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Last updated: September 26, 2023 • Education Advice

The advantages and disadvantages of online learning

If there’s one good thing covid has brought into the world, it is the phenomenon of many people suddenly understanding the true power of the internet. Even though online learning has been around for some time, in the circumstances of social isolation, it has become the only portal to learning for those who didn’t want to fall behind in their studies. And although there were many difficulties involved, online learning has proven to be quite effective in those times of extreme conditions. Fortunately, those hard times are over. However, the changes stay with us. 

The internet and advancements in technology have radically transformed the way we learn. Those continue to have a great impact on education and shape the way we think about knowledge. Still, the debate about whether technology is making us smarter or dumber continues to stay around. Why? 

As with any activity requiring extra technology usage, the disadvantages of online learning are connected to these issues as well. And while technology certainly doesn’t make us dumber in itself, a few things need our special attention. Yes, the world opens up, but we need to pay attention not to accidentally open Pandora’s box, too. Wrestling with the demons of tech dependence doesn’t facilitate learning…So, let’s see what does! Here are a few thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of online learning. 

Advantages of online learning

different epoch futuristic image

Half a century ago, having unlimited access to information and connection was a utopistic dream. Today, we are living in a different epoch and already take it for granted. But whether we can truly use this opportunity or succumb to social media and shopping dependence is up to us. Even though there are countless advantages of online learning, it is becoming increasingly challenging to stay on track with our plans amidst all the distractions. Online learning provides opportunities for many people who would otherwise not have access to specific courses or knowledge. The advantages of online learning are immeasurable. Online learning or e-learning can either complement courses with a physical presence or act as a knowledge-gaining modality on its own. These are the most prominent advantages of online learning.

Availability and easy access

young student train station

A great advantage of online learning is that it is accessible. Students can take courses from almost anywhere in the world. The limitations of space seem to soften up thanks to technological advancements and the democracy of learning. This is great for those who have a tight schedule or are trying to find the balance between parenting and career. Countless online learning materials are free. This provides access to a big chunk of knowledge for those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford certain types of education. This already brings some equity to the world. 

The flexibility of pace and place

Most courses and online learning materials can be recorded for later review. This allows access to learning anytime. One of the greatest advantages of online learning is the fact that it’s online, of course. This means that it can be accessed anywhere with the help of a device. This flexibility allows students to study at their own pace, leading to a much more inclusive and organic way of gaining knowledge. One of the greatest advantages of online learning is that you get to choose when where and how to consume the new information. People with tight schedules and small children have the possibility to access education and skills and bring the same amount of attention to the important areas of their lives. 


blue piggy banks

Tuition costs can be high, and many prospective students might get discouraged or even give up on learning because of the high fees. Enrolling in college also comes with other costs, like on-campus student meals and accommodation costs. 

Also, young adults who already have a job and a family might not be able to attend courses in person. The advantages of online learning allows students to access courses without having to pay for extra expenses and be present physically. 

The opportunity to explore cool tools

Online learning comes with advantages for both students and teachers. Many learning tools are available which can be used optimally in the digital environment. Quizzes, interactive platforms, and innovative workspaces for teamwork are widely accessible. Using them is easy and fun, contributing to seamless learning and rich experiences. 

Connecting to people with similar interests worldwide

Yes, the internet has also connected the world in terms of learning. It is easier to pursue interests that are not popular or accessible in the student’s geographical location. Many people have given up their dreams because of limited access to information and a lack of community to share with. Among the advantages of online learning is the fact that there are online communities to share progress with or ask questions and get answers.

The perk of sustainability 

green plant growing on laptop

Commuting to attend courses physically involves the burning of fossil fuels. Being present at a course means extra traveling, and using a car or public transportation more means increased carbon dioxide in the air. Having the possibility to cut back on the commute and attend a course from the comfort of one’s home is a more sustainable option. This allows learners to pay attention more and practice sustainability at home as well. Being on the run all day might also involve other activities and consumption patterns that when added up, contribute to harmful emissions. 

Disadvantages of online learning

While the advantages of online learning are countless, some risks come with it. Tech-savvyness has its shadow side. Tech dependence is lurking around all the time, taking different shapes to sneak into anyone’s life. But, as with anything, there are a few other disadvantages of online learning we need to pay attention to. 

Less real-life interactions

Taking a course in a group comes with the perk of connecting to peers, sharing progress and ideas, and asking questions in natural, face-to-face settings. One of the disadvantages of online learning is that students don’t have this. While it is possible to interact in the online learning environment too, students can’t reap the benefits of face-to-face human interactions. Meeting people with the same interests and having instant common ground is a great way of socializing and having a few laughs.

Increased screen time

fatigue tired woman

Spending more time in front of the screen is one of the biggest disadvantages of online learning. Especially for those who work in front of screens anyway, the extra hours spent with online learning might lead to pink-eye issues. Also, sitting at a desk for prolonged periods of time can come with spine and neck pain for some.  

Tech dependence is an almost invisible yet present issue that needs our attention.

Having to manage your own time

Maybe the biggest challenge with online learning is managing your time effectively. While taking a course with physical presence involves a fixed schedule, learning at your own pace requires self-discipline and quite some juggling. Managing your time leaves more space for procrastination, which can even lead to leaving the course unfinished. This is not a disadvantage of online learning but rather a challenge affecting those who have difficulty staying focused and on track.

Annoying technical issues and inequalities

serious native kids using laptop

Access to devices and internet speed are not equal everywhere in the world. Because of this, accessibility can be a problem for some. Technical issues can lead to disruptions in the learning process and a great deal of disappointment. Under these circumstances, it is harder to maintain the flow. The gaps created by technical issues are sometimes unavoidable disadvantages of online learning.

Final thoughts

Online learning is a great opportunity, opening up many doors that would otherwise stay closed forever. The advantages of online learning outweigh the disadvantages, but whether it works or not is a matter of personal circumstances and preferences. Online learning has the advantages of accessibility, affordability, and flexibility, which can be priceless assets for someone with a tight schedule. Connecting with fellow students worldwide is also a perk and an excellent opportunity to get a glimpse into other perspectives. Sustainability is also one of the significant advantages of online learning. 

However, some aspects of online learning can be considered drawbacks. Some of these are related to the disadvantages of excessive technology usage in general. Increased screen time, less human interaction, and technical issues are the most frequently met challenges. 
Still, online learning continues to be a fantastic opportunity for gaining knowledge and broadening one’s spectrum. Knowledge should be free and accessible to everyone, and online learning contributes significantly to this. A more educated world is a better world, and providing access for everyone is a significant step towards a more democratic and equal world of learning.


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