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Is online learning as good as face-to-face learning?

4 min reading time

With more than 3 in 4 companies providing online learning opportunities, and online universities experiencing an 11% increase in digital enrolment, there’s no doubt that online learning has become a key player in the world of education and L&D. But many still question its efficacy when compared to traditional face-to-face learning.

For some, the digital revolution doesn’t provide enough for online learning to supersede the traditional face-to-face learning methods that have served us for centuries. To put it simply, they don’t believe that online learning is as good as face-to-face learning. But as a learning method that has proven to deliver results for both learners and educators, is this still a fair assessment?


Flexibility and asynchronous learning

Face-to-face learning typically requires a structured approach, meaning scheduled class times, predetermined lesson plans, and a physical location. However, when learning is delivered in this format, it creates barriers that can prevent learners from getting the most out of their educational pursuits.

63% of students choose to study online because of the flexibility virtual learning offers. Without the constraints of rigid schedules and physical learning locations, learning can be carried out anywhere and at any time. The flexibility of asynchronous online learning has changed the game for learners, particularly those in higher education or professionals looking to expand their knowledge while juggling work commitments.

Flexibility and asynchronous learning

While the limitations of face-to-face learning present barriers to accessing learning, the flexibility of online learning allows learners to tailor their study time to suit them. What’s more, online learning takes 40% to 60% less time to complete, meaning people can achieve their learning goals quicker than ever before.

It's worth noting, however, that asynchronous learning requires discipline. Without the structure of face-to-face learning, unmotivated learners may be at risk of falling behind. To combat this, it’s important to monitor learner progress – keep reading to find out how this can be achieved.

What is asynchronous learning? Read our guide to find out.


Monitoring learner activity

How do educators and trainers monitor the progress of their learners in a face-to-face setting? The bulk of progress analysis comes from assessments or assignments, with additional insights coming from learner contributions during classroom sessions. But what if we told you that you could gain even more insights than this and examine learner progress at a granular level? Well, it’s certainly possible with today’s online learning tech.

When learners use an online learning platform such as a learning management system (LMS), admins gain access to a wealth of valuable data that can be used to assess learner activity. For example, LMS data may show that a learner has completed the same lesson several times yet failed to correctly answer specific questions relating to the topic in end-of-course assessments or module quizzes. By analysing this data, educators can offer support to those who are struggling.

But does this live up to the real-time feedback that is carried out during face-to-face sessions? Is online learning as good as face-to-face learning when it comes to learner feedback? While it may not always be instant and delivered during a classroom session, assessing learner activity with online learning allows educators to take a deeper dive into learner progress and build a big picture that will inform future learning.

The importance of LMS analytics: Find out everything you need to know here.

Monitoring learner activity


Does online learning produce better results?

It’s unlikely that we’ll ever get a definitive answer to this question but there are many arguments in support of online learning producing better results in specific areas, including higher retention rates.

Some would argue that moving away from face-to-face learning limits opportunities for ‘people-focused’ soft skills development as learners don’t interact with one another during the learning process. But this isn’t the case. In fact, soft skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving are the most improved skills for 85% of online learning students.

So why does online learning produce better results? We can attribute some of it to the quality of the training materials and delivery methods that can be utilised. But ultimately, online learning transcends the limitations of face-to-face teaching methods and allows educators to explore new methods such as microlearning and deliver a variety of content types such as gamified lessons.

Discover 5 soft skills examples that can be developed with e-learning.


Online vs face-to-face interaction

Is online learning as good as face-to-face learning for peer interactivity? It’s easy to assume that online learning prohibits social learning and peer-to-peer interaction, along with teacher and student engagement. Group discussions, collaborative working, classroom debates and knowledge sharing are all synonymous with face-to-face learning. But thanks to social e-learning tools and virtual classroom technology, this level of interaction is also possible with online learning.

With online learning social features found in an LMS or LXP, learners can engage with one another at any time instead of just during class time. And features such as discussion boards and forums create a record of peer-to-peer interactions that can be easily referred back to.

What is an LXP? Read our ultimate guide.

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The accessibility of online learning

One of the areas that online learning excels in is creating a more inclusive learning environment for those with auditory and visual impairments, along with mobility and learning difficulties. There are many ways to adapt online learning materials to cater to the needs of everyone and features such as multi-lingual support can even remove barriers for international students in higher education facilities.

While some may argue that online learning may create barriers for those with digital literacy skills or a lack of access to technology – it also breaks down a great many more. With mobile learning functionality, anyone with a mobile device can access learning opportunities. And as educational facilities are no longer reliant on physical resources such as textbooks, whiteboards, teaching staff and a physical location to deliver face-to-face learning, online learning can result in widespread adoption for educational facilities with smaller budgets and fewer resources.

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Are you ready to embrace the benefits of online learning?

Whether you’re looking to adopt a hybrid learning model or move to a fully online teaching method, it's all about finding the right platform and working with the right software provider. Find out how online learning can be the best option for your organisation by getting in touch with one of our e-learning experts and discover what a Hubken solution can do for you.

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