Real Life vs Virtual World: Choosing Between Online Learning and Classroom Learning

Whether you’re a veteran teacher, finishing up your student teaching and ready to graduate, or just starting to look into the teaching profession, you may be trying to decide whether online learning and teaching or classroom learning and teaching is right for you. Choosing between the two teaching options can be quite challenging.

Until just a few years ago, this wasn’t a debate at all; classroom teaching was practically the only option there was. However, now with all the new virtual teaching programs and schools that are out there, teachers have a tough decision to make: online teaching or classroom teaching. Not sure which is right for you? Keep reading, and we’ll share some pros and cons for each teaching and learning option that you can weigh to help make a decision that is right for you.

Online Learning

Online learning is a form of teaching where teachers teach their students in a virtual classroom over the internet.


  • Teachers can teach from anywhere they have a computer and internet access.
  • Online teaching offers more flexibility regarding schedules.
  • There is less planning and prep work associated with online teaching.
  • Online teachers don’t spend as much time outside of their teaching hours doing work to get ready to teach or assess students.
  • Teachers are only responsible for working with one student or a small group of students at a time.
  • Disruptive or off-task students don’t impact the other students as much with online teaching.

It allows teachers to connect with students from the comfort of their own homes or any other place with internet access. Teachers can teacher students located in other parts of the country, or even the world. Many online teaching jobs that are available are for teaching English to students in China or other countries.

One of the biggest benefits of online teaching is the flexibility. Teachers have much more control over the schedule and can choose the times that work best for them. Teachers will also be able to alter their schedule much more easily than a classroom teacher if something comes up and their availability changes.


Online teachers have much less planning and preparation to do than classroom teachers. Most online teaching companies prepare the lesson plans and course materials for teachers, so teachers are only responsible for familiarizing themselves with the material, creating a few accessories to go with the lesson, and delivering the material to students.

Class sizes are significantly smaller with online teaching. Many teaching platforms offer one-on-one classes, while others may have groups of about four students. Either way, it is significantly fewer students than the 20 to 30 plus classroom teachers must teach at one time. Teachers also don’t need to worry as much about disruptive students throwing off their whole lesson.


  • Online teachers are generally paid less than classroom teachers.
  • Health insurance and pensions aren’t included with online teaching positions.
  • Teachers don’t have other colleagues to collaborate with.
  • Some teaching methods aren’t as effective through a computer screen, so teachers may feel more limited in what they can do to help their students.

There are a few downsides to online learning and teaching to consider as well. First, online teachers typically aren’t paid as well as classroom teachers. At most, most online teachers may earn between $25 and $30 an hour before tax. However, many earn less than this, depending on their experience and qualifications. Online teachers also aren’t offered benefits or pensions, as many classroom teachers are.

Online teaching is also not as stable as classroom teaching. Some online teachers have trouble filling their schedule, so they are left with many unpaid hours, which will negatively affect their total earnings.


Online teaching can also seem lonely. Unlike classroom teachers, online teachers don’t have colleagues they can collaborate with or chat with between classes or at the end of the school day.

Another disadvantage of online teaching compared to classroom teaching is that there are few teaching methods you can use online. Some teaching strategies are best used in person, and won’t work very well with a screen between you and your students.

Classroom Learning

Classroom learning is when teachers meet with their students in-person in a classroom. This is the traditional type of teaching that was pretty much the only choice available until more recently.


  • Can work more closely with students and through problems together.
  • Students can communicate with one another more easily.
  • Teachers are members of a school community.
  • Grade-level or subject-matter colleagues offer the opportunity to collaborate and share ideas.
  • Classroom teachers typically make more money than online teachers.
  • Benefits, like health insurance and pensions, are included in most teaching contracts.

With classroom teaching, you’re able to work closely with your students and don’t have to worry about a computer screen getting in the way of getting through to them. In a classroom setting, teachers can pull up a chair next to a student, get out manipulatives to work through a problem, and work with a small group of students together. Students will also benefit by being able to share ideas with their peers and engage in more hands-on activities that wouldn’t be possible (or at least easy) with online teaching.

Classroom teachers are also part of a school community. This can help improve morale and increase overall job satisfaction. At many schools, teachers also work as a grade-level or subject-matter team and can collaborate with their colleagues to plan lessons for students, develop materials, and assess student learning.


In most cases, classroom teachers are paid better than online teachers. They are also contracted, which gives them better job security. Many classroom teachers also receive health care and other benefits from their employers that online teachers do not receive. Additionally, taxes are taken out of their paychecks automatically, and classroom teachers don’t need to try to guess how much they’ll owe at tax time.


  • Classroom teaching is very demanding and many teachers experience burnout after only a few years.
  • Teachers often need to work extra hours during evenings and weekends to finish their work.
  • Teaching hours and dates are not flexible for classroom teachers.
  • Class sizes are large in many schools.
  • Students with behavior problems can cause a greater disruption in an in-person classroom than online.
  • Many classrooms still don’t have enough technology for students and teachers.

However, even with all of the benefits shared above, classroom teaching still has some downsides to consider. First, it is a very demanding job and many teachers work above and beyond their contracted hours without earning extra compensation. Classroom teachers can experience burnout, which may cause them to question their decision to even become a teacher in the first place.

Classroom teaching also does not offer any flexibility. A teacher’s work hours are set by the school he or she teaches for, and aside from a few vacation days, those teaching times are non-negotiable.


Many public schools are facing teacher shortages, which can lead to large class sizes. Larger class sizes make it more difficult to adequately meet the needs of each student and mean more grading work for teachers.

Depending on where you teach, your school also may not be equipped with the latest technology. Many classrooms only have a few computers for all the students in the class to share, which can make it more difficult to teach children the computer skills they need to be successful 21st century learners.

Classroom teachers play many more roles than online teachers. In addition to planning lessons, teaching students, and providing feedback, they are also responsible for a number of other items. These can include grading, attending school functions, supervising lunch or recess, and more.

Final Decision

Making a decision between online learning and classroom learning is a personal decision. There are a number of factors that will influence whether you’d prefer to teach in a virtual classroom online or in-person in a classroom. Ultimately, you’ll have to make the decision that seems right for you.

Our site offers a wealth or resources and tips to help you pursue your online teaching journey

If you choose to teach online, however, don’t feel that you’re alone simply because you don’t have colleagues down the hall from you as you would in a classroom. Our site offers a wealth or resources and tips to help you pursue your online teaching journey. Feel free to check back regularly and stay in touch to improve your instruction to help your students learn and excel,

Closing Words

Both online and classroom learning/teaching have a mix of pros and cons, which can make it challenging to determine which is the right fit for you. Hopefully taking a closer look at each teaching option has helped you decide whether you’d prefer to teach students in-person in a classroom or online in a virtual classroom. If you’re still undecided, read through the pros and cons we shared above and think about your preferences, teaching style, and other factors that could impact which choice is right for you. So, what do you think? Online learning or classroom learning? Which do you choose and why?

Simona Johnes
  1. A: Having taught and studied in-person and online courses since 2012, I see benefits of online and hybrid learning specific to university settings. Working professionals, international students and others can get the high-quality education needed for career advancement despite geographic and other constraints. Offering degree programs in two modes, as we do at Michigan State, means that online students can learn alongside on-campus students, bringing a diversity of experiences to classrooms from which everyone benefits. The future of university education is giving learners choices, which todays technologies make possible.

  2. Online teaching is the best for me after teaching 13 years in-person. I’m not as burned out and l can spend more time with family.

  3. I love online teaching and l’m never going back to in-person. I have for control over my classes and l have less planning time because of the online lessons. Lastly l can finally just teach without behavior challenges. Online teaching rocks!!

    • Hi Darnell,

      I am currently a classroom teacher and I was wondering about online teaching. Do you have any tips for looking up full time online teaching jobs? TIA


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