With the rise of the internet and the easy access that most Americans have to computers, smartphones, tablets and Wi-Fi networks, exploring the offerings of the World Wide Web has never been easier. As expected, this new technology has made significant developments possible in the field of education.

What Is Online Education?

Online education can be a confusing term. For many people, the expression "online education" is suspicious, implying a questionable degree from a likely noncredible university. However, online education has gone through significant developments since the advent of the internet. Today, the term "online education" can be understood as any educational undertaking that primarily utilizes the internet to deliver coursework, assessments and assignments from teacher to student.

Online assessments as a part of online learning may mean using the internet as a means of communication between student and teacher, or it may mean using online programs or dedicated websites as the educational material. Students can access this educational material to take tests, write papers and complete other work that will be evaluated by a professor or a teaching assistant.

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Online School vs. Traditional School

Online education can be as comprehensive and involved as an online, real-time video lecture. It can be as removed and passive as an assignment sent from a teacher to a student's inbox that is returned for assessment in the same manner. The term "online education" refers to any sort of educational, pedagogical practice that uses the internet as a means of transferring information, but this can be done in many ways.

For example, a teacher may choose to hold an online class, and the students will log on with their personal computers at a given time. In this way, the class will be conducted the same way it would be in a classroom. In other scenarios, the teacher may prerecord a series of lectures. Students will have the relevant information and can access it at their leisure, communicating questions and concerns electronically.

Is Online Education Better Than Traditional Education?

There is a continuous debate on the topic of online learning vs. traditional learning. In the early days of the internet, the assumption across the educational field and the prevailing sentiment of the culture in general was that online education would always be inferior to traditional, classroom-based education. The thinking was that serious students would never entrust their education to anyone over the internet.

People also thought that only lazy students who wanted an easy degree and diploma would bother to invest in online education. There was also the not-unfounded fear that the situation was ripe for fraud and that people who were not credible educators would take advantage of students looking for easy access to education. While there is certainly strong evidence to suggest that certain people have used the advent of online education to defraud would-be students, the fact is that online education has opened up a wealth of educational opportunity and possibility.

What Are the Benefits of Online Classes vs. Traditional Classes?

Students who previously could not afford a four-year college are now able to enroll in online classes at accredited universities and do the coursework in their own time. Many formidable brick-and-mortar universities now have an online arm, allowing the chance for quality education and the university's level of instruction to be available to students for whom geography would make attendance in person impossible. This is a huge factor in the debate around online education vs. traditional education.

Despite the advancements in online education, it is still believed by the educational community to be an inferior sort of education, especially when compared with a university education. However, there are different tiers of online education that might be sought out by various students. In addition to traditional undergraduate education, online programs are offered at the graduate level.

Beyond that, short courses that do not carry degree credits are also available. Studying a foreign language online, for example, is now possible with a teacher in the native country. In many ways, the tool of online education can supplement classroom instruction and in doing so make all education richer and more powerful.

Is Online Schooling Better Than Public Schooling?

In contemporary America, there are continuous conversations about the viability of the public school system. Public schools in almost every state are chronically underfunded, and more and more teachers find it necessary to strike to demand fair pay and support from the department. Safety issues in some schools and overcrowded classrooms and subpar conditions in many others have raised the question about offering students an online school option.

Many people wonder how online classes vs. traditional classes would fare for an elementary, middle and high school population. Some think that there would be a tremendous loss in the quality of education if students left the classroom. Others feel that the additional oversight might improve the quality of education students receive. Many educators and parents feel that the classroom experience beyond the material taught is a critical piece of a good education.

What Are the Benefits of Public Schooling vs. Online Education?

Spending the day with peers, getting to know other students and working on group projects together are some of the ways that experts have explained the importance of the in-school environment. With this in mind, it would be difficult to say that online education is better than traditional public education. However, that does not mean that online education is not in some ways helpful as an added tool for students who can use the internet to supplement what is being taught in the classroom.

The value that online education and online learning can have, especially for young students, is the advantage it offers in terms of allowing the students the opportunity to access their work at home, thus giving them less time to forget what they learned and a further opportunity to apply what they learned in the classroom.

Is Online College Cheaper Than Traditional College?

As online education has improved in quality and in scope over the last 20 years, it has gone from being considered a poor option for learning to becoming a feature of elite colleges and universities. One of the major draws of online education is that costs for taking online classes are much cheaper than enrolling at a traditional college.

This is not strictly the case, as the cost of credit-bearing courses at a university may be the same online and in person, but the advantage of online classes is that students do not have to pay for room, board and other expenses for which students on a campus are typically responsible. If you work full time, have a family and still have a desire to get your degree, then online college can be a welcome and much more affordable alternative.

Are Online Classes Better Than Traditional Classes?

When it comes to the question of online classes vs. traditional classes, there are several factors to consider. Depending on the format of the online class, it may be identical to the format of a lecture or a seminar done in person in the more traditional classroom style. However, the advantages that online classes have over traditional classes are immensely valuable, particularly to students with jobs or family responsibilities.

Students who are not in a position to attend classes in person can, through the benefit of online classes, improve the quality of their education and even earn a degree. Students who live far from any institute of higher education who would otherwise not have had the opportunity to go to college can attend a college online and expose themselves to an entirely different world.

Additionally, online classes are helpful to companies and businesses that may want to train their employees about new programming or software or protocol but not have the ability to get everyone together in one place for such training. In this way, online classes are superior to traditional classes because they remove the barriers of space and time to allow people to learn together.

About the Author

Ashley Friedman is a freelance writer with experience writing about education for a variety of organizations and educational institutions as well as online media sites. She has written for Pearson Education, The University of Miami, The New York City Teaching Fellows, New Visions for Public Schools, and a number of independent secondary schools. She lives in Los Angeles.