Online Learning vs Teacher Led Classes

Online Learning vs Teacher Led Classes: which is the best method?

Hand pressing an online course button on blurred city lights background

In the modern digital age, online learning and courses have become more popular than ever before, offering students greater opportunities for control over their own studies. So what is best: Online Learning vs Teacher Led Classes? A 2010 report by The Sloan Consortium, an American group which releases annual reports on online education in the USA, revealed a 350% increase in numbers of students enrolled in online courses since 2002, and a 21% annual increase in the USA alone. Therefore, it is clear to see that online learning is rapidly becoming more and more popular throughout the world, but the question of how it compares to teacher led, face-to-face classes remains.

Online Learning vs Teacher Led Classes

The Online Learning Community

Nowadays, there are many in the academic community who would say that online learning compares favourably to face-to-face teaching, with the same Sloan Consortium survey reporting that 66% of leading US academics rated the learning outcomes from online resources as “as good as or better” than teacher led classes. Whilst this leaves a sizeable minority of people who disagree with this statement, the fact is that many academics have begun to come round to the use of online classes, which must in turn be having a positive effect on the quality of courses available. In my experience, I have found that online learning can be a very useful resource, as it allows the student to learn at their own pace and to review, whenever necessary, subjects and material that they may have found challenging, thus enabling students to drill themselves in all areas of their language skills. Furthermore, having used online learning myself during my TEFL traineeship, I can assert its usefulness, as it was key in the revision of my English grammar skills. At the end of my online course, I felt much more confident in my ability to teach grammar and other language skills, and so as such, I would argue that online learning is just as good as teacher led classes in this area.

Online Learning vs Teacher Led Classes: which is Falling short?

However, there are some circumstances where online learning still falls short. For example, without the drive and motivation given by a teacher, some students may find it difficult to continue their self-study and as such, many drop out before completion of the course. A study of community colleges in Washington D.C recently revealed that online course completion rates were 8% lower on average than those of face-to-face teacher led classes. Whilst these statistics may not take into account outside, individual influences on the students, they still show a marked difference in completion rates, which, it could be argued, prove that teacher led classes are better for student motivation and learning outcomes. In my opinion, this could definitely be argued to be the case, as it is always easier for a teacher to motivate students face-to-face, especially those that struggle with the subjects they are studying. Moreover, in language teaching, online learning does not permit a good level of verbal communication, and so one of the four key language skills is almost lost to students using this method. Therefore, one could argue that teacher led classes are better than online learning.

In conclusion, I would say that there is a place for online learning, but perhaps this is as an additional resource, to be used in conjunction with teacher led classes, where any issues the student encounters in the online section can be addressed and verbal communication can be taught.


  • Allen, E and Seaman, J, Class Differences: Online Education in the United States, 01/11/2010, published on http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED529952.pdf
  • Xu, D and Jaggars, S.S, Online and Hybrid Course Enrolment and Performance in Washington State Community and Technical Colleges, 01/03/2011, published on http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/online-hybrid-courses-washington.html