Online learning: Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Learning

Online learning has been around since 1989 when the University of Phoenix first offered bachelors and masters degree online. Online learning is not a new phenomenon, and remote learning has had an even longer history. 

As the Coronavirus pandemic swept across the world, schools have been forced to close, and students have had no choice but to embrace online learning as the new normal. Several months into this unprecedented, large scale adoption of online learning, it is important to assess the advantages and disadvantages of online learning. 

Are we compromising on the quality of education? If yes, are there tools to overcome the shortfalls of online learning?

This article will address the following:

  • Advantages of online learning
    • Flexible schedule and the freedom to pursue students’ passions
    • Increases accessibility to education
    • Trains students to be self-disciplined
  • Disadvantages of online learning
    • Lack of routine
    • Lack of motivation due to the absence of positive peer pressure
Image by Mudassar Iqbal from Pixabay

Advantages of online learning

1. Flexible schedule: More time to pursue passion projects and hobbies

Online lessons give students the luxury of planning their schedules around lectures. Since every child is different, this flexibility caters to the varying learning needs of students. Online learning also allows students to attend lessons from miles away, saving on the time it takes to travel to and from school. 

If lessons are adapted to a flip classroom format where students learn at their preferred pace through pre-recorded videos, students will have the power to fill up their days accordingly. Some may choose to clear all the classes they have to complete at the start of the week and spend the latter half working part-time jobs or honing their passion. Others may decide to pace themselves by sectioning off a few hours each day for learning. 

Ultimately, each student has the liberty to decide what is best for themselves. To some, online learning is a welcome change from the one-size-fits-all approach of face-to-face classes. 

2. Increases accessibility to education

Online learning can happen at any time and from anywhere. With no physical limit on class sizes coupled with the option to pre-record lessons, many proponents of online learning cite lower costs as a benefit. 

In a study conducted by Arizona State University, researchers found that four of six schools experienced a fall in average costs from offering online lessons. If these cost savings are transferred to students, the barriers to education will be significantly lowered for students from low-income households.

Students are busy people, and they often have to juggle academic, work, and extra-curricular responsibilities. Yet, many students are still keen on paying it forward by volunteering as peer tutors to underprivileged children. With online teaching tools such as HeyHi’s online whiteboard, student volunteers can offer free tuition to their peers despite their busy schedules. 

Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

3. Trains students to be self-disciplined

Students often take for granted all the time and effort that school administrators devote towards designing timetables and de-conflicting schedules. When students turn to online learning, there is no friendly school administrator who does the scheduling. Instead, students have to take charge of their timetables.

Through this scheduling process, students are challenged to cultivate self-discipline and time management skills, character traits that will serve them well even after graduation. 

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

Disadvantages of online learning

1. Lack of routine

Previously, we covered how online learning grants students the freedom to arrange their schedules. However, online learning and a flexible schedule can also be double-edged swords. 

When students are not disciplined enough to develop a routine, they are free to give themselves a break whenever they want to. However, once they go easy on themselves, they may never return to their initial level of enthusiasm. Without a routine that students adhere to daily, there may be pockets of time that could have been utilised for personal development but are wasted scrolling Instagram or watching Tik Tok videos. 

2. Lack of motivation due to the absence of positive peer pressure

We often deride peer pressure as the undoing of students. For instance, students may pick up vices such as drug abuse and alcoholism from bad influence. Some students may also obsess with being part of the ‘cool’ people at school. 

Despite these negative examples, have you considered that there could be positive instances of peer pressure as well?

In school, students are in the company of their peers who do well in sports, academics, and other extra-curricular activities. Surrounded by the success stories of their peers, students are motivated and driven to be the best version of themselves. 

Peer pressure is not all that bad when students’ mindset take on the lines of, “If they can do it, so can I.”  

Online learning removes students from such an environment and places them in a bubble. Without positive peer pressure, students may be less keen on pushing their boundaries to achieve what they otherwise would have attained in school.

Writing in the New York Times, Emily Barkley, a student from Lawrenceville, New Jersey, states that: 

Peer-to-peer interaction is a really pivotal part of education at my school, and it feels like it falls so short in our distance learning. […] I feel like my education is not being fulfilled. I have a significant lack of motivation and I miss the thought-provoking discussions I used to have with my classmates during physical school. I am really anxious to get back to school and really foster my love of learning through my peers.”

– Emily Barkley in the New York Times

Remote learning has led students to discover how reliant they are on their peers to enrich their learning experience. 

From Emily’s comment, it is obvious that student interactions contribute extensively to learning. Therefore, online learning platforms must create avenues to facilitate student-to-student and student-to-teacher interactions if they are to substitute for physical classrooms. 

Fortunately, interactivity is what the developers at HeyHi seek to address with their online whiteboard. 

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

Introducing HeyHi’s online whiteboard

Video conferencing helps students see and speak to their peers. Unfortunately, students tend to withdraw themselves and become passive learners in an online classroom. Most students would also mute their microphones and remain silent throughout online lessons. 

Rather than to continue with the norm of teachers talking to students with their microphones muted, HeyHi hopes to bypass this wall of silence by incorporating an interactive online whiteboard as its dominant feature. 

With HeyHi’s online whiteboard, students can collaborate and build on one another’s work on a shared whiteboard. Students can work together to complete worksheets, design mind maps, or review one another’s work. The possibilities are endless and subject to the creativity of teachers and students.

Now, imagine this scenario where you are a teacher who plans to teach a class on Mathematics. All of us know that for every Math question, there are multiple ways of solving it. A student may choose to draw models, use algebraic manipulation, or even ‘guess and check’ to derive a final answer. As teachers, you want your students to be aware of all the possible ways of tackling questions. However, time is a constraint, and it may not always be possible to go through every method in detail. So, what do you do in this case?

Well, if you are using HeyHi’s online whiteboard, it is possible to split the whiteboard into three sections. Students can form groups to work on different approaches simultaneously before coming together to share their worked solutions. 

At the end of the lesson, students can download everything on the whiteboard and archive it for revision. Through this process, students would have co-created a comprehensive answer sheet that covers a variety of solutions to one question! 

HeyHi's online whiteboard is compatible with android and apple devices
HeyHi’s online whiteboard and what students can do with it. Photo by HeyHi.

As students work together to pen down or illustrate their learning outcomes on the online whiteboard, students will hopefully break out of their shells and be more willing to participate in a virtual classroom. With greater levels of participation, students may once again be motivated by their peers to work hard and strive for excellence. 


This article has covered the following:

  • Advantages of online learning
    • Flexible schedule and the freedom to pursue students’ passions
    • Increases accessibility to education
    • Trains students to be self-disciplined
  • Disadvantages of online learning
    • Lack of routine
    • Lack of motivation due to the absence of positive peer pressure

Online learning can bring down costs, lower barriers to education, and cultivate good practices among students. However, its drawbacks lead some to bemoan the difficulty of ensuring a high level of engagement among students. With HeyHi’s interactive online whiteboard, these drawbacks may be alleviated and thus produce a more conducive online learning environment. 

HeyHi’s online whiteboard is available in your browser, and alternatively, you may also download the application for your Apple or Android devices. If you are ready to adopt HeyHi’s interactive online whiteboard to bolster your students’ learning experience, please request for a demo or even sign up for an account and experience the user interface for yourself!

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