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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsPAUL BRADDOCK: In this video, we're going to be talking about the differences between learning online and learning face-to-face in a classroom. In doing so, we'll talk about some of the affordances or benefits of learning online. One key characteristic of learning online is flexibility. Learners can decide when and where to participate. This is obviously great and gives opportunities to a lot of people who might otherwise not be able to study or to learn a language or any other topic. Another characteristic of online learning is that it's very learner-centered.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 secondsStudents can choose to study the topics or the themes that are relevant to them, rather than having to engage in broad themes that maybe they're not interested in or that have no relevance to their learning. Discussions is another big part of online learning. Usually, these are text-based and asynchronous. So they don't happen in real-time. What this does or one of the benefits of this, is that it helps to neutralise dominant personalities. So weaker students or less confident students are able to participate and contribute to the discussions. Similarly, asynchronous online discussions allow for learners who are perhaps less confident in a communicative situation, time to think about their responses and then give measured and considered answers and replies to discussions.

Skip to 1 minute and 33 secondsOne of the great things about asynchronous discussions, as well, is that they're often archived. So from a learner's point of view, you can go back into the discussion and look through it to pick up areas of language or key vocabulary, key grammar, and key sentences that will help you with your learning. Of course, there are also many technologies available now that allow for discussions to happen in real-time through video conferencing. So the discussion forums in online learning is not always an asynchronous experience. Obviously, with online learning, there's more emphasis on taking responsibility for your own learning.

Skip to 2 minutes and 8 secondsYou, essentially, are responsible for directing where and how often you learn and access the resources that are available on the courses that you're studying. So you need to be careful that you have the time to do that and that you're able to manage the time effectively and fit it in with your life. This also applies to finding resources on the web. Obviously, there's a lot of material available for you on the course. But you also need to find your own material. And that can be time-consuming, so you need to be aware of the time it takes to do that. And so in online learning, the social bonds are perhaps weaker.

Skip to 2 minutes and 43 secondsSo you don't have the same feeling that you have in the face-to-face environment, where the community feel or the group cohesion is perhaps stronger. Another aspect of online learning is that tutor support is not immediate. And students who are more accustomed to learning in a face-to-face environment might find this difficult to adjust to initially. Obviously, the feedback is there, but it's not the moment you need it, perhaps. So obviously, as you can see, there are a number of pros and cons of online learning and face-to-face learning. Which option you choose, whether you decide to go purely for online learning or face-to-face or a combination in blended learning, depends on what you want to get out of the experience.

Differences between online learning and f2f learning

What are the differences between online learning and learning face-to-face (f2f) in the classroom?

In this video, Paul Braddock talks about some of the key benefits of online learning and some of the issues to consider when comparing online and face-to-face modes of learning and teaching.


What do you think is the key difference between learning online and learning in a classroom?


Further reading

Barrera, A., Ho, C., Garcia, I., Traphagan, T., Chang, Y. (2003) Online vs. Face-to-Face Learning, College of Education, University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved March 2015.

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This video is from the free online course:

Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching

University of Southampton