Online vs. traditional classes: Which is better? It depends on the student

By Erika Gill, Assistant Editor –

Jesse Gish has taken both online and traditional classroom courses at MCC, and says

each has its own merits, as well as negatives.

“Online classes take a tremendous amount of self motivation,” Gish said. “Deadlines can

be difficult to meet because the classes are so flexible.”

For some, traditional classes are the way to go because of the constant structure and

access to the professor. They say they are often more prone to falling behind when taking online


“The good thing about online classes is that you can do them whenever and wherever,”

Gish said.

At MCC, online classes have been available for about 10 years, although the number has

increased substantially in the past few years. This semester, there are more than 100 classes,

ranging from accounting to theater appreciation. Courses are offered by most departments, with

some such as business, English, and social sciences having multiple classes.

One of the biggest downsides to online classes, however, falls heavily on the lack of face-

to-face interaction with other classmates and the professor.

“Students benefit from the feedback from their fellow learners who become co-teachers

in the interactive classroom,” said Nicholas Budimir, who teaches several sociology classes. “I

personally enjoy being in traditional classrooms because I really like talking with students,

engaging with them on sociological topics, and learning from them.”

Gish agrees with this outlook, and admits he prefers traditional classes.

“The human contact with the instructor and other students is a much better learning

situation,” he said.

Summer Registration continues through Sunday, May 14, for summer classes. Summer session runs from May 15 through Aug. 2, with some classes meetintg for fewer weeks. Tuition is due by Wednesday, April 19. - Bay Window photo.
Summer Registration continues
through Sunday, May 14, for summer
classes. Summer session runs from May
15 through Aug. 2, with some classes
meetintg for fewer weeks. Tuition is due by
Wednesday, April 19. – Bay Window photo.

Some students find it stimulating to teach themselves, and can find it burdensome to have

to adapt to a pace to fit others’ learning needs. They would rather watch a lecture at their

convenience, online in the comfort of their own homes with no added background noise.

“The down side of these classes is the rigidity,” Gish said. Sometimes the group pace is

too slow and the class is boring, or it's too fast and I can't keep up.”

Another negative of traditional classes for some is the participation requirement. While

sharing opinions with others leads to the discovery of different perspectives and helps build

public speaking skills, it can be downright terrifying for some.

“A traditional classroom drawback is that not everyone can or does participate and some

are reticent or anxious and find participation difficult or even a distraction from the learning

process,” Budimir said. “In these cases online and private learning is more beneficial.”

However, as with any class or subject, every student is different, and there is no one-size

fits all for learning styles. For students who struggle with math, taking math online would

perhaps be academic suicide, but for the math whiz who catches on quickly, an online class

would be a good choice.

A word of advice to those who are planning on taking online classes is to stay organized

and maintain a healthy dose of self discipline.

“It essentially can come down to individual learning styles,” said Cliff Young, who

teaches English and communications classes. “If you lack attention to detail and are not

independent and highly organized, struggles are imminent.”

Despite myths that online classes are easier, the reality is that they probably are more

difficult, as well as requiring a significant time investment.

MCC’s Distance Learning/Online Education Web page lists several myths about online


 They are easier. NOT TRUE. Online classes are demanding; they require that students be

active learners: seek answers to questions, be proactive, and manage self-discipline.

 You spend less time. NOT TRUE. In many cases, students will spend more time as there

is a need to assimilate more information on an individual basis.

 Due dates are anytime. NOT TRUE. Most online instructors have due dates. Grades are

often determined by due dates, and points are reduced for late assignments

 All online classes follow the same structure and Blackboard menu. NOT TRUE.  Every

instructor has a different agenda, a different teaching style, and a different “look” to the

Blackboard classroom.

 There is no student-to- student interaction. MAY NOT BE TRUE.  Many instructors

provide a discussion board where students actively participate on a regular basis.


Featured Image: Online classes or traditional classroom courses? Jesse Gish (left) has taken both, but says he prefers the interaction with professors and fellow students. At right is a traditional geology class with students working in groups. – Erika Gill photo.

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