In-person vs. online classes in university

Deciding between online and in-person classes? The world of university learning has evolved a lot, especially with the rise of online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both class types have their perks and challenges. Here's a simple breakdown to help you understand and decide.

1. Where you learn (learning environment)

In-Person: Imagine a classroom or lecture hall. You're with your classmates and you can ask your professor questions directly. This setup makes it easy to chat and work with others.

Online: Thanks to the internet, this is learning from wherever you like. Some lessons happen in real-time, while others are pre-recorded. It's more flexible but requires more effort to connect with peers and instructors.

2. Your schedule (flexibility and accessibility) 

In-Person: You have a set timetable. Classes are at specific times and places. It's straightforward, but you must be there, which sometimes means planning your day around fixed schedules.

Online: You can often pick when you study. There's more freedom, but you have to be disciplined. No need to commute, but you must resist the call of your bed or phone.

3. Study tools (course materials and technology)

In-Person: Think textbooks, handouts and projectors. It's the classic school experience, with physical materials you can highlight, scribble on and keep.

Online: Everything's on your computer or tablet. Videos, e-books and online chats replace physical materials. It's modern and convenient but may require some getting used to.

4. Interaction (engagement and participation)

In-Person: Physical classrooms often lead to spontaneous discussions, debates and brainstorming sessions. There's an inherent value in being surrounded by peers, sharing diverse perspectives and learning collectively.

Online: Digital platforms offer multiple modes of engagement, from video discussions to real-time chats. However, you’re responsible for engaging and resisting the temptation to multitask.

5. Tests and grades (assessment methods)

In-Person: Traditional exams, under supervised conditions, have long been the norm. This format, while sometimes anxiety-inducing, provides a controlled environment for evaluation.

Online: Online classes have a range of assessment methods, from timed quizzes to open-book evaluations. The flexibility is great, but you should be wary of maintaining academic integrity.

6. Keeping on track (time management) 

In-Person: A structured day, with back-to-back lectures and breaks, can streamline your routine. It provides clear time blocks for studying, relaxation and extracurricular activities. 

Online: The freedom associated with online learning is a double-edged sword. While it offers flexibility, it also tests your time-management skills and requires rigorous self-discipline.

7. Hands-on experience (practical and hands-on learning) 

In-Person: Certain disciplines, especially in sciences and arts, rely heavily on labs, workshops and hands-on modules. The tactile experience and immediate feedback in those settings are irreplaceable.

Online: Innovations in virtual reality and augmented reality are creating simulated hands-on experiences. While promising, they're still in the early stages and might not entirely replace physical labs or studios.

There's no one-size-fits-all. Some students prefer the traditional classroom feel, while others love the freedom of online classes.

It's all about what fits your lifestyle, learning style and personal preferences. Trying out both can give you a clearer picture.