The current technological advancements in the way we use internet have narrowed the bridge between virtual and classroom learning to quite an extent.

Previously, online learning was strictly restricted to hear-and-learn with little scope of interaction. However, the scope of commenting and live features has removed that drawback and virtual classrooms are becoming more popular by the day. But in spite of the advancements, traditional classroom learning is yet to lose its fame and still hold certain definitive advantages over its online counterpart.

As more and more courses are going online, the debate over which is better and impactful requires close attention. Even school courses are now available in apps and websites, but do students learn to their full potential? Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but it is the question of which one outweighs the other.

Let’s consider a few parameters and delve deeper into which is better – virtual learning or classroom learning?

Face-to-face interaction and group study: Irrespective of the technology available, classrooms are the clear winner here. No amount of virtual learning can match the environment that one will get in classrooms. Studies suggest that children learn better through face-to-face interaction and a group study also helps in developing their communication skills. In a classroom, a student has the opportunity to clear out his/her doubts almost immediately. This requires the student to come out of his/her comfort zone and verbally communicate a question. In the virtual world, this process mainly involves typing in a comment, which may not improve your communication skills.

Access to study-materials and class notes: Virtual learning has the upper hand in this case. The main advantage of Internet is that one can access it anytime and from anywhere.

One can watch a lecture on a particular topic multiple times or rewind to understand a certain portion that many times. In classrooms, one will have to match the pace of the lecturer and stay attentive all the time. Same goes for the notes. In virtual learning, the lecture is generally available in the form of text or video transcript.

In classrooms, one is required to note things down like dictations. There is a possibility of missing out on vital points or not understanding a topic at all. However, on the flip side, such instances in classrooms pose a challenge for the students to overcome which helps in the development of their problem-solving skills.

Discipline and deadlines: There’s more freedom with virtual learning. One can learn at one’s own time and pace. One can watch the lectures when free or take an exam when one feels prepared. In short, both the discipline and deadline are in the student’s hands and the success of the course is up to you. At times, the absence of a proper deadline or a fixed time schedule can have adverse effects in the learning process and is not advisable for young pupils at all. Left to their own, children do not have the proper reasoning skill to analyse the importance of a course. Fixed timings of schools, routine in classrooms and deadlines for submitting homework actually help a young mind to grow.

Experience in real-world activities: Online learning, no matter how good and resourceful, is after all virtual. In today’s competitive world, application-based learning is of primary importance and only traditional classroom can provide that. Be it learning to handle an instrument, carrying out a chemical experiment or sharpening your public speaking skill, the level of learning is much more advanced when you do them in the real world.

The top schools include all forms of extra-curricular activities along with the academics in their curriculum. This helps young students to get the required exposure and choose their career paths better.

With virtual learning, the choice is entirely based on the experience of the lecturer and the decision process is somewhat difficult. Modern classroom learning outperforms online learning here and will continue to do so for the next decade as well. Just like online learning has its perks, it can never match traditional classroom approach in certain areas.

Virtual learning may be well suited for adult students who have to take care of their expenses along with schooling, but for young pupils, there can be no other alternative to classroom learning. The real world teaches a lot more than mere academics to a young mind and this knowledge is necessary to sustain his/her future life. The optimum solution is to extract the advantages of both the form of learning, combine them together and grow with everything at your disposal.

(The writer is senior director, Institute of Management Studies, Noida)