examples for various purposes. See a screenshot from the CleverLMS mobile interface below as a reference.
  • Courses and learning journeys to access course materials, see progress, and complete their education.
  • Tests and surveys to complete tasks for knowledge reinforcement and skills practice.
  • Communication features to connect with teachers and peers.
  • Media and document libraries to share and access all learning materials.
  • Motivation features, such as ratings, scores, gift stores, and gamification elements.
  • Project management features to organize learning, such as task and event schedulers.

In addition to that, teachers and the management can access the course creation menu and see the learners’ performance.

Now, we can see specific examples in the table below
Online learning programs are different, being created for different purposes. Some of them are good for personal use, some for educational facilities, some for large or small businesses. Some have many advanced features while being complex and expensive, and some focus on personalization, convenience, and mobile learning. Canvas and Moodle are free in their basic versions, but they are harder to install, requiring even some programming language competence. In the case of Moodle, various add-ons are also necessary for proper work.

Based on your objective and the online learning strategy you’ll select, you can select the online learning software you need, creating the best educational experience.

You may also be interested in:

Put blended learning to work with CleverLMS