Online learning brings a college education to you despite geographic and scheduling conflicts. With all of the benefits, online classes still fall short in many areas when compared to traditional in-person courses. When considering online learning, be prepared for the potential drawbacks so you can modify your learning strategies to succeed.

Lack of Connection

The primary benefit for many students -- being able to learn from anywhere -- creates a potential negative in the world of online learning. With students spread out in numerous locations, establishing connections and a sense of community within the class is a challenge. In a traditional location-based class, students often connect with each other outside of the class itself. That social aspect is often lost for online learners. Despite the distance, some online classes assign group work. Collaborating is often more difficult when you can't sit down face-to-face with your teammates.

Limited Instruction Options

Without the class physically in front of the professor, the instruction options are limited. Class material is often presented through online postings, chat rooms and possibly videos of lectures. The learning is often self-paced with students logging in to review the material when convenient. This gives the professor little opportunity to tailor the instruction to the students in the class. In front of a live class, he can make adjustments as he goes or change his direction based on the reactions of the class. Online classes also miss out on class experiments or projects. In a traditional classroom, students are able to participate in hands-on learning experiences.


When you take a traditional college class, you get immediate feedback and interaction with your professor. If you have a question, you can ask it in class or stay after for clarification. Discussions take place in real time with a natural flow since the entire class participates at once. When learning online, you might have to wait several hours or an entire day before getting a response from your professor. If you're stuck on a concept, you likely can't continue with the lesson until you get that response.


An online class makes it easier for students to procrastinate and participate as little as possible. In a traditional class, students are expected to show up for every class session. Some professors use attendance as part of a student's grade. The professor is better able to control participation in the class. Online learning puts more accountability on the student to participate. Students may do only enough to complete the assignments. Some online learners struggle with managing their time to do the coursework. Distractions at home often cause focus difficulties.

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