We are a group of undergraduate and graduate students from York University connected with each other through sociology professor Cary Wu’s research methods courses. Led by Dr. Wu, we recently came together as a virtualgroup to discuss what makes in-person classes unique and different from online-learning. Through this productive discussion, we were able to determine what it is about in-person classes that we long for. Here, we share with you seven main themes that emerged in our conversations.
1. Community and friendship
The physicality of in-person classes presents a sense of community that can easily be lost online. Students note that in the classroom they can make personal connections with like-minded peers who share their scholarly interests. This kind of bonding experience is not easily replicated online, as most students rarely converse with each other during and after an online class.
When you are all in the same physical setting, making connections feels natural and it is unquestionably easier to reach out to classmates and professors alike. In-person classes lead to organic discussions where students can bounce ideas off of one another. For remote classes, by contrast, the on-screen dynamic we have been thrown into is impersonal and largely anonymous. “There is no sense of friendship or relationship between the students that would usually be built in traditional in-person classes,” says one student. “I feel like it is a missed networking opportunity.”
“There is no sense of friendship or relationship between the students that would usually be built in traditional in-person classes.”
With regard to peer support, options are especially limited for students in online classes. Generally, when students have questions about course directions, university processes, Moodle, and so on, they will reach out to their peers. However, now that virtual classes have deprived students of the opportunity to build rapport with others, some of them do “not feel comfortable emailing a stranger.”
Graduate students are hit especially hard. One such student indicates that, “As a graduate student, we often don’t have much spare time for hobbies and seeing friends. Class time, group meetings, etc., provide us with what is often our only social interaction during a given week. The loss of this, I believe, is causing a lot of loneliness and grief that should not be understated.”
2. Presence of social cues
Social cues are often missed in online classes, and when we fail to pick up on these cues, we misunderstand people and situations. Students observe a missing “human aspect” in online interactions. “It feels as if I’m speaking to myself or filming myself rather than engaging in a conversation.”
Exacerbating the issue, students may turn off their cameras during an online class and, without these visual cues, they may not feel safe during classroom discussions and find it difficult to “develop a sense of trust and familiarity” toward their peers who, against the backdrop of faceless learning, feel more like “strangers.”
“Without in-person interactions with professors and classmates, some students can struggle to focus during class and refrain from asking questions.” Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash.
3. Sense of motivation
“I like seeing other people studying in the library because it gives me a sense of motivation and comfort,” observes one student. Without the option of studying in the library or other shared study space, students feel their motivation to complete their assignments and prepare for tests ebbing away. Indeed, the library seems to be a place that nurtures resilience and provides a sense of comfort and solidarity among students. Another student observes that seeing other students study makes them realize that they are not the only one struggling, and this drives them to do their best.
Graduate students also mention that staying after classes to meet with their professors allows them to connect with their professors in ways that additionally benefit their learning. “Sometimes it’s not only about learning the material. Establishing a good relationship with a professor allows me to connect with them in ways that makes me more eager to ask more questions and seek more answers.”
4. Staying focused
Engagement and focus are vital to the learning process, but are in poor supply under the regime of online learning. “Without in-person interactions with professors and classmates, some students can struggle to focus during class and refrain from asking questions.” More directly, online classes are rife with ready distractions, including “online notifications, chat functions on Zoom and other household or neighbourhood distractions that cannot be controlled.”
Just the belief that they would do better if schooling were done in-person may subliminally drive a self-fulfilling prophecy among students in which they feel that they are not well-equipped to study online and subsequently, care and work less. “Obviously, students have lectures, tutorials, assignments, tests, quizzes and exams they must do. However, there are more chances for you to push it off to another day because you do not have to be at the location personally.”
Graduate students are in the same boat. “The act of going into a specific space to study, with a group of people who can also be interacted with before and after, or during breaks, helps [them] to remain focused and interested in the topic of the class.”
At home, but no privacy? Yes, this has become the reality for many students. Virtual meetings in one’s home does not afford the same level of privacy that in-person and closed-door meetings do. More likely than not, family members will be home due to the pandemic, and hence, students may forgo making appointments due to privacy concerns, depriving them of human interaction.
Similarly, some students cannot talk about their issues from home because they do not wish to have anyone else listen in on what they have to say to their academic advisors. Students also tend to feel more supported and comfortable when they talk to their academic advisors and counselors in person.
“Being at home has taken away this sense of routine because there is no necessity to wake early to commute or be somewhere at a given time.” Photo by Catherine Heath on Unsplash.
6. Sense of routine
Perhaps the cornerstone of high achievement is discipline. Online schooling, however, lacks structure, and this can affect a student’s grade and experience of the course as a whole. One student says, “Being at home has taken away this sense of routine because there is no necessity to wake early to commute or be somewhere at a given time.”
More troubling are the opportunities for procrastination that asynchronous classes afford. Indeed, without scheduled times, reminders by the professor and regular conversations with classmates in the lecture hall, it is almost guaranteed that students will fall behind on course readings, content and lecture material.
This lack of structure can also cause a blurring of boundaries between home and schoolwork. “I work hard at school so I can relax at home,” but “being home, there are a lot of things that can distract you from starting work whether it be family who are also staying home, or other things.”
Staying focused is especially hard for students who do not have their own proper learning space to study at home. “It is hard to focus because I have no space in my room to put a table to study and in the living room there is so much noise going on. My only solution is to do my work and study at night when my family goes to bed.”
7. Just being on campus
The simple act of being on campus makes for a positive educational and social postsecondary experience. Campus provides a sharp distinction between work and home, rather than the nebulous space students are finding themselves in at present. “I envision my home to be a safe place, a place that I don’t have to stress in, where I simply relax and forget about the day.”
Campus also provides a necessary common ground for students who live far away from each other to meet and connect. Perhaps most importantly, campus provides the right kind of learning atmosphere to study, concentrate and complete assignments. One student notes, “I go to York every day, even when I don’t have class. I’d arrive at York every day at 7:00 in the morning and just study till my class started – most of my classes were in the afternoon and I would stay at York even after all my lectures and tutorials were done till around 5:00. York was the place where work got done.”
“Even thinking about how long we are going to have to put up with online schooling is scary … Is this going to be the new reality of learning for university students?”
Thus, for undergraduate and graduate students alike, online schooling seems to hinder both educational outcomes and social experiences. “Even thinking about how long we are going to have to put up with online schooling is scary … Is this going to be the new reality of learning for university students?”
Students struggle to remain focused, motivated, committed, and there is no longer a sense of familiarity and community among students and professors. This is not to say that online learning can only produce negative outcomes, but rather, to acknowledge the difficult challenges it poses for all students.
Yes, the global pandemic has given students the opportunity to contemplate their educational experience and truly appreciate the physical space and face-to-face interactions they have had with their peers and professors on campus. In the midst of the global pandemic, we are experiencing what it is like to be left to our own devices both figuratively and literally, and the consensus view among students is that meaningful social interaction stems from campus.
Why do students prefer face to face classes? ›
The Advantages of Face to Face Learning in the Classroom
You can access more information and richer understanding through teacher and other students' body language and voice. You have the opportunity to connect with, problem-solve, and network with other students from a wide range of backgrounds.
According to researchers, 65 percent of students preferred in-person instruction, compared to 18 percent who prefer a hybrid model and 9 percent who reported they'd rather learn remotely. However, the survey found significant differences between ethnic groups.Why physical classes are better than online classes? ›
A physical classroom has different materials and furniture in them. This includes projection screens, board, teachers, class monitors, etc. Moreover, many of the elements in a physical classroom bring positivity and concentration to students regarding studies. They also help the students to feel less distracted.Do students prefer online learning or traditional classroom? ›
73 Percent of Students Prefer Some Courses Be Fully Online Post-Pandemic. In a recent survey, nearly three-quarters of students — 73 percent — said they would prefer to take some of their courses fully online post-pandemic. However, only half of faculty (53 percent) felt the same about teaching online.Why do students prefer in person learning? ›
Students participating in in-person learning also benefit from more collaborative and hands-on work with their peers. Students can more easily ask questions and solve problems directly with teachers and peers in real-time.Why is in person learning better than online? ›
In-person learning allows you to interact with other learners and instructors in a physical setting. This provides opportunities to learn firsthand through seeing and acting. Face-to-face interaction is essential for greater clarity and understanding than online training.Do students learn better in person or online? ›
Scientists looking at the effectiveness of distance learning found that in some studies, distance education students performed slightly better in exams and grades than traditional classroom students, but that overall the average performance outcomes weren't that different.What are the benefits of in person learning? ›
The Pros of In-Person Schooling
In a traditional classroom, students naturally interact with one another and work on their social skills. Additionally, they engage face-to-face with their teachers, which helps teachers better understand if a student is struggling or falling behind.
You can understand better from 'real world' examples and stories from classmates and teachers. In face-to-face education, you learn new concepts and skills alongside other students in real life. It's easier to empathize and learn from one another because you're on the same learning journey.What is the difference between online class and face-to-face class? ›
Face-to-face learning methods usually only involve traditional learning materials such as textbooks and lecture notes. An online learning session is more interactive in comparison, with many different types of training.
What is the difference between online and in person classes? ›
What is the difference between in-person and online learning? Online learning is exactly what it sounds like: classrooms and subject materials are all covered virtually. In-person learning is the traditional way of learning, where students attend face-to-face classes at allotted times.Why offline classes are better than online for students? ›
Offline classes promote group projects with other students, and it helps the students to learn new skills. Online education makes students more introverted as they connect with other students only through online chatting, not face-to-face interaction.Why online learning is better than face to face? ›
Students Gain More Knowledge Than In Standard Classes
Because online courses provide students with full control over their studies, they can work at their own pace. Pupils, on average, work faster and absorb more information in online courses than they would otherwise.
- The presence of their students alone. ...
- The smiles on the faces of the students. ...
- The vibe the students give to their teachers. ...
- The lessons they prepare for their students. ...
- The interaction between teachers and students. ...
- The bonding moments they share.
The classroom environment is usually more dynamic and allows active debates and participation, whereas online learning may not have this much engagement. Online classes usually have one-way communication, in which the teacher provides required materials and instructions to the students.How do students feel about online classes? ›
A follow-up survey of students' experiences suggests that online students had trouble concentrating on their coursework and felt less connected to both their peers and instructors relative to their in-person peers. Cacault et al. (2021) also use an RCT to assess the effects of online lectures in a Swiss university.Why is physical learning better? ›
Classroom physical activity can benefit students by1,5: Improving their concentration and ability to stay on-task in the classroom. Reducing disruptive behavior, such as fidgeting, in the classroom. Improving their motivation and engagement in the learning process.Is face to face classes a good idea? ›
Face-to-face learning is very effective in a student's life. Yes, face-to-face learning is what is effective before and even at present, there is no doubt.What is the difference between online class and offline class? ›
Differences Between Online And Offline Learning
The biggest difference between online and offline learning is the location. With online learning, you can study anytime and anywhere, even in the comfort of your own home. Offline learning requires you to travel to a classroom location and arrive on time.
One of the most significant differences between face-to-face learning and online learning is that face-to-face learning is synchronous, or done at the same time. All instructors and students/classmates are present in face-to-face learning. With online learning, however, that is not necessary.
Which class is better offline or online? ›
Unlike online classes, offline classes provide a stimulating setting that combines both academic and practical aspects of learning. This contributes to the students' overall cognitive and skill development.Do students prefer offline learning? ›
The majority (62%) said online learning is much more convenient for them than in-person learning.What is the difference between offline and online? ›
The distinction between online and offline is conventionally seen as the distinction between computer-mediated communication and face-to-face communication (e.g., face time), respectively. Online is virtuality or cyberspace, and offline is reality (i.e., real life or "meatspace").What are disadvantages of online learning? ›
- Online Learning May Create a Sense of Isolation. Everyone learns in their own manner. ...
- Online Learning Requires Self-Discipline. ...
- Online Learning Requires Additional Training for Instructors. ...
- Online Classes Are Prone to Technical Issues. ...
- Online Learning means more screen-time.
- Online courses are convenient. ...
- Online courses offer flexibility. ...
- Online courses bring education right to your home. ...
- Online courses offer more individual attention. ...
- Online courses help you meet interesting people. ...
- Online courses give you real world skills.
Community and friendship. The physicality of in-person classes presents a sense of community that can easily be lost online. Students note that in the classroom they can make personal connections with like-minded peers who share their scholarly interests.Why do students struggle with online learning? ›
Given all the distractions that are only one click away, students are easily diverted from online study. Those distractions are designed to grab attention and maintain engagement. Distractions include everything from streaming services and social media to online games.Why are students less participation in online classes? ›
Students may no longer have an internet connection, a device to use, or a space to learn in. Some students may not be available to meet at specific times. Others may have a lot going on in the background that they're trying to block out or even hide from the rest of the class.Why do you prefer face-to-face? ›
Face-to-face communication is often more effective than written or audio-only conversations. This is because seeing one another allows us to pick up on nonverbal cues and body language. And because a lot of communication is nonverbal, being able to see each other helps us understand each other better.Do students prefer face-to-face or online learning Philippines? ›
94% of Filipinos in favor of full face-to-face classes — survey.
What are the reasons why face-to-face classes should be implemented? ›
Face-to-face classes boost academic performance, improve on mental health and well-being, and help develop social engagement skills. Furthermore, many of our bright yet disadvantaged students find it difficult to spend on devices and internet access.Why is talking in person better than texting? ›
Since texting is the simplest and least clear method, a serious conversation might not be appropriate in a text-only format. Talking in person can be uncomfortable, sure, but it can also lead to fewer misunderstandings and can be less time consuming than a long text thread.Why face-to-face learning is better than online research? ›
Face-to-face learning also lends a hand in organizing students and their studies. They are given the ability to interact with their instructors and other students. Yes, face-to-face learning still requires self-discipline, as students are still required to go to class and participate.What are the effects of face-to-face classes to students? ›
- Encourages and helps with Social Skills. Humans are social creatures and for a very good reason. ...
- Real-time Interaction. ...
- Lack of Distraction. ...
- Promotes Collaborative Learning. ...
- Encourages critical thinking. ...
- Teaches accountability and Responsibility.
Face-to-face learning methods usually only involve traditional learning materials such as textbooks and lecture notes. An online learning session is more interactive in comparison, with many different types of training.Is face-to-face classes good for students? ›
Face-to-face learning give the students ample room for cultivation and growth. The presence of a teacher with classmates is different. It involves the mental and emotional aspect of the students. Students can grow more within a group of people learning g together.