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Education: Internet Courses Versus Traditional Courses


Since the widespread availability of personal computers, people have found more ways to access life-altering educational opportunities. The field of education has been a major beneficiary of technological advancement. Universities have been expanding these technologies to increase the availability of classes in the form of online and distance learning, where a student can attend a class via the computer without stepping foot in a traditional campus setting.

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Since the advent of the online format, internet courses have become prominent as more learners opt for this flexible education format. Thus, the concept of online learning can be best discussed as one among many byproducts of an ongoing technological progression, which during recent decades started to gain an exponential momentum (Bailey 28).

This paper argues that internet courses are better and more effective than traditional college courses since the internet education platform is more affordable, flexible, non-authoritarian, nonlinear, and technologically friendlier than the traditional education platform.

Development of internet courses

Developing and providing online courses was made possible with the advent of the public Internet in the early 1990s. Some higher education institutions took advantage of the Internet as a medium for educational instruction during this period, but early forms of online courses typically involved only providing digital versions of textual material (Allen 21).

The consideration of how online courses should be produced is therefore important because it affects the quality and thereby the effectiveness of courses (Bailey 29). In 2000, the National Center for Educational Statistics reported that “91% of public four- year institutions and approximately 50% of all private institutions, representing a total of 1.6 million students, were currently offering distance education programs delivered via an online environment” (Bernard et al. 391).

At present, internet courses are offered alongside traditional college courses in nearly all higher learning institutions across the globe. Especially, the courses were designed to serve the interests of learners who could not create time for the traditional courses due to other commitments and long distance between the learning institution and the learner. However, at present, the reason for pursuing internet courses has expanded to include personal choice as the reason behind opting for internet learning.

Traditional college courses

The traditional college courses format of learning is as old as education itself. The traditional college courses are offered in college classrooms and involve direct and physical interaction between the educator and the learners. This format is the most common form of learning across the globe since it encourages elements such as socialization, direct consultation, and broad spectra of learning (Ramage, Bean, and Johnson 31).

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However, the system is not as dynamic and flexible as the internet courses (Allen 22). The traditional college courses may limit the learner in terms of location, cost, and time, since these constraints, are determined by the educator and the learning institution (Carr par. 5).

A critical review of internet courses and traditional courses

Students have many reasons for pursuing courses and with the ever-changing education environment. The learners understand that they may be able to attain degrees away from the traditional on-campus classroom settings. As noted by Clark-Ibanez and Scott, “the beauty of online learning is that distance can be spanned through multiple interactive means through the internet rather than through the static medium of a paper or a video distance education course” (38).

For these reasons, learners often turn to the online learning offers available from many universities that are designed to allow them to seek a degree while posing minimal interruption to their personal lives.

The online environment offers these students an alternative method to maintain other commitments, such as employment, raising family, and social activities while achieving their academic goals since the internet platform is very flexible (Carr par. 6). The flexibility of the internet platform enables a learner to attend to the above commitments while pursuing education.

The exponential progress in the field of informational technologies provides additional incentives for people to consider when enrolling in web-based academic courses. Due to the emergence of the internet, the concept of distance learning has effectively ceased being solely associated with the medium of conventional correspondence, that is, direct interaction between the learner and the educator.

At present, people can enroll in colleges and universities that are located at the opposite corners of the globe, as the internet effectively eliminates the prolonged time lapse in the process of students and educators communicating with each other. This development has made many sociologists go as far as suggesting that the very medium of a conventional face-to-face education has grown conceptually outdated (Erichsen and Bolliger 314).

E-Learning does feature several distinctive characteristics, which provide online students with a wide range of educational advantages over their peers in conventional traditional college courses.

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According to Erichsen and Bolliger, “in the network society, it is inescapable that the universities will have to deal with the information and communication technologies (ICT), not only for research but also for education. Some even think that universities as educational institutions will become virtual” (317). Interestingly, unlike traditional college courses, internet courses are flexible to an integrated learning process since it promotes limited dependence on the instructor (Carr par. 3).

Empirical review

As indicated in the ‘discursively-interactive’ learning theory, the currently applied approaches to providing students within the web-based formats are better than the traditional college courses. The discursively-interactive theory indicates that learner-educator interaction should remain proactive and limited to the scope of the lesson.

Unlike traditional courses, internet courses are very flexible. In fact, “this crucial meditational role of discourse in learning is the focal point of the revolutionary changes occurring in internet courses” (Ramage, Bean, and Johnson 43). Standard of online learning assumes participants’ continuous exposure to the complete change of education-related discourses.

These discourses include proactive instructor-learner interaction, assignments, and course syllabus, which enable online students to actively and critically engage with the received knowledge, relevant to their professional careers (Clark-Ibanez and Scott 38).

Motivational theories in education have been categorized as extrinsic and intrinsic. The advocates of an extrinsic approach towards motivating students suggest that the motivational incentives, provided by educators, must necessarily be of clearly within the scope of the coursework. On the other hand, the advocates of an intrinsic approach believe that students should be provided with psychologically sound incentives to proceed with their studies that they may remain thoroughly committed to studying.

The sound incentives are helpful in direct learner engagement in the education environment. In the provision of proper incentives to excel in academia, it is important to identify the factors that are capable of diverting students’ attention from studying (Bird par. 7). In other words, in order for educators to be able to ensure that their students do not consider the possibility of dropping out, teachers may never cease taking advantage of students’ ability to rationalize the consequences of their actions (Carr par. 2).

When motivation is utilized within the framework of web-based learning, there is an assumption that many online students’ have less commitment to studying because of teachers’ failure to provide them with the strong ‘external’ educational incentives. Nevertheless, given the fact that the concept of externally enforced educational discipline has never been an integral part of online learning, it is inappropriate to dismiss internet courses on the basis of motivation.

It is important to note that every “human being is seen as having an inherent motivational system and a regulatory system which by its ‘feedback’ keeps the organism ‘on the beam’ of satisfying his motivational needs” (Online College par. 9). Satisfying motivational needs mean that internet courses are more suitable for persons who have to balance several learning needs with private needs.

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As a matter of fact, from the theoretical and practical perspectives, it is apparent that internet courses are more favorable than traditional college courses since the online format integrates the elements of motivation and interactive at a secondary level besides allowing the learner to select the most flexible and manageable learning schedule (Selingo 22).

Moreover, internet courses are well integrated and appreciate the technological advancements in the educational and work environment. Apparently, a learner who successfully passes through online education is likely to be more flexible to the technological metamorphosis than the counterpart who passes through the traditional college classes since this platform is based on the application of technology (Ramage, Bean, and Johnson 33).

Merits of internet courses over the traditional courses

Non-linearity: As compared to traditional college courses, students pursuing online courses are in a position to exercise complete control over the structural organization of educational inputs such as meeting all the preset course requirements (Clark-Ibanez and Scott 28). This, in turn, allows them to adjust the process of obtaining educational content via the internet to match their intellectual learning with perfect precision (Clark-Ibanez and Scott 29).

Nevertheless, the fact that the opportunity of online learning negates geographical barriers and provides educational opportunities for the fully employed individuals is not the only reason why it grows increasingly popular with more and more people. The premise of online learning is thoroughly consistent with the foremost principles of individual-oriented education and establishment of preconditions for learners to be prompted to challenge prevailing ideologies (Ramage, Bean, and Johnson 35).

Flexibility: Due to the qualitative characteristics of a web-based educational medium, both students and instructors are provided with an opportunity to substantially increase the effectiveness of their daily schedules. The validity of this statement can be well explored in regards to the fully employed learners, who would be unable to pursue their much desired academic degrees if they were required to attend traditional “on campus” classes (Erichsen and Bolliger 317).

According to Clark-Ibanez and Scott, “online courses provide increased access to students who work multiple shifts or are unable to leave their homes. These students are allowed to engage in sociological discussions and material, even if they cannot attend class on campus” (35). Given the highly dynamic nature of today’s living, online learning feature does establish a full expansive legitimacy of this newly emerged educational approach.

Technological friendliness: Students’ exposure to the format of online learning does encourage them to strive to gain a basic user’s proficiency in the field of informational technologies (Ramage, Bean, and Johnson 37).

Thus, there are good reasons to believe that online students would be better adjusted to the realities of post-industrial living as compared to learners who pass through traditional college courses. The traditional learners will solely depend on the lecturer’s physical presence to get the content. Since the world is quickly moving towards technological orientation, the internet learner has higher chances of integration that the traditional learner (Ramage, Bean, and Johnson 39).

Affordability: The medium of online learning is not only capable of eliminating geographical obstacles on the way of students pursuing the academic degrees of their choice, but is also more affordable than the traditional college courses. When compared to the costs of pursuing an academic degree in the traditional learning environment, the costs of pursuing web-based academic degrees may well be described as being more friendly and flexible (Bernard et al. 392).

Unlike traditional college courses, internet courses have definite charges per academic year. Once payment for an academic year is printed, there are no further changes since internet courses do not require any physical materials. The element of affordability also applies in zero accommodation, meals, transport, and manual charges since everything is paperless and done from the comfort of an office or home (Erichsen and Bolliger 317).

Non-authoritarianism: Unlike the case within the operational framework of face-to-face education in the traditional college courses, the effectiveness of web-based learning strategies are assumed to be primarily dependent on instructors’ ability to collaborate with online students, throughout the course of a learning process. Basically, “teaching online courses require a new form of pedagogy; one that is more focused on the facilitation of a collaborative process than on the delivery of content” (Ramage, Bean, and Johnson 41).

This particular feature of the format of online learning is a confirmation that the internet course as an educational format is indeed relevant. Generally, under the internet courses, the learner is empowered to become a responsible individual who may operate without physical supervision (Clark-Ibanez and Scott 35).

Arguments supporting traditional courses over internet courses

According to Allen, “there is a 43% attrition rate for an online section of a statistics course versus 13% for its traditional format counterpart. For a managerial marketing course, the attrition rate was 24% for the online format versus a 9% rate for the traditional format” (74).

The nature of this phenomenon has been discussed from a variety of different perspectives, which can be generally categorized in terms of how they advance an ‘academic’ view on the nature of online student attrition. The proponents of the first view suggest that the actual reason why online students exhibit a clearly inadequate level of educational commitment is that the very format of online learning is inherently inconsistent (Bailey 42).

In the process of acquiring relevant web-based knowledge, online students are denied the opportunity to indulge in close and personal socialization with their instructors and peers (Carr par. 8). This significantly undermines the pace of learning progress on the part of online students. Moreover, the critics of e-learning suggest that the alleged advantages of internet course format are essentially mythological.

For instance, Ramage, Bean, and Johnson (2009) argue that “technological connectivity implies interaction among participants in online IS (information systems) courses… for online IS courses to be effective, they should embody a student-centered learning philosophy” (Ramage, Bean, and Johnson 47). Also, the argument against internet courses is the fact that e-learning turns technology into education (Selingo 27).

According to the antagonistic view, technology can only supplement educational strategies since it encourages students to spend too much time living in virtual reality. However, the effects of newly emerged informational technologies on students’ ability to cope with academic assignments have not been fully investigated.

Another factor, potentially capable of lessening the extent of academic enthusiasm on the part of online students, is that the medium of online learning presupposes the absence of physically present instructors. After all, such a presence has long become an inseparable element of an educational experience. A third factor, commonly believed to contribute to the attention of educational challenges, faced by online students, is the fact that the online learning format makes it harder for students to memorize the provided web-based content.

According to Ramage, Bean, and Johnson, the content should be emotionally pertinent “in order for students to be able to memorize the factual information relevant to a particular course they are taking” (49). The standard of online learning, however, is inconsistent with ‘emotional learning’ strategies. Online students interact with their instructors and their virtual classmates via the internet, which diminishes the emotional aspects of a learning process.

As distance internet courses develop, students and universities have had to make ongoing changes to facilitate issues that increasingly lead to attrition. Higher rates of attrition in online courses have plagued many institutions since the onset of the implementation of these types of programs could be attributed to challenges in security, learning styles, delivery of materials, policies, technologies and life-changing adaptations (Erichsen and Bolliger 314).

Reflectively, “while online social communication has become the main component of computer use among today’s students, the use of social communication in courses, especially in online courses, is limited, and facilitation of a social network as a part of course design in higher education is rarely considered” (Allen 33). Since internet courses expose learners to a highly integrated learning strategy, students will not be able to ‘process’ the acquired knowledge more effectively.


From the above discussion, it is apparent that internet courses are better and more effective than traditional college courses. The internet courses are more affordable, flexible with the schedule of students, promote proactive learner-educator interaction, and are consistent with the current technological advancement in the educational and employment environments.

Besides, internet courses allow learners from different parts of the globe to acquire academic certificates without having to be physically present in the process of learning. Since internet courses are flexible, it reduces linearity and authoritarianism in the learning process, especially in environments where the educator has difficulty in social interaction with learners. However, internet courses are rigid and may limit a learner’s social skills, since there is no physical interaction between students among themselves and the educators.

Thus, it would be inappropriate to consider online learning’s pitfalls as derived out of the very theoretical premise of this format of the courses. It is important to understand that, as of today, the medium of a web-based education remains utterly innovative. Actually, at present, the conventions of online learning continue to undergo a qualitative transformation, which in turn will make the internet courses even more effective and efficient than the traditional college courses.

Works Cited

Allen, James. Seizing the Opportunity: the Quality and Extent of Online Education in the United States, 2002 and 2003. Needham, MA: Sloan, 2005. Print.

Bailey, Craig. A new perception on the construct of distance learning. New York, NY: Miller & Associates Publishing, 2008. Print.

Bernard, Robert, Philip Abrami, Yiping Lou, Evgueni Borokhovski, Anne Wade, Lori Wozney, Peter Wallet, Manon Fiset, and Binru Huang. “How does distance education compare with classroom Instruction? A meta-analysis of the empirical literature.” Review of Educational Research. 74.3(2004): 379-439. Print.

Bird, Kendall. Online vs. Traditional Education: The Answer You Never Expected. 2014. 

Carr, Sarah. As distance education comes of age, the challenge is keeping students: Colleges are using online courses to raise enrollment, but retaining it is another matter. 2012. Web.

Clark-Ibanez, Marisol, and Linda Scott. “Learning to teach online.” Teaching Sociology. 36.1(2007): 34-41. Print.

Erichsen, Elizabeth, and Doris Bolliger. “Towards understanding international graduate student isolation in traditional and online environments.” Educational Technology Research & Development. 59.3(2011): 309-326. Print.

Online College. How Are Online Colleges Different From Traditional Colleges? 2013.

Ramage, John, John Bean, and June Johnson. Writing Arguments: a Rhetoric with Readings, London, UK: Longman, 2009. Print.

Selingo, Jeffrey. College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students, New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. Print.

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