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The Pros and Cons of Online Learning

Online learning is an increasingly popular way to enhance your skills, improve your employability, and gain new qualifications. In fact, online education has become so popular in recent years that research suggests an incredible 21% of people in the UK are using online learning of some kind.

From the affordability of online learning courses to the flexibility they offer, there are many advantages of online study for students of all ages. But there are also some disadvantages to learning in this way.

Here is a comprehensive list of the pros and cons of online learning:

The Pros of Online Learning


One of the main advantages of online learning is the flexibility it offers to students. Not only can you study when you like, but you can also study wherever works best for you. All you need is a reliable internet connection to study successfully online.

This flexibility is so appealing because it means that adults of all ages and circumstances can study without having to sacrifice the financial security of their employment, time with their children or other family commitments. It is possible to successfully schedule your study around anything else you have going on.

Not only is being able to study at a time and place that best suits you convenient, but it can also have a positive impact on your learning outcomes. Students that feel they have control of their schedules and are studying when they want to, rather than in a pre-set time and place, have higher levels of focus and have a more significant capability of retaining information.

For these reasons, the flexibility offered by online learning has increased access to education. Worldwide enrolments are expected to double by 2025, meaning that students from all socio-economic demographics can access the educational courses they want or need thanks to the wide availability of online learning.


Online learning environments typically offer a much wider variety of courses than traditional learning schools or colleges. This is because physical settings are limited by the number of individuals in the surrounding area that want to take each course, whilst online colleges have access to a wider pool of students.

Two of the most popular academic subjects in the online learning arena are maths and English because these are the foundation subjects needed to go on to study at A-level or degree level. In terms of vocational subjects, the three most popular are computer science, business and management and photography.

The main advantage of having access to a diverse range of courses is that students can choose to study a subject they are genuinely interested in. And students that want to study, and are interested in the subject they are studying, will have both better engagement levels with the course as well as better learning outcomes.

Students can also tailor their own education, ensuring that they achieve the unique blend of qualifications they need to succeed in their chosen career path. The right combination of qualifications can help you stand out from the crowd of other candidates.

Self-Paced Learning

Almost all online learning is self-paced learning. Self-paced learning is a style of education in which students are given the freedom to progress through the material at their own speed and on their own schedule. Their work schedule is not set by their tutors, although tutors may suggest a working speed, or add certain checkpoints through the course to ensure all their students are on track.

There are many advantages of self-paced learning. Because students are working independently, they can repeat lessons when they need clarity of understanding or skip over topics they already have a comprehensive grasp of.

This could not happen in a traditional, classroom-based setting, because tutors must lead the class at the pace set out by not only the course plan but also by the learning speed of the majority of students. This means that some students may be left behind, whilst others may be bored studying topics they already understand.

Self-paced learning requires discipline and motivation. For this reason, online learners complete their courses with the ability to better manage their own time and learn independently than those traditionally educated counterparts.


The cost of education is a huge consideration for many, and traditional learning environments can be prohibitively expensive. Not only is the cost of enrolling in an online learning course more affordable than enrolling in a traditional education setting, but the associated costs will also be much cheaper too.

Because they can study from wherever they wish, usually from their home or workplace, online students do not have to pay for transportation to get to and from college. They also don’t have to pay for textbooks or course materials, as these are made available online, as part of the course enrollment fee. Finally, other expenses associated with attending a physical classroom setting can also be mitigated.

Studying online is a cost-effective way for those with limited financial resources to access education. But that doesn’t mean the education is of a lesser standard. In fact, online learning environments provide the same qualifications, and the same high-quality education, as traditional colleges. The reality is that they are less costly to run, and these cost savings are passed on to their students.

Self-Paced Learning

The Cons of Online Learning

Limited Interaction

By its very nature, online learning is something that you undertake independently. Whilst there are opportunities to join group classes and group meetings, the vast majority of your study time will be spent alone. By contrast, when you study in a traditional setting, you will be part of a larger group of students: you will learn alongside them, discuss the course material with them, and potentially build up social relationships too.

For some students, the limited social interaction afforded by online learning can be very isolating. For others, they feel better able to focus on their work when they are not distracted by other students. If you feel that you would benefit from the face-to-face interaction that traditional education provides then it could be that a completely online course is not the right option for you. Traditional or even hybrid learning may better suit your needs.

It is important that you feel happy and satisfied in your chosen learning environment. Not only will this benefit your mental and physical health, but it will also have a direct impact on your learning outcomes. Students that are happy in their chosen learning environment are more motivated, focused and successful than those that are not.

Working in an environment that you do not enjoy, or that leaves you feeling isolated, could result in both a lack of motivation and a sense of detachment from the learning experience.

Technical Issues

Everyone will experience technical issues at one point or another. But if you are studying in an online learning environment then any technical issues could disrupt your learning process, leading to frustration and, if those issues are ongoing, could even result in students falling behind in their studies.

To study effectively online, students will need a computer (either a laptop or a desktop: it doesn’t matter) and a high-speed internet connection. You should ensure that you have reliable access to both of these things before you register to study in an online learning environment.

Technical issues that could negatively impact online learning for students include slow internet connections, malfunctioning software, or even simple user errors such as a lost or forgotten laptop charger.

The vast majority of technical issues that occur in an online learning environment occur from the student’s end, but no one is infallible, and occasionally tutor-led technical issues can be a concern. If the tutor is unable to get online for classes or meetings or fails to upload the correct learning documents, then this can also have a negative impact on online learning, at least in the short term.

Limited Support

When you are studying online, you may not receive the same level of support that traditional education provides. Students may not have access to mentors or tutors who can help them understand difficult concepts. This can interrupt their flow of learning, and make studying feel disjointed, particularly if the student needs a lot of regular support.

However, it’s important to note that the same thing is true of traditional learning environments: teachers and tutors are only accessible during their working hours, which are typically limited to class hours and a small number of office hours. If you have a problem when you are studying at home in the evening, you will not be able to speak to your tutor until the following day. And the same is true of online learning: whilst you may not be able to contact your tutor immediately, most online learning environments have a system in place that sees all student enquiries dealt with within 24 hours. So if you do need support, you are likely to wait around the same amount of time in either setting.

On the flip side, if you need pastoral support outside of your learning environment, this is something that is generally better provided in a traditional learning setting than in an online one.

Limited Credibility

Online courses can sometimes be perceived as less credible than their traditional counterparts, even if students are studying for the same qualifications and in the same time frame. This means that online students can occasionally be at a disadvantage when it comes to job applications or further education opportunities.

The good news is that as online learning becomes more popular, this outdated attitude is changing. Online credentials are now widespread, and online learning is increasingly recognised as equal to those completed in person.

To ensure that your online learning qualifications are recognised in this way, it’s important to ensure that you only enrol with a registered and recognised online learning college. The course that you study should be fully accredited if you will be using the qualification to further your career or to access higher education.

Not all online learning environments are created equally, so you should take your time and research the right college not only for your educational needs but also for the way it is perceived by employers and other educators.


Like any form of education, there are many pros and cons to choosing online learning. However, the pros far outweigh the cons in this case. When you choose to study online you will benefit from the flexibility to study where and when best suits you and your schedule. You will have access to a much wider range of course subjects than you would in a traditional learning environment. You can work at your own pace, taking responsibility for setting your own schedule and meeting deadlines independently. Finally, online learning is much more cost-effective than traditional learning.

Each of these pros has widened access to education in this country, ensuring that individuals from all socioeconomic demographics that want to learn are able to. Education should be available to everyone. And this is becoming closer to a reality thanks to the advances made in online learning.

Of course, there are drawbacks to online learning too. It can be isolating for social learners who work best when surrounded by others. Those without access to a high-speed internet connection and a reliable computer may find that their study is interrupted by technical issues. Access to support in online settings can be limited to certain time frames, and you may have to wait up to 24 hours to receive a response from your tutor. And finally, not everyone perceives online education as being as legitimate as learning in a traditional classroom environment.

However, all of these cons can be mitigated. Times are changing, and accredited online courses are just as valid and valuable as their traditional equivalents. More and more families have access to reliable internet connections. And social relationships can be forged in a variety of different ways. For this reason, the pros of online learning far outweigh the cons.

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