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If you’ve never taken an online class, you may wonder how it compares to traditional classroom models. While there are some similarities, there are also major differences. In this article, we’ll explore some of the distinctions that separate them, as well as the parallels that make them both viable options for getting a degree.

Online Versus Traditional Classes — A Comparison

When you think about taking classes in college, you may picture a small room or large lecture hall. You’re seated with dozens — perhaps hundreds — of other students in this forum. One, two or even three instructors lead discussions. You’re expected to read and complete homework assignments leading up to each class, which may be up to three hours in length. At the end of the class, you may or may not get the opportunity to talk with your instructor(s), depending on your and their schedules. In most liberal arts colleges, it is easier to speak with an instructor during their office hours, at which time you must come to their location to talk about any issues, problems or ideas.

While this model of learning does work, it has several drawbacks, especially for adult students who have jobs or families. First, it isn’t flexible. Class times are set in stone. If you cannot make a class, you essentially lose that class — you cannot make it up. You can get the notes from another student, but you will have the sense of being behind and may have to seek out the instructor to explain concepts that were covered in your absence.

Next, the traditional model only works for those whose learning style is conducive to sitting and taking notes. Many have difficulty with this type of learning style. They may find themselves getting antsy, wanting to get up periodically to stretch. Or, they may want a more hands-on approach to their education.

Finally, the traditional classroom can seem impersonal. In very large classes or lecture halls, it can be a challenge to get the attention of the instructor or have a conversation with him or her during or after class.

This isn’t to suggest that traditional classroom learning is a poor way to get a degree. In fact, it works and continues to work. However, online classes offer an alternative that might be more appealing to those who are seeking a flexible way to get a certificate, associate degree or bachelor’s degree.

Online classes differ from traditional classes in that they are:

  • Flexible — You can enter into the online “classroom” any time you wish. This enables you to spend time with family and hold down a full-time job while still furthering your education.
  • Self-Paced — Many online learning programs, including those at Vista College, are self-paced. You can therefore approach your learning at the right pace for you. If you wish to go faster, you can — if you need more time, you can slow down the pace as needed.
  • Online Lectures — Lectures held through online classes can be live or video-recorded. In fact, you can access most of the lectures at your convenience. This is a huge relief for a student who doesn’t want to miss any lectures, but is unable to attend a live lecture.
  • Affordable — Most online classes have a tuition that’s comparable to or, in some cases, less expensive than traditional classes. Financing is available for online classes, just as it is for a traditional education. In addition, you do not have to drive to a campus, which saves time and gas money.

How to Make the Most of Your Online Class Experience


Should you choose to learn via an online class model, it’s important that you have the following:

  • A reliable internet connection — You will be using your internet regularly, and it needs to be dependable.
  • A willingness to do homework on your own — You will be responsible for your own learning. If you are someone who cannot be self-directed, online learning may be difficult.
  • A quiet place and time to work — While online classes are conveniently covered in your home, that doesn’t mean you should try to do your work in a busy, loud environment. Make sure you have somewhere to work that is free from distractions.

If you want more information on online learning or traditional classrooms, contact Vista College’s admissions representatives today.

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