Face to Face Learning vs Online Distance Learning

Face to Face and Distance learning both have their own pros and cons. The difference between the two comes in when asking what is actually distance and face to face learning? There are so many aspects to both but simply put, Face to Face learning is where you attend on campus classes on a daily basis and have your lectures at specific times and days and distance learning is where you complete your studies at your own pace and time.

Because distance learning is broad in that there are different ways in which one can complete their studies through this type of learning, we are all not aware of the various ways in which distance learning can be referred to. Below is a brief breakdown on some of the ways in which one can complete their studies through distance learning.

  • Online Learning: Students complete their studies online, where they have 24/7 access to their studies via an online portal, what is offered would be dependant on what the specific institution is providing.
  • Part time Learning: This is where students combine face to face and distance learning together by attending classes in the evening or weekends while still completing studies out off campus
  • Blended Learning: This combines face to face learning with online learning
  • Self Study: This is when students complete studies solely on their own without the support of a tuition provider.

In my blog I am going to focus more on Online Distance learning and Face to Face learning and compile a comparison of the two. Below I have created a table that briefly explains some of the differences between Face to Face and Online Learning, I will be going into more detail about these further into my blog and provide a pros and cons breakdown of these.

  Face to Face Online
Communication Verbal and nonverbal Virtual through videos and chat forums, downloads and uploads
Learning Materials Real time access to Textbooks and lecture notes Textbooks, Ebooks, Lecture notes available 24/7
Additional Costs Fuel, parking (accommodation at times) Hardware and software, upgrades
Process of Learning Real Time and specific time frames for discussions Virtual any time
Feedback and Interaction Immediate through visual and verbal models, but time constrained Anytime but conducive to Lecturers availability, usually a 24hr turn around time

The following link also provides a table comparison done between online and Face to Face Learning, this provides a good break down of the many areas we face with these types of learning.


In my opinion both Online and Face to Face Learning are suitable ways of learning but the way in which people decide to complete their studies is more dependant on their personal views and personalities, some people prefer the good ol’ way of having their textbooks and making notes where others may prefer to have all their notes and study materials accessible online and then there are those who prefer to have the best of both.

As we know Face to Face learning is like being in school or varsity where you have your lecturer or teacher at the front of the room and you have breaks and classes at specific times. But Online Learning seems to be the way of the future where we can complete our assignments, test, exams etc all online, having everything accessible to us 24/7.

Here we also need not to worry about making it on time for a lecture, miss taking down notes and trying to find someone who would share notes with you and at the end of the day you are hoping that you are copying the right thing. The online option gives us the surety of knowing not to worry about this as these would always be available to refer to throughout your chosen studies

Referring back to my table at the beginning of my blog, below I have compiled a table for the pros and cons of studying through Online or Face to Face learning, here we can compare which type of learning would better suit you. These would differ for each person individually but preferably look at them in a broad spectrum.

Learning MaterialsStudy Materials: These can be in form of E-books, and videos and can use quite a bit of data usageStudy Materials: These can be in form of E-books and videos, these can be accessed 24/7 anytime and anyplace.

  • Online Learning Pros and Cons
      Online Learning Cons Online Learning Pros
    Communication Verbal: Lecture videos can use up a lot of data if they are quite large Verbal: Lecture videos can be viewed as many times as a person likes, they can be paused, fast forwarded etc
    Non Verbal: Lecture notes may require a lot of reading and this can be time consuming. Non Verbal: Notes can be printed and viewed at any time and place, students can also add in their own notes for study purposes.
    Human interaction: This is virtual and for those who prefer the physical face to face interaction could find this to be unsatisfactory Human interaction: This is virtual and done through a type of forum or chat service, nice for those who tend to be shy but still prefer to be heard and have questions
    Learning Materials Study Materials: These can be in form of E-books, and videos and can use quite a bit of data usage Study Materials: These can be in form of E-books and videos, these can be accessed 24/7 anytime and anyplace.
      Students don’t have to carry textbooks and notes with them to lectures or classes
    Cost Additional costs may apply if you need to purchase hardware and software for your course Short courses are more accessible and can also be more affordable than completing a full study programme you may not need to do
      Most of the time study material will be available online so you wouldn’t necessarily have to add in the extra cost of textbooks
      Access to online libraries, saves in traveling costs and fees for lending books
      One could save on travel and accommodation costs
      The amount of time needed to travel to class would be eliminated
    Timing Having the freedom to study at your own time, takes dedication and this can be lost quickly if your dedication is not 100% driven to your studies By having everything you need accessible to you online, you can juggle both work and studies together, allocating your lunch break to your studies is one start.
      You can use your holiday time and any other free or spare time you may have.
      If you are ahead of schedule you can start with your revision sooner or spend that extra time on your assignments you may have.
    Feedback and Interaction This is virtual and can sometimes be confusing or not to the point and becomes misleading Most online courses have quiz exams and tests which gives you your results then and there
    Depending on your tuition provider, turnaround times for responding to queries or assignments may vary and one needs to wait for a response. One can ask as many questions as they like relevant to their studies
    There is no real human interaction Depending on your tuition provider, assignments are uploaded and marked by your lecturer and then provided back to you in the form of a download, you don’t have to worry about collecting it from a venue or class
      One can also chat with their peers and lecturers through various means such as a student portal or a live chat that would be available in your online classroom, this would also vary depending on your tuition provider
  • Face to Face Learning Pros and Cons
      Face to Face Cons Face to Face Pros
    Communication Lecturers speak to a class full of students and only have a certain amount of time to get through certain areas Notes are given in class and additional notes can also be jotted down and compared with your classmates
    Questions are asked but not every student gets to ask their question Sharing of information with classmates is more efficient
    If you have further questions you might have to book a time with your lecturer to ask all those questions Questions are answered in real time so no waiting for a lecturer to get back to you
    Learning Materials Textbooks tend to weigh a lot and one needs to carry around the required textbooks for their class or their laptop or gadget to have their Ebook version on etc One can make direct notes in their textbook or on their note/writing pad
    if study materials are forgotten somewhere you can’t refer to it in your lecture and would need to share another person’s book Text books can be used to mark specific pages and highlight important paragraphs
    Textbooks can often be costly Lecture notes are given in class most of the time and additional notes and points can be made on these directly
    Cost Fees would vary vastly depending on what type of tuition provider you are choosing and the type of studies you are completing, these can sometimes be very expensive One would maybe feel that by attending class and having a physical lecturer they are getting what they expect from their monies worth
    Most study materials are excluded and would need to be purchased additionally, this can also become quite expensive  
    Additional costs like parking and petrol would also need to be considered.  
    Timing Classes would be at set times if you are unable to attend you would then miss out on the specific lecture You don’t need to create your own schedule as you know when your classes are and to be there on time.
    Various factors may cause you to be late for a class This may assist one in better planning and scheduling of their time
    One cannot simply just pick up from where they left off unless they go through the modules themselves with no lecture help  
    Class times vary and these can range from early morning to late in the evening and may not fit into your work schedule if you are currently working or have a family  
    Feedback and Interaction Waiting to receive feedback from class test and exams may take quite long as there are many physical papers that need to be marked Assignments are handed in by hand so you have the security of knowing your assignment has been received by your lecturer
    The amount of questions that can be asked to a lecturer is minimal and not everyone has the opportunity to ask their questions You can check on the progress of the marking of your assignments with your lecturer at any time
      Any questions are answered in class time meaning you have your answer straight away

Looking at the above provided comparison one can see that there are similar things affecting those doing Online and Face to Face learning such as the costs involved, timing and how interaction takes place, at the end of the day one needs to look at these various factors when choosing how they would like to complete their studies and what would be more beneficial to them. Most often we are scared to try something new like Online Learning and will stick to our ways whereas more and more people today are opening up to the opportunities of having their studies accessible to them online and realising the way forward may already be in technology, some countries are just more advanced than others in this.

The below quote relates to any form of Face to Face and Distance Learning, so no matter how we go about it at the end of the day we still need to ensure we focus and make the most of what we learn.

“Students do not learn much just sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write reflectively about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.” Arthur W. Chickering and Stephen C. Ehrmann

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