What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Studying Online? Monday, 14 August 2023

When it comes to studying, traditional school and educational settings aren’t the only options for students. With distance learning becoming more and more popular, you may be wondering whether studying online is a suitable option for you or your child.

To help you make the right decision for you and your academic journey, we have created a blog post dedicated to exploring the advantages and disadvantages of studying online.

What is distance learning?

Distance learning or online learning is the process of gaining knowledge and expertise through online resources. These resources could include a range of online courses, virtual classrooms, an online tutor and more. The education is delivered without the need to physically travel to another location and can be studied from the comfort of your own home.

Distance learning allows you to progress academically, and to fit your studies around your lifestyle. It has often been perceived as an option for mature students (including full-time employees who wish to progress in their company).

However, there’s nothing to stop school-leavers from taking up distance learning. In fact, it can make sense financially, while the flexibility (to also work part-time, for instance) may appeal. – UCAS


Advantages of online learning

  • Wide range of courses: A common misconception when it comes to studying online is that course topics are limited. In reality, whether you are interested in pursuing online GCSEs, gaining A levels or working towards an advanced degree, there are countless subject areas for all. Take a look at NEC’s offering for example.
  • Flexibility: Perhaps one of the biggest advantages to online learning is that it enables students to create and maintain their own learning schedule. This flexible approach means students can study around other commitments and still have the opportunity to study towards a qualification. As different individuals find studying better at different times in the day or over a particular time period, online courses suit many different needs.
  • Personalised learning experience: Online courses can help create a more personalised and student-focused learning experience. Having online resources and tutors can provide a virtual learning experience that utilises interactivity and engaging content that suits your learning style. With resources being online, this also allows students to be able to refer back to content when needed. 
  • Diversity: Online courses allow students from an array of cultural backgrounds and locations to study. Joining courses where students can engage from all over the world creates an impactful and enriched learning experience.
  • Cost effectiveness: Whilst the majority of recognised courses cost a fee, choosing to study online can allow you to financially save in other areas of your life. From travel expenses, textbooks and accommodation, online courses can be a more affordable academic option. It’s worth keeping in mind that many course providers offer payment plans to help spread the course cost over a period of time.


Disadvantages of online learning

  • Technical challenges: It goes without saying that if you are relying on online classes to gain a qualification, it’s imperative that you have a strong internet connection and access to a reliable laptop, computer or tablet. There’s nothing worse than losing your unsaved work when the internet falls out of range.
  • It can be lonely: Whilst some learners work best without the distraction of people around them, others may find studying online lonely due to the lack of social interactions compared to a school or other educational settings. If you are an extrovert who feels they work best around others, you may find distance learning more challenging.
  • You have to be self-motivated: Unlike educational settings, there will be no constant figure encouraging you to put your head down and keep pushing through your studies. Motivation and the ability to be strict with yourself when distractions crop up is essential for home learners wanting to gain a qualification.
  • Feedback takes time: Even if you have been provided a course tutor, it’s not always realistic to assume that feedback will be given in a short space of time. Some course providers will give an estimated timescale of when tutors will respond to your questions and enquiries, but it’s important to keep in mind that most tutors will have other commitments and won’t be able to respond as quickly as they would in a classroom.

Are online course qualifications recognised?

When looking at courses and thinking about the qualification you want to achieve, think about what you want to do with that qualification. Will this qualification help you start your career, will it help you progress into studying a degree? If you answered yes, the qualifications you gain at the end of your studies need to be recognised by a reputable accredited body. 

We recommend researching not only the course you are interested in, but the course provider as well. Don’t be afraid to ask the provider to verify the credibility of their course qualifications before making a long term commitment. 


There’s no denying that online learning has many advantages and studying online can be a great option for many students who want to learn with more freedom. We hope that this post has helped you make an informed decision whether online learning is suited to you or not, but if you would like to talk to someone about your options, feel free to get in touch with NEC. 

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