With the internet becoming such an important part of daily life, many colleges offer online classes along with traditional meet in person classes. I am a big lover of online classes usually because I hate commuting to campus since I don't live on it and drive in when I need to go to class or do something on campus. I know so many people have questions about the differences, the benefits, the challenges, and the like when it comes to online classes so I'm going to break it down as someone who has taken five online classes along side traditional classes.
Traditional classes are just like what you grew up with while attending grade school and high school. You have a specific set of times and days where you attend the class. The class times tend to not change unless the professor cancels and so on.
I like traditional classes well enough and am used to them. I do notice problems with a lot of traditional classroom settings, one stemming from schedules. Many specialized courses only give you one or two sets of times and days which can be frustrating. What if you don't learn or focus well from 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm? What if you mentally don't function properly before 10:00 am and your class begins at 8:30 am? That isn't very fun and let me tell you, I'm one of those people who struggles to function before 9:30 am so having two 8:30 am classes ruined my life.
Another issue that I've noticed is the problem of lecturing. I learn best from engagement and not just listening to someone drone on for an hour or so on a topic. While I do remember a lot, my mind tends to wonder when a person just keeps talking without asking for questions or engaging those he or she is trying to teach. Many students retain information when they are forced to verbally explain a concept versus just listening and taking notes. Lecturing can happen in a massive lecture hall and also in a small classroom because it is a teaching style many professors lean on and have adopted.
All the online courses I have ever taken have resulted in a grade booster. Online classes can be harder than traditional classes because you have to force yourself to do the assigned reading, do all the work asked of you, and learn on your own. You aren't in a physical class so how much work you do and what you learn is completely dependent upon your own will.
What I like about the online courses is the ability to do work at virtually any given time as long as everything is handed in by the due date and time. I do some of my best work between the night owl hours of 11:00 pm and 2:00 am! Online classes allow me to work in that time frame where as a traditional class does not. Depending upon the course, your workload could be heavy or light. Some classes give weekly quizzes while others have discussion board pieces and so on.
For those who like autonomy and to work at varying hours, online classes work well. If you aren't diligent, don't take an online course. Instead of boosting your grade point average, it will lower it. You are more responsible for what you learn and all your work in a virtual setting.
Taking an online course or two mixed with traditional classes can actually be a great way to balance out your schedule. Online courses are strictly virtual which means you never have to physically be anywhere and can offer a break from the mundane need of sitting in a classroom, you can be doing your online coursework while sitting in a cafe or bookstore. Traditional classes will keep you on a schedule which will help with your online work. I've found that when I'm doing my homework for my traditional classes, I end up doing work for my online classes, too. I don't suggest taking all online courses, but mixing the two has worked well for me!