What's better: learning in-person or learning online?

July 10, 2019

How does learning in-person differ from learning online? Why is it that people learn better in person?

Have you ever browsed the internet without going down the rabbit hole?

For most, the answer is probably a big NO.

In our interconnected world, we often get pulled in all directions by alluring headlines and attractive images, forgetting what we were looking for in the first place. With distractions in every corner, more and more of us are using apps and timers to stay focused. And yet, it is still an uphill task.

So, it comes as no surprise that less than 10% of all the people who sign up for online courses actually complete them. This statistic is a clear indicator that we definitely need better ways and methodologies to stay hungry and stay learning.

The solution: in-person learning.

While this may seem regressive in today’s world of one-button video calls and speedy internet, it is not. In fact, never has there been a more urgent need to introduce in-person learning facilities for people to adopt a growth mindset and become lifelong learners.

And here’s why!

Completion rate

The flexible nature of online learning requires immense drive, self-control and resilience to learn regularly. Let’s face it — not all of us are made of such strong stuff!

But, when you sign up for in-person classes, there is a specific time slot attached to it. This helps us plan the rest of our activities in the day and show up to learn. We feel more obliged to attend if a class is hosted in a physical space as opposed to an online space. The former  has the advantage of meeting people. Moreover, our class space is dedicated to learning which helps our minds switch to absorbing mode. (Unfortunately, carrying our laptop from the sofa to the bed doesn’t have the same effect!)

Less than 10% of people complete their courses when learning online; Photo by JESHOOTS.COM

Participative learning

No matter how many assignments and peer reviews are baked into online learning modules, it cannot compete with the participative learning that an in-class experience provides. We are involved in the lessons unfolding in front of us. We have access to our fellow colearners. We can ask questions and discover answers. On the other hand, when it comes to online learning, everything from the time zone to the deferred replies slows down our pace.

Understand the subject better

The biggest advantage of studying in person is that we tend to assimilate and understand the subject better. Why? We are focused on the task at hand. We have access to experts who can clarify our doubts. We have a community of colearners who keep us motivated. All these combine to help us become better learners. Online learning is not as holistic, in comparison. Our involvement with learning could be erratic, we may have questions that could go unanswered or the response from peers or instructors might not be regular. All these become blockers that stop us from gaining complete knowledge of a subject.

Real-time feedback

Online learning always comes with the potential of becoming vague and misdirected. In-person learning eliminates this by ensuring that you get immediate feedback and support from both instructors and colearners. This feedback need not be just about your learning and understanding of the subject but could also be feedback to improve your interpersonal skills. In-person learning ensures you win on all counts!

The power of community

Social interaction

The incomparable advantage of in-person learning is the community. When we have people to interact and learn with, we are more enthused about showing up for a class. Online learning, no matter how connected it is, still cannot equate to this experience. When we are part of a learning community, we develop interpersonal, communication, collaboration, problem-solving and presentation skills. More than anything else, we get immediate feedback from the group. Our colearners keep us accountable, making us more responsible for learning and progress.

No distractions

We would never navigate Netflix if we were attending an in-person class. And we also wouldn’t chomp on a cookie while listening to an instructor. All these are inevitable distractions when we learn online. In-person learning keeps us focused on the task at hand, making it easier for us to learn diligently and complete a course.

Build your network and opportunities

While online learning does open doors to international connections, this community requires more effort to build and sustain. In-person learning puts a bunch of people in the same room time and again, making it easier for us to build our network. And through this network, we get access to exciting career and social opportunities.

While MOOCs and online courses ensure that you access information anywhere and any time, it does not necessarily translate to you learning from it. In-person learning has a competitive advantage over e-learning and through the power of community, feedback and collaboration, helps us upgrade ourselves and adopt a lifelong learning mindset.