Pros and Cons of Online Learning

Along with the development of technology, new ways of learning are becoming available nowadays. Online learning can serve as a brilliant example of this alteration. Whereas the majority of people believe that online learning is the most convenient and beneficial way of learning, others condemn that conventional learning cannot be substituted by any other alterations.

In order to find the answer I have reviewed several scholarly articles and books about online learning. However, the works of Terry Anderson and Jullie Harvard seemed to me as the most informative and appealing. The first work I would like to describe is the article by Jullie Harvard. Jullie is the author of accredited online schools; therefore, she is supposed to be an expert in this field. However, in her article she considers only the pros and cons of online learning environment which could be a limitation of her work.

“The Theory and Practice of Online Learning” by Terry Anderson, on the contrary, is a collection of several practitioners’ works in the field of distance education. The book consists of four chapters. The opening section provides the theoretical foundations by presenting the foundation of education theory for online learning. It opens the debate by discussing the contributions of behaviorist, cognitivist, constructivist, and connectivist theories to the design of online materials. The second chapter discusses the various factors that should be considered in developing the infrastructure for online learning, including planning, structural and organizational issues, the components of a system and the interfaces among them. The next section is concerned with operations, design, and production of quality online courses. It also provides the detailed look on the costs of online learning. The final chapter continues the discussion by stressing the importance of setting up a supportive learning environment for online learners, by providing some practical advice (Anderson, 2004). The authors of the book attempt not only to provide authors the necessary information and knowledge about online learning, but also share their expertise and concerns about it. I find both of these works extremely valuable for gathering the information for my mini-thesis.

There are many definitions of online learning in the literature, definitions that reflect the diversity of practice. Online learning as an innovative approach for delivering instruction to a remote audience, using the Internet as the tool (Khan, 1997, as cited in Anderson, 2004). However, online learning process should not been considered as the processes of presenting and delivering the information through the Web; the learner and the learning process should be the focus of online learning.

Admittedly, online learning is advantageous for many reasons. First of all, online learning is giving people new choices and flexibility with their personal learning. The only things people need are computer and Internet access which is increasingly becoming available in many countries. Such form of learning is quite beneficial for people who live in rural areas, for people who prefer or have to work instead of full-time study. Besides, it is very useful for women who are in their maternity leave and are eager to continue their study. Moreover, students have a chance to choose the courses they want to learn or repeat the material again and again before passing it. The last point I want to mention is that online learning is cheaper than the conventional one.

However, the biggest argument that raises doubt is the quality of courses offered by online learning. As the only method of communication with a teacher is through e-mails or chatting, students have lack of information as for the effectiveness of the courses. Furthermore, students cannot interact with their classmates, which is also unnatural way of communication. The flexibility of planning the schedule in online education could be the disadvantage for a person who cannot manage his or her time probably between work, family and study (Harvard, 2015).

All in all, there are both advantages and disadvantages of online learning environment. People choose either conventional or online learning according to definite circumstances and personal favours. However, if students choose to pursue their degree online, they should be highly motivated and well organized.


Anderson, T. (2004). The Theory and Practice of Online Learning, Athabasca, Canada: AU Press, 1200, 10011-109 Street Edmonto, p. 3-23

Harvard, J. (2015). Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Learning, Online University Degrees, retrieved from

5 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Online Learning

  1. Dear Samal, thank you for your thoughtful considerations about strengths and weaknesses of online education. I clearly see your arguments for both sides. You are right saying that from one side online learning is a convenient tool for getting education for people who cannot study face-to-face, however, from another side, there is an issue of the degree of quality of these programmes.
    The scholarly articles you have chosen seem very interesting and informative.It would be great for readers if you could have provided more detailed summary of them.
    Regarding your topic, what is your personal opinion on the quality of the online courses? What are the factors that influence on the quality of online course?


    1. Dear Miramgul, many thanks for your valuable comments! I will take into account your recommendations. I suppose that the quality of the online courses depend on the educational institution itself and teaching staff. We, as students of GSE could admit the high quality of online courses we are taught at Nazarbayev University. The thing I really like here is that we have intensive and distance courses altogether as it gives us a chance to keep in touch with professors and work on our own private environment. I think that you agree with me.


  2. Dear Samal,

    you clearly described the advantages and disadvantages of online learning. I totally agree, that the main advantage is an access to eduaction for all kinds of students despite their location, income or personal issues. As a mother of two children, I also find online learning convenient to keep on my study. I would like to add that online learning teaches us to be independent, self-disciplined and to manage our time effectively. In terms of quality of online learning, I agree that it is questionable since the artcile I read also raises this issue as the main hindrance for online learning.


  3. Dear Samal,

    Thanks a lot for touching upon lots of issues regarding the definition of online education and providing us with arguments for and against the benefits of such mode of education and its relationship to learner`s academic achievement. I completely agree with you that there is a lack of widespread agreement on the definition of online learning, what it does constitute and how it should be appropriately delivered and I guess this is due to the diversity of empirical studies and their practice as you have mentioned in your post.
    Concerning the benefits of online learning you have described you are right that this kind of learning is available 24/7 for everyone from any place as long as a person has Internet connection. Also another key advantage is that such courses cost less in comparison with traditional learning courses. However, now being a distant student I came to such conclusion that even the best online education/courses cannot fully substitute the interaction between a teacher and learner, so that traditional classes are not replaced with online learning.


  4. Samal,

    Your writing: Jullie is the author of accredited online schools….
    Me: Isn’t she an author of websites dealing with online education?? Also, use her surname, Harvard.

    Be sure to italicize the TITLE of books–you’ve got quotation marks around Anderson’s in the text and it isn’t italicized in the reference list.

    Your writing: Online learning as an innovative approach for delivering instruction to a remote audience, using the Internet as the tool (Khan, 1997, as cited in Anderson, 2004)
    Me: This is a fragment. Make sure to write complete sentences.
    Do you mean: Khan (1997) believes that online learning is an innovative approach for delivering instruction to a remote audience, using the Internet as a tool (as cited in Anderson, 2004). This is a complete sentence. And look how I cited it!

    This is so nicely organized and easy to read that I think it deserves the top score even though there are a few format problems.

    5 out of 5


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