Are Online Courses Worth It? Evaluating Their Pros & Cons

Online Courses

Online learning has seen a boom in recent years, and there are many people now turning to digital learning as a way to gain their education!

However, many also wonder whether online courses are worth it. 

While there are certainly many pros such as increased flexibility and accessibility, many people worry that straying from traditional learning may do more harm than good.

To help you determine whether online learning is right for you, this guide will break down everything you need to know about online courses and whether they are worth it!

We’ll discuss:

  • The rise of online learning
  • The pros and cons of online learning
  • What the research says about online learning
  • A comparative analysis of online vs traditional learning.

Let’s get into it!

The Rise of Online Learning: A Contextual Overview 

As the capabilities and accessibility of the internet and technology have increased, so have their use as a tool for education. 

The world has slowly but surely been brought into the digital age, and it has brought nearly every possible sector with it – including education. 

Many other parts of our lives have become digitized, so why not education as well?

Technology now plays a crucial role in education, allowing for learning to be accessible and widespread. 

Online courses have emerged as a leading way for people to embark on their learning journeys, allowing them to enjoy a quality education no matter where they are in the world.

 Previously, we needed to make our lives fit around our learning – but with online courses, we can now fit our education around the rest of our lives!

This has created a vastly different landscape for education, and it will be interesting to see how it continues to develop alongside the tech industry. 

Pros of Online Courses 

The reason why so many people are turning to online courses is because they have so many advantages. 

Here is a breakdown of the best and most attractive benefits of partaking in online courses: 

1. Flexibility in scheduling

One of the main pros of online courses is how flexible they are!

Unlike traditional courses where you must abide by set class times, online courses allow you to take part when it suits you the most, as they are largely remote. 

Gone are the days when you had to plan your life around your classes; with online courses, you can plan your classes around your life. 

2. Wide range of course options

In the past, the courses you have been able to take have been largely limited to what is available near you in your city (or to whichever city you were willing to travel to.) 

However, due to the remote nature of online courses, they can be enjoyed from any location – which opens up many doors and allows for a much wider range of course options to become available to many people!

3. Accessibility from anywhere

Whether you’re taking your year abroad or are stuck at home looking after the children, you can take part in your online courses!

As they are run via the internet, as long as you have a good connection, your online courses are accessible from anywhere.

online course sessions

4. Cost-effectiveness

Online courses do not garner the same amount of costs as in-person courses. 

There is no lecture theater or hall to rent, marking work takes less time as it is all digital, and more people can take part – all of which brings the overall cost of online courses down.

5. Self-paced learning

Due to the fact that online learning is extremely flexible, it also means that participants can learn at their own pace!

Instead of being bound to whatever pace your professor or lecturer chooses to take, you can choose to complete the coursework at whatever pace suits you. 

6. Interactive multimedia resources

Online courses open a world of resources that otherwise would not have been available. 

As the courses are taught completely digitally, course creators and facilitators have had to get creative with how they present their resources. 

As a result, most online courses feature a wide range of interesting and interactive multimedia resources including videos, games, and interactive digital workshops. 

7. Global access to top institutions

Many of the world’s top educational institutions are extremely exclusive and can only be accessed by a select group of people. 

However, with online courses, these institutions have been able to allow people all over the world to participate – offering them an opportunity that would never have arisen had it not been for online learning!

8. No commute required

One of the best things about taking an online course is the fact that it can be done from anywhere, which completely cuts out any lengthy or costly commute. 

Often, the commute to class can be one of the biggest deterrents from taking a specific course or paper. However, with online courses, this is never an issue.

9. Opportunity to develop digital skills

While we spend a lot of time using technology, we can always be better – and online learning allows for growth and development in this area!

Using technology in a different way (such as for educational purposes) allows users to expand their digital skills. 

10. Convenient for working professionals

There has long been a sentiment that it is not possible to work a professional job and take classes simultaneously, mainly due to time constraints and clashes. 

However, with online learning, working professionals can continue their education on their own time and still work their normal hours.

Cons of Online Courses

While the pros of online courses are abundant, there are also some drawbacks. 

Here, we will discuss the main cons that come with taking online courses and any disadvantages that they may present:

in person classes

1. Lack of in-person interaction

While some people love the 100% remote nature of an online course, many struggle with the lack of in-person interaction!

As humans, we are social creatures and thrive off of interacting with each other to further our learning journey. 

When taking an online course, you are basically on your own the whole time – which can prove to be a challenge and a setback for some. 

2. Limited hands-on or practical experience

Many in-person classes will offer hands-on or practical experience as a part of the course, however, this is simply not a possibility with online courses. 

As online courses are completed remotely, it is hard to ensure students can carry out supervised practical work. 

In some fields, this does not matter! However, if it is a course involving a practical skill such as a trade, online learners may feel that they’re missing out on a lot of vital experience. 

3. Potential for distractions at home

When you are in a lecture theater, classroom, or any other educational area, the space around you is designed and optimized for learning. 

There are as few distractions as possible, and the attention of your teacher and classmates is often enough to keep you focused. 

However, online courses are usually taken from the comfort of your home, which creates a much larger potential for distractions and potentially inhibiting your learning. 

4. Limited networking opportunities

A big part of landing a dream job or breaking into a specific career these days is networking! 

While your skills and attributes may get you in the door, knowing the right people is what will ensure you thrive. 

Many people take the opportunity to network during classes, as they are surrounded by people moving into the same industry as them. However, online classes do not foster this environment.

5. Possible technical issues and connectivity problems

While we love and rely on technology to a great degree, things can go wrong – and when our tech is down, it can become impossible to do anything!

Online courses are far more vulnerable to technical issues, and if there is a problem with your connection, it may be impossible to take the course and do any work. 

6. Less personalized support and feedback

A teacher of an online course will not be seeing their students themselves and instead act as more of a facilitator.

This means that there is less opportunity for personalized support and feedback, which can be crucial to some students who rely on this feedback to improve and grow. 

Effectiveness of Online Learning: What Research Says

While there is a lot of discourse around online courses based on word of mouth and people’s own experiences, there is also a great deal of research on the matter! 

Luckily, most of the research is extremely positive. 

One empirical study of dental students in the United States looked at the performance of the students taking online courses during the Covid 19 pandemic. 

The study compared their online course results with the results of previous year groups who completed the courses traditionally and concluded that the students did just as well as (if not better than) those who took the courses in person! 

Another study produced by Kent State University produced a similar result and concluded that e-learning environments were just as effective as traditional classrooms. 

This study analyzed a great deal of the existing literature surrounding online learning, taking into account the findings of other studies and their own research before coming to this conclusion. 

So, it can be said with relative confidence that the research suggests that online courses can be just as effective (if not more effective) than traditional in-person lessons1 

This only works in the favor of online courses, as it proves they are an effective and viable learning option.

Comparative Analysis: Online vs. Traditional Education

While online and traditional education have the same fundamental goal, many comparisons can be drawn between the two. 

To begin with, the teaching style in online and traditional courses is vastly different. 

Traditional, in-person courses require the teacher to take a much more hands-on approach as they are present with the students and are guiding them through the course themselves. 

However, online courses are often done at one’s own pace, which means the teacher or facilitator has less to oversee and therefore takes a much more hands-off approach. 

This also means that student engagement differs between the two. 

Interactive class sessions are unlikely to happen in an online course as students engage with the material independently instead. 

In a traditional sense, student engagement is driven by the in-person class time – making for a vastly different experience between the two options. 

The learning outcomes and goals from in-person and online courses will also likely differ, even if they are teaching the same subject!

A traditional course will likely have the end goal of students sitting some sort of closed book, timed exam. 

However, this is hard to facilitate during an online course, and the learning outcomes are instead more likely to focus on cementing the knowledge as it is learned each week rather than simply teaching all the material in one go. 

However, just because each learning type is different does not mean that one is better than the other!

These different outcomes and approaches will suit different people; after all, learning and education are not one-size-fits-all gloves. 


Online courses are revolutionizing the educational and academic world by making learning accessible, flexible, and engaging. 

There are so many pros that come with online courses including a flexible schedule, customizable workload, and the ability to work at your own pace!

However, some people worry that the lack of human interaction and the teaching style that occurs as a result of remote learning inhibits the effectiveness of these courses. 

Nevertheless, research suggests that online courses work just as well as in-person ones!

The bottom line is that it is all about you and your learning needs. Some people will love taking online courses, and some will hate it. 

However, if you are someone who wants to fit their education around a busy schedule and work at their own pace, then online courses can certainly be worth it for you!

Akshay Vikhe

I am an aspiring Data Scientist with a huge interest in technology. I like to review courses that are genuine and add real value to student’s careers. Read my story

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Online Courseing is a comprehensive platform dedicated to providing insightful and unbiased reviews of various online courses offered by platforms like Udemy, Coursera, and others. Our goal is to assist learners in making informed decisions about their educational pursuits.
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