Traditional or Online Education: What Is Better?

Since education is valuable for people, some of the most effective learning strategies were developed over a long-time span, giving rise to traditional education. However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the learning environment has drastically changed, and online delivery of education has become more in demand. With the changing times, learning institutions that embrace new learning methods have been established to promote the modern way of teaching, highlighting the advantages of distance learning. Now, with the rise in popularity of online education, debates about whether it can replace traditional approaches have been initiated in society. In evaluating the relative advantage of each method, two primary facets of education must be evaluated: the learning aspect and the social aspect. The evaluation of both options takes into account the aspects of students’ engagement, academic performance, personal safety, and sociability. While online learning can meet certain educational goals and may remain one of the options for traditional education, it at present cannot be the universal learning method. Ultimately, while some people may disagree with this statement, traditional education delivery methods should remain at the center of learning.

The first factor proving that the focus should be placed on traditional methods of teaching is related to academic performance and drop-out levels. Since customizable and hands-on approaches utilized in offline education enhance the learning process by making it more engaging, students become more involved in classroom activities and want to achieve better results (Roberts). Consequently, according to Bettinger and Loeb, in-person education was shown to yield substantially higher GPAs and lower drop-out rates than online education (3). This advantage may be due to the well-tested, broad range of educational strategies available to teachers for attending to students’ specific needs and skill sets (Woldeab et al. 2). Moreover, since STEM majors often rely heavily on laboratory experiments, fieldwork, and other hands-on experiences, students manage to receive higher grades because it is easier for them to complete the assignments offline (Paul and Jefferson 7). As mentioned by Roberts, traditional teaching approaches allow students to improve their grades by 30%, while Bawa indicates that such classes have a 10% to 20% higher rate of successful retention (1). Therefore, precisely offline education can provide students with all the necessary conditions leading to reduced drop-out rates and increased academic performance.

Another crucial aspect provided by traditional education is inter-student socialization: since it allows children to grow up and form healthy connections, traditional forms of education are paramount for students. An example that would illustrate the aforementioned idea is that primary school curricula rely on the social interaction between children to promote learning and develop social skills in children (Woldeab 4). Furthermore, students build friendships and social contacts within the school setting, allowing them to cope with anxiety around peer relationships and academic expectations. The resulting development of autonomy and self-reliance allows students to handle major school transitions much more effectively and avoid isolation, which is one of the causes of decreased academic performance (van Rens et al. 43). As Woldeab et al. content, online learning cannot provide children with such experiences (17), but traditional education can since the students spend time in the same physical spaces. Thus, in the long term, they may feel emotionally attached to the institution, which will increase their motivation and develop the necessary social skills. Hence, another aspect where traditional learning outperforms online learning is social interaction.

Nonetheless, some may argue that traditional learning should no longer be the primary form of education and has to be replaced by online classes. The reason for their belief is that, compared with distance learning, it does not provide the required safety for society in the context of COVID-19 restrictions. Nowadays, personal safety should be the most important aspect of adults’ and children’s lives. As Woldeab et al. argues, education should remain safe: nobody should risk their lives or health to acquire it in traditional ways when the online alternative is available (7). It is hard to disagree that children find it quite challenging to maintain social distancing at school, sanitize or wash hands frequently, and avoid contact with those who get sick. When a student is diagnosed with coronavirus, they have to skip classes, negatively affecting their academic achievements. What is more, students’ attentiveness may decrease because they get anxious and can only think about not becoming infected. Consequently, for many people, the inability of traditional classrooms to provide children, teenagers, and teachers with adequate safety measures proves that this way needs to be replaced with online education.

Despite the fact that the argument outlined above seems strong, the reason behind it can be refuted. Overall, children and teenagers get sick quite often, and it is common for them to sometimes skip classes due to not feeling well – the COVID-19 pandemic is not the only risk they encounter every day. What is more, school is not the only place where a student can become infected, and avoiding classrooms does not guarantee that a teenager can avoid coronavirus. Furthermore, primary interventions like temperature measurements and additional sanitizers can solve the issue, increasing safety levels at schools and allowing students to socialize and get engaged in classroom activities. Finally, the primary reason, namely, COVID-19, is a temporary threat that will decrease its impact. Thus, there is no need to abandon traditional teaching methods and with them, increased academic performance and socialization. Therefore, despite being a good compromise when it comes to health and safety, online learning methods are not more effective than traditional methods.

To draw a conclusion, one may say that although the debate about whether traditional learning is better than online education is still ongoing, traditional methods should remain at the center of education delivery. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that online learning presents a compromise between learning effectiveness and safety, helping mitigate educational challenges during a lockdown. Moreover, the online option is viable for those unable to attend classrooms due to disabilities or conflicting work schedules. However, in-person education was shown to yield much higher academic performance, especially for students already experiencing challenges at school. What is more, traditional delivery is vital for STEM majors who rely heavily on hands-on experiences. Another major advantage that traditional education provided was socialization opportunities for the students, which prepared them for difficult transitions throughout childhood and adolescence. Given the pitfalls of online education methods in terms of student engagement and academic performance, it is preferable to emphasize traditional education and incorporate some of the best-performing online elements when needed. Until then, traditional learning remains superior due to its social aspects that cannot be matched in online settings and its personalized approach to subject delivery.

Works Cited

Bawa, Papia. “Retention in Online Courses: Exploring Issues and Solutions—A Literature Review.” Sage Open, vol. 6, no. 1, 2016, pp. 1-11.

Bettinger, Eric, and Susanna Loeb. “Promises and Pitfalls of Online Education.” Economic Studies at Brookings, vol. 2, no. 15, 2017, pp. 1–4.

Paul, Jasmine, and Felicia Jefferson. “A Comparative Analysis of Student Performance in an Online vs. Face-to-Face Environmental Science Course From 2009 to 2016.” Frontiers in Computer Science, vol. 1, 2019, pp. 1–7. DOI.org (Crossref), Web.

Roberts, Daniel. “ELearning Statistics 2022.” ThinkImpact, 2021, Web.

van Rens, Marlau, et al. “Facilitating a Successful Transition to Secondary School: (How) Does It Work? A Systematic Literature Review.” Adolescent Research Review, vol. 3, no. 1, Mar. 2018, pp. 43–56. Springer Link, Web.

Woldeab, Daniel, et al. “A Systematic Meta-Analytic Review of Thinking beyond the Comparison of Online Versus Traditional Learning.” E-Journal of Business Education & Scholarship of Teaching, vol. 14, no. 1, 2020, pp. 1–24.

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ChalkyPapers. "Traditional or Online Education: What Is Better?" May 3, 2023. https://chalkypapers.com/traditional-or-online-education-what-is-better/.