Online or Lecture?

One of the many problems students face nowadays is the difficulty of coming to class. If you are a bad student who doesn’t go to class, should you have just taken an online course instead? Or will you perform even worse somehow? Which form of education is better, online or traditional? And which of them should you take so you’ll get a better grade.

One of the classes I’m taking this semester is ACCTG 211, the required Accounting class that every Business major has to take. While selecting my courses for the fall, I was given an option to take the lecture version of this course, or an online version of this course. I chose the traditional class setting, but was that a mistake? Would I have done better in the class if I took the online version of it instead?

A fundamental question arises. Do we learn better in a traditional setting or online setting? Living in the 21st century, we are gradually shifting from reality to digital. We take notes by typing on computers instead of writing. We google things we don’t know about and click on a Wikipedia page instead of going to the library and picking up a book. And now we have the option to take online classes instead of going to a traditional one. Are we getting too far away from “reality”? Does some components of learning MUST be in person in order to achieve the optimal amount learning?

An instructor conducted a survey asking students regarding the effectiveness of his video lectures in communicating course content. The results were: 57% of students strongly agree that video lectures are effective, 33% agree, 4% are neutral, and only 6% disagree. Many students said to the open-ended question that it is nice to have a power point of the lecture online. One said they had technical difficulties viewing the video lecture. Another student complained that the video quality was too low making the lecture less appealing.

There are many factors which determine which form of course a person should take. It also depends on your personal preference. Maybe you are a person who need to be in a traditional class setting in order to learn. Maybe you don’t trust yourself to attend traditional class lectures at 8:00AM so you sign up for the online course instead. Maybe you need social interaction with your peers and instructor to do better. Maybe you are working full-time while balancing 20 credits and does not have time to attend lectures so you watch video lectures right after you get off work at 3AM. The real question is, should you choose a traditional class setting even though you aren’t a morning person or have no time? Should you try to make time to go to a lecture because you will get a better grade?

Studies show that online courses require more discipline from the student. This means you have to take it upon yourself to learn and study. Therefore, if you don’t think you can make it to the 8AM lecture, don’t think you’ll do better in an online course. If you have no flexibility in your schedule, you should choose the online class instead. Do not choose the online class so you’ll have more free time. Chances are you’ll spend even more time studying for an online class compared to a traditional class so you should just take the traditional road. If you are an independent person, one who does not like distractions or interactions with other people, online class is for you.

According to the Journal of Public Affairs Education, it is easier for students to ignore the instructor in online classes. On the other hand, online class give less anxiety to students compared to a traditional class.  Online classes provide a deeper understanding of the topic and has a high level of reflection. There are less hierarchies and more equal participation in online classes. On the other hand, traditional class are less likely to cover as much detail, is possible to avoid participation, and have little time to reflect upon ideas.

Online classes have as high as 80% drop rate compared to the 10-20% drop rate in traditional classes.  In a study conducted by Thirunarayanan and Perez-Prad, they found that the online class scored slightly higher than the traditional class, however the difference was not statistically significant. Other studies show that students who do well in school in general can do just as well taking any type of class.

However there is also one factor that may determine which type of class will get you the better grade. Many online courses have quizzes done online. This may mean that it is easier for an online student to cheat compared to a traditional class setting, therefore online students get higher grades. According to Table 3 from Comparing the Effectiveness of Classroom and Online Learning, online students have a higher rate of failure. 10% of students failed in online classes, while only 4% did in traditional class.

In conclusion, there are pros and cons for both online and traditional class settings. From the studies, neither of the classes will give you any grade advantage over the other. However online classes does provide more equal and less intimidating interaction. Furthermore, online classes may be harder because there is a higher rate of failure. In the end it is up to you to choose which type of class is better for you. For me, I think I should have taken the online course for ACCTG instead.

8 thoughts on “Online or Lecture?

  1. Grace Anne Walker

    I think that whether you take an online class or a traditional lecture, your grade depends on how much work you put into the class. I was not surprised that online classes have a higher rate of failure because I think online classes are harder than traditional ones. I liked that you wrote about anxiety in your blog because I feel like people definitely get intimidated by a professor so sometimes online classes are easier.

  2. Matthew Hogan

    Online lectures seem appealing because you don’t have to leave your room and go to your class which is often far away. However I would definitely say I prefer a traditional lecture. I find it tough to get up sometimes (especially for 8am) but I am still able to get to class on time everyday. I am not someone who skips class often, but I miss a few classes here and there. It seems like and online lecture would be good so I wouldn’t skip as much, but I know myself and I’m sure the same is true with most people that it would be much worse if lectures were online. I would probably barely ever watch it, and when I did I doubt I would be paying much attention. Like you said, this would lead to me having to study a lot more, but would ultimately lead to a worse grade in the class. Also I believe that traditional lectures allow us to receive more help from the teacher if we need it.

  3. Theodore Andrew Ochieng

    This was a good a blog. It’s interesting because I thought of writing about this topic but instead switched to writing about flipped learning which is a different learning model altogether that blends the strengths of online classes — ability to access lecture at your own time therefore move at your own pace — with the strengths of in-class — ability to interact with professor and your peers to ask questions, perform group activities, and so on.

    One thing that really shocked me while I was researching the topic, and you mentioned it in your blog, was the dropout rate of online courses — I was specifically looking at MOOCs but your post shows that the trend might be consistent for any online course.

  4. Caroline Sorrentino

    I can relate to this because this semester I was required to take an online News Writing class. There is no option to take it in a classroom. I have an A in it whereas a lot of my lecture classes I have a B or even a C. Is this because the class is online? I’d say probably, due to the fact that I can do it on my own time and have more time to research things and work harder without feeling a lot of pressure. This is a list of some mistakes students make by choosing an online class. I know I have in A in mine , but that could just be since it is only a 1 credit course and doesn’t require as much effort as 3 credit classes per se.

  5. Nathan Andrew Morningstar

    When I was readin this article , It made me think back to my first semester attending Penn State at the New Kensington site. My IST class was a online class, which was fine until we had a group project. Because of of the class being online, I could not physically work with my partners on the theam projects, which greatly affected my grade. I definently prefer actually being in a classroom than having to deal with that again.

  6. Kateryna Okhrimchuk

    Very well written blog! In my opinion I believe you need to have a certain amount of self control and willpower to be able to be successful in an online class. I’m taking MGMT 301 right now and every few Fridays we have an online class, and the professor does this to give us a break. It actually ends up hurting my grade because I always forget to do it or procrastinate so much while actually doing the class that I barely get anything done. I feel like some students need to have a professor with strict ‘no phone’ rules because they get extremely distracted. I agree with the fact that there is no grade advantage in taking one or the other, but if you are a student who is more successful in a traditional classroom setting or in an online class, you might want to decide which one is worth taking over the other.

  7. William Dever

    This was very fascinating to read about because I am sure many students here are debating whether or not to take an online course if there is a lecture one still available. For me personally I know that going to a lecture helps me to learn because I would otherwise push off learning about the material. I like to be engaged with my learning and find that I learn best when I hear someone else talk about a topic instead of me reading about it from a website. Of course, there are people who can take online courses alongside lecture courses and balance them well, but like you said it requires a lot more discipline.

  8. Sarah Tarczewski

    In my opinion, online classes allow for a great deal of flexibility that you wouldn’t receive otherwise in a traditional lecture. That being said, I find it very difficult to keep up with the work of an online course and I find it’s easier to miss some assignment you need to do. As you mentioned, there are pros and cons to both types and I truly think it depends on the course, but I’m sticking to my traditional lectures.

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