Distance Learning and Classroom Learning

Distance Learning and Classroom Learning: The Difference

You’ve found many different articles out there that talk about distance learning and classroom learning. Some tell you why distance learning is better but none of them seems to say much about classroom learning. Is distance learning really better?


The most honest answer is that it depends on your needs and that the only way to decide is to look at the advantages and disadvantages of both.


Distance Learning and Classroom Learning: What are They?

The easiest way to explain classroom learning is that it is traditional learning. Classroom learning is when you go to class at an institution every day. You sit in a classroom while a teacher or lecturer stands in the front and teaches you. Going to school or university are examples of classroom learning.


Many people still feel that this is the best or only way to get a good education. However, even though most people still think classroom learning is best, distance learning is growing every year. More and more people are choosing distance learning each year.


Distance learning is when you study from home or wherever you are. You register with a training provider, register for a course and all your work gets sent to you. You will also receive all your deadlines and you can then work at your own pace, when and where you want.

Comparing Distance Learning and Classroom Learning

To compare the two you will need to look at the advantages and disadvantages of each. This is because both of them have a lot of advantages but each of them also has its own disadvantages.


The Advantages of Distance Learning and Classroom Learning


Distance Learning


One of the biggest advantages of distance learning is that your time is much more flexible. You can study when and where you want to. You can even work and still study at the same time. You could study while you are travelling, or after work. You don’t have to go to classes at a specific time so you can get a job. If you are already working distance learning lets you study without needing to miss work to go to classes.


Another advantage of distance learning is that it is usually cheaper than classroom learning. There are a lot of reasons why it is cheaper but being cheaper makes it very popular. In South Africa, many people don’t have access to education simply because it is too expensive. The generally lower cost of distance learning means more people can get access to education.


One of the biggest expenses for any university student is their textbooks. In South Africa, a student can expect to pay between R3 000 and R7 000 (or even more) on their textbooks alone. Distance learning cuts this cost by having most of your materials available online and by sending you most of your study materials. You don’t need to go and hunt down expensive textbooks.


Another expense that is cut out by distance learning is travel expenses. Most students need to drive or take public transport to get to class every day. Distance learning students can study from home or wherever they are so there is no need to travel.


Classroom Learning


A big advantage of classroom learning is that you can get extra notes. This is because the lecturer might write or draw something on the board to help you understand which is not in your textbook. Distance learning students only have the books to use and make notes from.


Feedback is another huge advantage. If you are a classroom student and you have a question you can just raise your hand and ask. Your lecturer is right there and can immediately answer your questions.


You also don’t need as much time management skills as a distance learner. Your class schedule is worked out for you so you don’t need to plan when you will study.


The Disadvantages of Distance Learning and Classroom Learning


Distance Learning


Sometimes you will find that distance learning students need to buy new equipment or software to be able to study. This might not even be specialised equipment for their course. The student might need to buy a computer to access their online study materials for example.


The flexibility of your time is both an advantage and disadvantage of distance learning. You need to be committed to your study times. No one else is forcing you to “go to class” so it is easy to get lazy or distracted.


Also, the fact that you are on your own can be a problem for some people. Distance learning usually includes things like chatrooms and other tools for students to communicate with their lecturers. The problem with this is that often the response times can be very slow so it can take a while to get an answer to your question.


Classroom Learning


The fact that classes are at set times means that if you can’t go to a class you might miss out on something important. You can’t go back and do the class later.


As mentioned before, your textbooks and study materials can get very expensive. You won’t have as many online tools as a distance learning student. This also means that replacing your textbook if it gets lost or damaged is another huge expense.


Another problem with classroom learning is that even though the lecturer is there with you, you don’t get a lot of time with them. This is because your class has a set length and the lecturer has to cover a lot of information in that time. Answering questions takes time so a lecturer might not answer you because there isn’t enough time.



There is no right or wrong answer. Which one is best depends on what you need, want, and can afford. It is also important to know yourself. Are you someone who can study by themselves or do you need the structure of a timetable. Fortunately, there is more than one way to study so you will be able to find what works best for you.


Also Read: 5 Tips for Studying Through Distance Learning


Written by: Clifford Ekron
Last Updated: 13 March 2022