Can the two work together?  Which is best? Which suits today’s modern society?


In education, there are many different mediums in which teaching and learning can be expressed.  Two of these mediums are online learning and classroom learning.  Although there are elements that crossover in both, they do differ significantly.

One of the key components of classroom learning is presence.  The fact the teacher is physically in a room with a student means that there is a direct link between teacher and student.  There can be a lack of opportunity to engage with the teacher, get to ask questions or receive feedback at a time that is convenient to them. Yes, there is feedback, but sometimes there is a time lapse between asking and receiving a response.  This could sometimes hinder progression   as the student may occasionally need to be in the moment and talk out problems he or she may be facing.

There are times where having someone present is really beneficial.  Having that connection with another person helps us to establish relationships and lets conversation flow as it delves deeper into topics.  This physical form of learning has been used since the age of time and has shown time and time again to be effective and something that should not be easily dismissed.

But you shouldn’t shy away from online learning either, it too, has many benefits. You yourself can go off and find the things that interest you the most.  Of course this can also be achieved by attending a course, but there may be obstacles around this for some people. For example, a perspective student may not be able to embark on a course in an institute due to other circumstances such as family commitments, travel constraints and financial difficulties.  There are many different resources available to find information such as audio books, video tutorials, online courses and informational websites.  Online learning is an ever-growing option and that many people are looking towards for their learning.

There is a lot that can be said about taking notes in class.  From an online perspective notes are digitally based resources such as documents, presentations, audio notes, video tutorials and online reading materials.  With video tutorials you can follow along and go at your own pace.  Video tutorials can be found on different websites such as Lynda.com, Edmodo and even Youtube. These resources can be really beneficial when it comes to broadening the foundation of your knowledge as set down in the course.  As previously mentioned, there is often a cross over between online learning and classroom learning. From my perspective, I find it stimulating when a teacher uses different methods to deliver a class. For example, using projectors to display presentations helps me to retain more information with both the spoken word and a visual aid. Online exam web pages such as Socrative for instant examinations and corrections allow me to review my learnings quickly and also give immediate feedback to the teacher. As a student, I also like when we have external speakers address us.  The use of web cameras in this instance can give a whole new dynamic to learning.  I find it quite stimulating to see and hear a different voice, coming from a different place, yet teaching me something in that moment.  In my opinion learning can be made more thought provoking with these resources and help enhance education.  For students it means they can go back and revise using these digital resources and research different elements.  Using a resource such as Google Docs or Microsoft Word collaboratively helps reinforce learning on topics covered in classes. Features such as comments and track changes are available in both so students and teachers can see ideas forming and current learnings being applied. Comments are particularly useful for feedback from team members and teachers alike.

But there is another side to every coin and when flipped there is an argument about the different digital resources that can be used.  I imagine that this must add a different kind of pressure for teachers when it comes to devising notes for students. As technology is ever growing at an alarmingly fast pace, it must be very difficult for teachers to keep up with these changes.  However in saying that, having different delivery styles and methods cater to a wider variety of different learning styles.  In my student life, I have encountered some teachers who are not very technically savvy and have found it difficult to integrate digital resources into their lesson plans.  Nevertheless, I think that a resource like Socrative could be used quite easily.  There is very little learning involved in using it from the teachers side, and from the students point of view, it is a fast and easy way to assess their understanding of a topic.  For students, online resources can mean more temptation to plagiarizing material.  There are good and bad arguments whether online learning or classroom learning or even an amalgamation of both are of benefit.

Having talked to a current LIT student – Claire Murray, she discussed her experience and thoughts about learning online and learning in the classroom.  She went on to explain this from her perspective.

“Online programs can provide a very flexible alternative to many students to obtain further education.  I returned to college as a mature student, married and with children.  There was a lot of thought went into whether I would follow an online learning program, or attend college on a full basis.  On the one hand, an online program was very appealing because I wouldn’t have to travel or spend too much time away from home.  I also felt that I am quite a motivated person, so online learning would suit me quite well.  However, I am also a very sociable creature and interaction with other students and with lecturers was equally as important to me.

Some of the considerations in making the decision focused on finding a program which suited what I wanted to do.  There were two of these – one in Cork and one in Clonmel, Co Tipperary.  Clonmel won out because even though geographically the Cork campus is closer to where I live, Clonmel was actually more accessible due to reduced traffic congestion.  One other rather important consideration was internet access and connectivity.  Unfortunately, in Ireland today, there are still many homes whose Internet connections are less than adequate for attending an online course, and I happen to be one of those unfortunates.

Online learning can have the disadvantage of isolating a student from both other students and lecturers/ instructors.  As well as this, online learning is still relatively new, when the first online degrees started becoming available around 1995, so I suppose, in my opinion, this hasn’t been enough time to properly evaluate the teaching methods, or student understanding through an online only course.

While a student is in a classroom, again, in my opinion, they can have the added benefit of interacting with and exchanging ideas or thoughts with other students.  For me, this helps me greatly with my learning.  If someone is having a problem, or facing an issue that they have tried to resolve on their own, somethings have another person’s eye thrown over your work can lead to something being solved quicker.  I daresay that face to face contact also lessens the probability of communication barriers, versus barriers that could possibly exist online.

For me personally, I feel that with online learning, which I have also experienced, lacks the “vibe” that happens in a classroom.  I love the interaction with others and I feel that I learn better through this interaction and involvement.  I am a very sociable person, and the best environment for me to learn in is one where I am encircled with other people.  That is not to say that I avoid quiet spaces where I can study or work on my own either.  Sometimes there is nothing nicer than being outside in the fresh air and contemplating the learnings of the day.  I remember way back when I was in primary school and on the rare occasions when our teacher decided that the day was too nice to waste, being brought outside, sitting on the grass and discussing the class’s topic.  This was so invigorating!  Technology definitely has a very important place in learning today, but you just can’t beat socialising with your teachers and peers.

Overall, there are advantages and disadvantages to both online learning and classroom based learning.  Personally I feel that there should be a balance between both.  After all, there are huge benefits to using technology in a classroom, so who says that a teacher, tutor or lecturer can’t use both methods? ”

For some more reading on the different mediums and how it is effecting the way we teach/learn, please visit:



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Written By Eiren McLoughlin and Claire Murray, Creative Multimedia students at Limerick Institute of Technology Clonmel, along with their team Glen Sweeny and Inese Vecele.