Online versus traditional education. A contrasting analysis

Polemic Paper 2018 12 Pages

Didactics - Common Didactics, Educational Objectives, Methods


Table of Contents

Executive Summary


Online Education versus Traditional Education

Similarities and Differences between Traditional and Online Education

Value of Traditional Education Compared to Online Education



Executive Summary

Educational transition has led to the development of new approaches for the 21st Century education. The emergence of online learning, in 1990’s seems to have changed the relevance of traditional education and, this can be attributed to the current social change and technological development. Ordinarily, the principal reason for learning is to acquire intellectual knowledge but, the element of usefulness of the acquired knowledge has become the key determinant of the mode of learning.

Traditional and online education exhibits varied characteristics, which are useful in elucidating their similarities and differences. Concisely, characteristics of online education imply that learners assume full responsibility in the learning process. On the other hand, traditional education is characterized with shared responsibility between learners and instructors.

Similarities between online and traditional education can be outlined with regard to reference materials, assignments, exams and the role of instructors in the learning process. All curriculum involve assignments and exams for evaluating the learners’ understanding of coursework and reference materials; either printed or electronic are intended to be used by students to the extent their knowledge on different concepts.

On the other hand, the two systems manifest differences in flexibility, interaction, communication, learning mode and skills development. Traditional education uses classroom setup, whereas online learning is computer based.

In conclusion, traditional education holds high values than online education, especially with regard to the equivalency theory. Its high value is attributable to the face-to-face aspect, which enhances skills development among learners.


It appears that the transformation of the 19th Century education to the 21st education system has brought a new perspective into the efficiency and usefulness of the two forms of education. This transition has been occasioned by the rapid advancement of the Information Technology, whose application has extended from the industrial production to virtually all aspects of life in the universe. In the United States, online education seems to have gained popularity because; most institutions of higher education have incorporated online training into their curricula. Since the emergence of online learning, in 1990’s, enrollment of students in online learning has increased significantly. For instance, enrollment of students in online learning had increased to 75 percent by 2003 and, this percentage was found to have increased to 86 percent by the end of 2007 (Kubo, 2013). However, traditional classroom education has been upgraded to meet the vast needs of the students through the integration of ICT into the curricula. Currently, these two forms of learning appear more or less the same, although there are distinct similarities and differences. Therefore, this research paper will give an overview on the similarities and differences between online and traditional education.

Thesis Statement

Traditional education is of higher value than online education because; teaching styles are designed to allow shared learning responsibility through students’ collaboration with teachers in face-to-face interaction.

Online Education versus Traditional Education

Concisely, it is true that the purpose of learning is to acquire intellectual knowledge for professional use. However, the mode of knowledge acquisition may determine the usefulness of the acquired knowledge, especially with regard to its transformation into technological innovation. In other words, reproducibility of intellectual knowledge into useful ideas appears to be influenced by the mode of knowledge acquisition. This is attributable to the diverse characteristics manifested by online and traditional classroom education. Therefore, similarities and differences of online and traditional classroom education can be elucidated with regard to their characteristics.

Similarities and Differences between Traditional and Online Education

In general, online and traditional education systems share similarities, especially with regard to the curricula. Ordinarily, the curricula for different learning institutions are designed to meet the needs of the society. Therefore, the curriculum involves various aspects of learning and teaching to achieve the desired learning objectives. For instance, career courses are designed in a manner, which will enhance extensive learning, especially through the use of reference materials such as textbooks, which are either in printed or electronic forms. In regard to the assessment of learners’ comprehension of the lessons, assignments and exams are used to test the intellectual competence of the learners and instructors are used as facilitators of learning.

Reference materials are required by students to expand their knowledge. It is believed that extensive reading of reference materials enhances understanding of lessons by learners. In most cases, instructors do not provide full information to students; instead, they provide limelight to a given topic and leave students to search for additional information pertaining to the topic. Therefore, learners are supposed to use reference materials to increase their knowledge. In addition, learners use reference materials for preparing assignments and other curriculum based tests. Some of the most common academic reference materials used in online and traditional education systems are textbooks, journals, periodicals and websites.

Another similarity between online and traditional education is the mode of evaluating the understanding of the learners. In both online and traditional education, learners are given assignments as part of the curricula. Assignments are regarded as fundamental composites of learning irrespective of whether learners are on online or traditional education. From an intellectual perspective, assignments are meant to enhance the learners’ understanding of the learning process. Therefore, they are incorporated in the curriculum. However, it is worth noting that learning institutions design courses with regard to the curriculum but, only the modes of teaching are varied in one way or the other depending with the available learning resources.

In addition, online and traditional learning are similar in the sense that exams are used to test the retention of intellectual knowledge, usually at intervals throughout the course training. Exams are used as the principal parameter for testing the students’ academic performance. Ordinarily, the overall score for students in their exams is expressed in terms of the so-called Grade Point Average (GPA) to determine the learners’ intellectual competence (Ghaoui, 2003).

Moreover, instructors act as the facilitators of students’ learning. They guide students throughout their learning process by offering physical support to learners and other facilitators. In most cases, instructors are referred to as resource persons, especially with regard to dispensing knowledge and nurturing intellectual competence among learners. Instructors are also required to plan for the lessons and students’ discussions, in which they assist learners in understanding complex topics.

On the other hand, online and traditional education systems seem to differ significantly on five principal aspects. From a scholarly perspective, online and traditional education systems exhibit distinct features, especially with regard to flexibility, interaction, communication, learning mode and skills development.

Online learning is praised for its flexibility because; it allows learners to decide on time to complete their coursework. It allows them to engage in other commitments, rather than learning alone. For instance, students can study as they are working in their interested career fields (Hart, 2008). Students can also undertake studies while playing family responsibilities, especially ladies who are able to rear their children concurrently with studies. Flexibility also applies on exams, whereby students are free to choose the most convenient time to take their tests. Moreover, lecture sessions can also be adjusted to suit both the student and the instructor.

On the other hand, traditional education offers a synchronized coursework, in which all students converge for different learning lessons. As a result, learners are required to engage themselves in studies and abandon other commitments.

In regard to communication, learners in traditional education system experience face-to-face conversation, which is believed to create a serene learning atmosphere in the classroom. Traditional education offers learners opportunity to express their ideas and perception on course lessons; an aspect, which is believed to enhance students’ satisfaction with the learning process. Moreover, instructor are able to identify the learners’ weaknesses and strengths; thus, enabling them to address the learners’ academic needs.

In contrast, online education does not allow face-to-face conversation between the learners and instructors (Baumgardner, 2000). However, advances in the computer technology have led to the development of video conversations, although it occurs over distances. In online education, communication is done through electronic means such as emails. Therefore, exchange of ideas between instructors and learners is not efficient and, it does not give learners opportunity to share personal values, which are believed to be fundamental in enhancing competitiveness among learners.

The third difference between online and traditional education is interaction. Traditional education is characterized with face-to-face interaction between learners and instructors. Learners can respond to questions from their instructor in the course of the learning process. In addition, instructors are able to identify personal characteristics of learners; thus applying the most appropriate teaching approaches to enhance social interaction.

Moreover, it is also believed that traditional education enhances social diversity among students because; it brings together students with diverse social backgrounds. In traditional education, students with diverse social cultures and talents intermingle in the course learning leading to enhanced social development. This aspect is entirely absent in online education; thus, traditional education does not only promote the learners intelligence, but also influence their social nature significantly.

On the other hand, online learning is known to be devoid of face-to-face interaction between learners and instructors and even amongst the learners (PRLog, 2011). However, digital connections are currently being used in online learning to create an element of physical interaction. For instance, video conferencing and web chats are some of the useful tools in online learning (Dawley, 2007). However, it is worth noting that digital connections allow learners and their instructors to connect over distances. Learners do not interact in real life situation in co-curricular activities, which are instrumental in enhancing social interaction.

Learning modes in online and traditional education are also different, in traditional education; learners converge in classroom lessons and exchange face-to-face conversations. Notably, the classroom setup creates a unique learning atmosphere for learners and instructors, leading to students’ satisfaction with the course sessions (Bourne & Moore, 2003). In contrast, online learning does not have classroom setup, which gathers learners at one point; instead, learners are segregated. Ordinarily, learners in online education can undertake their course sessions in varied environments, as long as, there are digital connections. The harmful effect of such a feature is that some environments are not suitable for learning, especially when there are distracters. Therefore, learners’ comprehension of the lessons is relatively compromised.

Value of Traditional Education Compared to Online Education

In online education, the teaching styles are designed in such a way that learners assume the full responsibility of learning. Hanson, Schlosser and Simonson (1999) approach the issue by referring to the Equivalency Theory, which states, “Students are the ones involved in the formal, institutionally based learning activity---the course or unit of instruction” (26). They are, indeed, learner-centered in all aspects because there is no face-to-face interaction between learners and the instructors. Secondly, the learning styles are designed to suit a wide array of learners to enhance the learning process. Moreover, online education provides different thinking styles to fit all learners. For instance, in online learning, thinking styles are diversified to address the learning needs of reflective, creative and practical thinkers.

In regard to traditional education, learning involves efficient collaboration of students and instructors. Students undertake their learning tasks as a team, but not as individuals. On the other hand, instructors are interlinked in such a way that learning in the classroom context is efficiently coordinated. In other words, classroom education adopts a collaborative project-based curriculum to enhance communication and thinking among different stakeholders. The second fundamental feature of traditional education is that, instructors create the learning environment and facilitate the learning process. In addition, the responsibility of student learning is assumed by many stake holders, including teachers, administrators and parents. Thirdly, students in traditional education learn from a practical approach: thus, they gain the thumb-of-rule experience. In general, traditional education adopts the face-to-face approach in virtually all learning processes.

Thirdly, traditional education is designed to provide an opportunity to students to develop co-curricular skills through sports and other outside classroom activities. Ordinarily, the learning process is ought to be accompanied by an effective exercise program. Exercise enhances students’ understanding by relieving mental tension. The usefulness of exercise in the students’ learning process can be evidenced by the old-age adage that, ‘all work with no play makes Jack a dull boy!’ Moreover, physical activity enables students to attain physical fitness, which is a principal requirement of health development. Learning requires both mental and body health, which is attained through adopting a healthy dietary regime to supply the body with essential nutrients. On the other hand, exercise enables the body to rid off biological wastes; thus, facilitating efficient functioning of the body. Moreover, students are also provided with counseling sessions through counseling programs to improve their state of mind and empower them with useful learning and problem-solving skills. However, it is worth noting that co-curricular programs serve the same role for all learners irrespective of the level of training; thus, high school and college students are more or less the same.

In contrast, online education does not involve co-curricular programs as part of the learning process. Therefore, students do not develop co-curricular skills, which are quite useful in students’ life. Surprisingly, this issue does not seem to be solved in a foreseeable future because; there is an enormous barrier caused by the lack of students’ interaction with co-curricular experts. In online education, students communicate with instructors only, unlike the case in traditional education where non-teaching staff play different roles in the students’ learning and, this aspect makes traditional education more valuable than online education.


In a brief conclusion, evaluation of educational value levels in online and traditional education shows that traditional education is highly valuable compared to online education. It appears blatantly true that online education does not produce highly competent students, despite its popularity and sophistication. However, the adoption of technology in online education has embroidered online courses with an element of reliability and flexibility; thus, most people believe that online education encompasses an exceptional value compared to the classroom education. This is, indeed, false because quantitative analyses show that classroom education enhances the students’ performance and comprehension, unlike the popular notion among the global population on technology and high quality (Charlson, 2006).



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Title: Online versus traditional education. A contrasting analysis