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Advantages and disadvantages of online learning

Advantages and disadvantages of online learning

This article aims to identify and explain some of the advantages and disadvantages of online learning. There is no doubt that people learn in many different ways and they may have different learning needs due to the circumstances they are in. Some people may have enough time to go universities, while some others may not have at all. So, should they be out of learning? Certainly not!

The Internet has revolutionised many industries, and education is not an exception in this regard. Online learning is perhaps one of the greatest revolutions in contemporary education brought about by the Internet. Many traditional universities around the world offer short courses online now-a-days for absolutely free. Many also offer both Undergraduate and Postgraduate degrees online.  So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of online learning?

Advantages of online learning


Balancing family life with work commitments is quite a challenge for many people. On top of this, daring to take up educational challenges? Traditionally, most of the courses will require learners to attend lectures/seminars which may not be suitable for many people. Therefore, the most suitable alternative is online learning. It gives learners flexibility as to when to study and how to study. Students have the flexibility to study in their own time without any or minimal disruption to their other commitments.


A huge number of short courses delivered online are usually free. Most of the learning providers charge learners minimal fees for structured and accredited online courses. Even, most of the universities and colleges charge learners far less for online learning than for in-campus education. In addition, with no commuting costs, online courses prove to be a more affordable option than courses traditionally delivered in-campus.


Universities and colleges require learners to attend lectures/seminars very regularly and punctually according to their set time-tables. Learners usually do not have any say in it. Attending lectures/seminars for hours, sitting sometimes in uncomfortable chairs, and occasionally suffering from back pain by the end of the day are some of the challenging aspects of traditional learning. However, learners are not bound to physical class sessions when they opt for online education. All the study materials are available online which learners can easily access from the comfort of their home.


Online learning providers often offer hundreds of courses to address the diverse needs of learners. What can learners study online? The answer is perhaps ‘what can they not study’? Business, tourism, health and social care, teaching, nursing, neuroscience, history, maths, horticulture, and many other programmes are available online.

Disadvantages of online learning

Lack of recognition

Many of the short courses available online are not accredited by recognised awarding bodies. Therefore, what learners achieve by the end of the study may not be much helpful in furtherance of their academic and professional pursuits. However, it is worth mentioning that all the Bachelors and Masters degrees are awarded by traditional, recognised universities. Yet, learners need to be cautious as some of the online universities are self-certified and their certification is not recognised by regulatory bodies of the country of origin where the universities claim to have their correspondence address.


As many of the online programmes do not have set deadlines for completion, learners can take as much time as they want. In fact, how long it takes to complete a course really depends upon how much time learners are able to dedicate to their studies. This flexibility may sometimes cause procrastination as learners are not under any time pressure to complete their courses.

Little or no face-to-face interaction

Learners usually have no face-to-face interaction with their tutors when they opt for online learning. This is a problem particularly when it comes to studying complex subjects like accounting, maths, medicine, finance and so on. Interaction with fellow students is almost non-existent as well. Edmundson (2012) criticised online learning and called it a ‘one-size-fits-all endeavor’. To him, online learning tends to be a monologue and not a real dialogue.

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Last update: 27 May 2019

References/Further reading:

Edmundson, M. (2019) The trouble with online education, available at: (accessed 25 May 2019)

 Photo credit: Times Higher Education

Author: M Rahman

M Rahman writes extensively online and offline with an emphasis on business management, marketing, and tourism. He is a lecturer in Management and Marketing. He holds an MSc in Tourism & Hospitality from the University of Sunderland. Also, graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University with a BA in Business & Management Studies and completed a DTLLS (Diploma in Teaching in the Life-Long Learning Sector) from London South Bank University.

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