Non-traditional Distance Learning

How Does Online Instruction Measure Up to Face-to-Face

Online instruction is becoming increasingly popular, but can it measure up to face-to-face teaching in terms of quality? While there are some important differences between online and face-to-face instruction, both modes of teaching are able to deliver a high-quality learning experience to students. Here are some of the key differences between the two types of instruction, which instructors must be aware of in order to deliver a good learning experience to students.

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Interaction

One of the main differences between online and face-to-face instruction is that face-to-face lectures involve students and instructors interacting in real time. In contrast, online students work through lectures and other teaching material at their own pace. They ask questions on online discussion forums and must wait for an instructor or another student to respond.

Some might see the delay in interaction as slowing down learning, but in fact instructors can use it to their advantage. When they present complex ideas in lectures, instructors can invite students to pause the video and think about the information presented for a while before carrying on. This allows students to learn at their own pace, ensuring no one is left behind.

Delivering Knowledge vs. Facilitating Learning

When switching from delivering face-to-face to online instruction, it is important to reconsider the role of the instructor. Whereas the job of a traditional lecturer is to deliver knowledge to a large group of students who for the most part sit quietly, an online instructor acts as a facilitator, encouraging students to interact with each other to discuss the material. While the instructor has an important role in guiding discussions, they are not the only source of knowledge, as students are encouraged to bring their own ideas and experiences to the discussion. This mode of learning can help to encourage independent thought and greater engagement with the material.

Which Mode of Learning Better Serves Students?

The environment in which a student is most likely to thrive depends on that individual’s study preferences and habits. Many students prefer face-to-face learning environments because they are already familiar with that style of learning. Students know how to behave in a classroom, whereas people taking online classes for the first time may not know how to make the most of the learning opportunities that the platform offers. To ease the transition, instructors must ensure that students know how to access all learning resources and encourage them to join in discussions with their peers on online discussion boards. This information can come in the form of a pre-course video that gives essential orientation information, and includes a quiz at the end to ensure students have understood.

Performance of Online vs. Face-to-Face Instruction

While studies into the effectiveness of online vs. face-to-face instruction have been limited, those that have been carried out suggest that students who take all or part of their class online perform better than those who only have access to face-to-face instruction. Some studies found that the total time spent studying was one of the most important factors that affected how well students performed. Therefore, both face-to-face and online instructors can help their students do well by setting homework to encourage them to spend more time reviewing the material and putting the ideas they have learned into practice.

One tangible example of an institution that has successfully implemented best practices is Ohio State University–Columbus. This institution is ranked number one in a US News list of Best Online Bachelor’s Programs. On average, each instructor has eight years of online teaching experience. The school finances online instructor training, and requires all instructors to undergo continuing online instruction education. The eventual outcome is that online learners get a better experience, which encourages student retention.