Internet and social networks have made several things easy in the world today. People meet and make a friendship without even finding an opportunity to set eyes on one another. Learning has also been made online in such a manner that students and instructors do not have to meet but interact through the internet. In many legal cases, attorneys have also been consulted for legal advice online and even payments are done through the same. This paper, therefore, aims at comparing and contrast the advantages and disadvantages of online learning and traditional face-to-face classroom learning.
Online learning is interactive learning where the content of learning is made available on the internet and automatic feedback is provided to the student on their learning activities online. Online learning can however be viewed as a descendant of online computer-aided instruction and computer-based training. It may be accomplished when learning experiences or instructional content is enabled and delivered via electronic technologies such as intranets, the internet, extranets, and Web 2.0. Online learning exerts emphasis on learning being done through a networked technology contrary to the educational settings. Hence, online learning is a network and computer-enabled knowledge and skill transfer. Some of the processes involved in online learning include virtual education, computer-based learning, digital collaboration, and web-based learning.
In online learning, there is minimal instructor control, and therefore easy for the students to ignore the instructor. On the other hand, traditional face-to-face learning has maximized control from the instructor and therefore students cannot easily ignore the instructor. The conditions of meeting in the part of online learning are open as there is nothing like waiting for the students to arrive or early leavers and latecomers. This is opposed to face-to-face learning where the students must wait for the others to arrive and leave together after the learning process. The mode of learning in online learning is via texts, emails, the internet, and the intranet. It may be permanent, structured, stark, dense, or even limited. On the other hand, verbal discussions dominate the face-to-face learning process. The mode is impermanent and more common. The participants in online learning do not share any physical context and never meet in a room to learn while in face-to-face learning, all the participants share a strong physical context and usually meet in a single room to make the learning process go on.
About the time of the meeting, the online learning group meets continuously although there is no scheduled date as they meet online, there is less control in time and leaving the room is not there at all. On the other hand, the face-to-face learning group meets in a “start to stop” fashion. The date and time are scheduled and is an important factor as it limits the learning process. The learning process here is controllable and deadlines are always adhered to. The nature of discussion and work in the online learning process is more flexible as the students can work on many issues at the same time. The contact between the participants is also maintained with an increased depth of the analysis. On the other hand, the face-to-face learning process can only handle one issue at a time since work is usually focused and condensed. The discussions, in this case, are usually finished within the period of the meeting. The group dynamics in the online learning process differ from that of face-to-face learning since the student must interpret the concepts online. Online learning however gives equal opportunities for active participation among learners with less hierarchy on the part of the students. On the other hand, the group dynamics are easily understood as the concepts are explained in the meeting due to the anxiety during the learning process. Participation here may also be an unequal thing in the learning process.
In the learning process, accessing fellow students for consultations is important in mastering concepts. In online learning, the participants can easily access other groups at any time on the internet and even participate well with the said groups. On contrary, face-to-face learning has experiences of difficulty in accessing other groups and participating in their learning processes. In online learning, feedback is fast and focused, and detailed on the work of each student. The whole group can also read the feedback sent to each one of them and the record of feedback is also permanent. This is not the same in the face-to-face type of learning. The feedback takes time to reach the students and in most cases, it is not detailed and focused rather it is a mere general comment and discussion.
Other benefits associated with online learning may include; growth of the program and enrollment; increased levels of technological literacy among students; shifting the responsibility of learning to the students; including other forms of media in making notes; increased diversity; accessibility to education in remote areas is increased; emphasis made on visual writing aspects; good relationships developed among online students and increased objectives on what the learner should produce. On the other hand, face to face learning is also characterized by various advantages and benefits such as engaging and humorous tangents; being energized by the interaction and discussions in the classroom; robust dialogue; spontaneity and improvisation; being perceived as well as perceiving others; nonverbal cues may be used to avoid misinterpretation; developing real-world friendships and getting to meet classmates face to face and freedom of speech is emphasized as students can freely express their views
In online learning, every stakeholder has a role to play to make online learning a success. The student plays a major role in this case, some of these roles include awareness, the students evaluate the expectations of the instructor. They must be able to understand the value attached to learning and assess technical, personal, and study skills; orientation, students must orientate themselves through the stages of preparation before engaging in the online content; motivation and discipline, students remain motivated and disciplined to follow the scheduled course and complete the assignments in time; organized and self-directed, students must ensure that they are organized and able to direct themselves to schedule their study time tables. The instructor has a crucial role to play in the online learning process. The instructor establishes a rapport with the students to make them feel at home with the experience from the online learning and help them participate actively. The instructor must open the communication channels to aid ease of communication between him and the students. He should also create an online environment that shows great levels of respect between them. The administration, on the other hand, takes care of the communication technologies, delivers a user-friendly platform, makes an evaluation of processes and programs, and facilitates the mode of communication between the instructors and the students. Hence communication ensures efficiency of the pedagogies of online teaching and learning.
In summary, face-to-face learning accommodates the issues of the new students, engages customary learning techniques, encourages the expounding discussion, improves the ability of the instructors to help the students, improves the sagacity of the community within the online learning classroom, and improve the efficiency of the instructor. However, the option of face-to-face learning may restrict the instructor’s appeal for the online students and online programs especially those who are restricted by the time constraint, proximity among other external factors. It is therefore vital to note that face-to-face learning requires a classroom space that may not be available as opposed to online learning which is done from the comfort of the students.