Debate: Are online classes better than in-person classes?

Rebecca Barkdoll, Opinion Editor

Round 1

Side 1: Though more and more classes are being offered online, the benefits of physical classes can’t be ignored. One aspect of this comes from simple face-to-face interactions. A classroom allows all members of that class to participate in discussions in real time and allows them to process the lecture and reading concepts more thoroughly. But an even more important reason for face-to-face classes is the ability to talk to the teacher before or after class about things that you don’t understand. And while, yes, you could send an email with your question, it’s sometimes hard to communicate exactly what you’re trying to figure out when it’s not in real time and face to face. Also, if you had a question about a lecture point, you could raise your hand and ask right there and then, instead of waiting until the recorded lecture is over with and hoping that you don’t forget your question. This immediacy also benefits your classmates, who might have not understood either, so everyone benefits.

Side 2: While it is true that as humans we are more amenable to in-person interaction be it learning at school or working on a job. However, with advancements with the Internet and people becoming more tech-savvy, online classes are a great source of learning. The ability to rewind a lecture and watch it multiple times often helps the student understand the concepts on their own. Even if that is not enough there are no doubt forums where you can easily discuss it with the instructors. Thanks to the innovative user interfaces offered by various online classes, one can type notes while listening to the lecture on the online portal. This way the student can come back to the digital copy for reference and recollect any doubts they might still have. Having a digital copy of your notes saves you from the risk of losing handwritten notes at exam time. Online classes seamlessly integrate social media, making it possible to create online communities that are course specific. For example, online chats, discussion boards and virtual study jams. These tools help the student to connect with numerous students and also to bridge the gap of communication between classmates and instructors.

Round 2 

Side 1: Yes, flexibility and accessibility are great, but that same flexibility and accessibility make it easy for less dedicated—or more absent-minded—people to struggle. After all, if someone doesn’t show up for a physical class, they’re more likely to get called out on it, and thus reminded of it. So, yes it can increase self-discipline, but an online class can be easy to forget if you don’t have blatant reminders. Also, it’s easy to get distracted by everything else you can access online, whereas, in a classroom, it would be much more obvious to the instructor when you’re paying attention to something else. In-person classes are also much more flexible in regards to discussion directions and lecture responses to those discussions, which means that the students get more of a focus on the areas that confuse or interest them rather than the same exact script. And while online classes can be great for professionals, online formats aren’t as set up for hands-on learners—instead, they’re mostly visual and auditory. So long as there are subjects and students that require this type of learning, there will always be a need for in-person classes.

Side 2: The biggest advantage of online classes is the flexibility and accessibility. According to studies, more than 73 percent of professionals wish they could have an extra degree to help them advance in their roles. However, going back to school is not an option for everyone given the cost of graduate schools and the time you need to invest in relocating to a university campus while quitting your current job. With an online class, not only can one pursue their goals to learn, but they can also maintain a full-time job. Also, by studying online, you choose your own learning environment which helps you bring more self-discipline and helps you achieve more out of the course. Another perk of online classes is the freedom of choice when choosing a course. Colleges often make you take several courses as part of a program, half of which don’t even align with the interests of the student. By taking an online course, you can really focus on the subject you are interested in and choose from the variety of online courses and programs.

Side 2 argued by Animesh Sarkar

*Note: This debate ran March 7