All About Online Learning

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The two types of online learning, asynchronous and synchronous, are comparable. Asynchronous online learning allows students to view instructional materials each week at any time they choose and does not include a live video lecture component. 

On the other hand, synchronous online learning means that students must log in and participate in class at a specific time each week. But for any type of online learning to be effective and efficient, instructors, organizations, and institutions must comprehensively understand the benefits and limitations.

Effective online education boosts several research works, principles, prototypes, theories, and ethics. Throughout the years, experts have concluded that effective online learning is a byproduct of cautious design and instruction planning. 

Online learning goes as far back as the 1980s, coupled with the 1990s and 2000s as the optimal maturation time for online education. This form of education has regularly been viewed as a “good-to-have alternative” but not a “serious-mission model to guarantee the steadiness of instructional activities.” 

But the COVID-19 pandemic forced a global shutdown of several activities, including education, which resulted in universities turning to online learning as the leading educational platform.

Benefits of Online Learning

A 2019 Research and Markets report forecasted that the online education market will reach $230 billion by 2025. And given the significant impact of COVID-19, it’s likely that online programs will see even greater growth.

1. No Need to Relocate

One major advantage of online learning is that students and faculty don’t need to relocate. There is no traveling or commuting to attend a class, meaning students can keep their current job while they work toward enhancing their career with an online college or graduate degree. 

“There are at least two notable benefits of online education. The first benefit is access. The internet can afford accessible education to anyone, anywhere, as long as they have a sufficient internet connection (which, admittedly, can be a challenge, especially in rural areas),” Emily Campion, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Management & Entrepreneurship at the University of Iowa, told Talent Select AI in a recent interview. 

“Accessibility can mean location—we can educate people in different time zones without necessitating travel—and it can also mean flexibility. The latter is particularly valuable to those who work, give care, have other obligations, or all three,” Campion continued. 

2. Optimal School-Life Balance

No commuting time also means that it’s easier for students to achieve the optimal school-life balance. Whether a full-time or part-time student, online learning gives students the flexibility to maintain an active social and family life while earning a degree. 

Academics are important, but pursuing subjects outside the classroom is equally important. By doing so, students will enjoy coursework more and find a better balance between school and life. 

3. Helps Boost Time-Management Skills

Many online learning elements will be asynchronous so that students can complete assignments and learn at their own pace, boosting their overall time-management skills

Strengthening time-management skills means students working ahead of deadlines, owning their work, creating a dedicated study space, eliminating distractions, and understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. 

Students can ensure they’re getting the most out of the experience by successfully managing time and workload. 

4. Easier for Students to Concentrate, Participate

Crowded classrooms tend to lead to distractions and students’ inability to focus on the work at hand. Therefore, online learning makes it easier for students to concentrate and participate in class. They can find their prime time, identify and remove distractions, and tame their minds from the comfort of their own home or workspace. 

5. Affordability

Overall, online programs cost significantly less than traditional classroom courses. A more comprehensive range of offerings and types of credentials allows students to choose an online program that meets their professional needs and fits their budget. 

Online learning saves students a lot of money on commute time and campus housing.  

Disadvantages of Online Learning

There are some major drawbacks of online learning, and these problems often get pushed aside in online discussions.

1. Miscommunication

Miscommunication can also occur between students and instructors in online classes, resulting in class discussions going off-course. Miscommunication happens because we don’t see non-verbal cues, including tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions, that give us valuable emotional context when discussing in person.

Additionally, students fail to receive personalized feedback when learning online because it is still a relatively unresearched topic area. In a traditional classroom setting, teachers can give students immediate face-to-face feedback and resolve problems quickly.

“With in-person courses, meeting times are set, and misunderstandings or miscommunications can be addressed with greater ease,” Campion stated. “With online learning, time lags between responses can create tension and stress for students (and faculty) as miscommunications are resolved.” 

2. Social isolation

While students can better focus on their schoolwork and create their own learning schedule when participating in an online class, this type of learning also causes social isolation. Therefore, many students and teachers who spend most of their time online can start feeling isolated due to the lack of human interaction. 

Isolation and lack of interaction generally lead to mental health issues, including stress, anxiety, and negative thoughts. 

“High-quality interpersonal interaction is one of the most important features of a successful online course,” Campion said. “At times, this feels easier to develop in in-person classes. After all, you attend this class twice a week, probably sit in the same spot, and work in groups with the same people during in-class activities.” 

“All of this can build communities in the classroom, and instructors should also work to foster these connections in the digital world,” she concluded. 

3. Students Must Have Strong Self-Motivation, Time-Management Skills

Online learning permits students to learn at their own pace, but it also requires strong self-motivation and time management skills. But notably, a lack of self-motivation continues to be one of the primary reasons students fail to complete online courses. 

Face-to-face communication and strict schedules often work together to keep students from falling off track during their studies. 

4. Creates an Environment for Easy Cheating

One of the biggest drawbacks of online learning is the ease for students to cheat on assessments. Students cannot be directly observed during assignments without a video feed, making cheat detection during online courses more complicated than in the traditional classroom setting. 

5. Limited to Certain Subjects

Online learning is generally only suitable for social science and humanities rather than scientific fields requiring hands-on practical experiences. For example, no amount of online lectures can substitute an autopsy for medical students or industrial training for engineers. 

Therefore, online learning is not at a point where it can cater to all students regardless of primary or industry interest. 

* Quote credit can also be attributed partly to Linda L. Campion, P.h.D, Associate Director, Campus Living at East Carolina University


Anderson, T. (Ed.). (2008). The theory and practice of online learning. Athabasca University Press.

Jaggars, S. S., & Xu, D. (2016). How do online course design features influence student performance? Computers & Education, 95, 270-284.

A 2019 Research and Markets report forecasted that the online education market will reach $230 billion by 2025. But there are many advantages and disadvantages to consider before getting started.


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