Exploring the Relative Benefits of Online and Brick and Mortar Schools

Charlotte Miller

A generation ago, high school students didn’t have much choice for their high school career. They could attend the closest available public school, or pay a premium for a nearby private education.

Now, things are different. More than ever before, high schoolers have a say in the nature and setting of their education, thanks to a meteoric rise in online learning as an alternative option.

Parents and high school kids are encouraged to talk through their options, choosing the school that best suits them. In this article, explore the relative benefits of online and in-class learning and determine how to make this difficult choice.

The Benefits of Online Learning

There’s a very good reason online schools skyrocketed in popularity. Sure, the pandemic did its part to catalyze the growth of remote schools. But you can’t discount online learning’s several undeniable benefits.

Perhaps most obviously, online schools are convenient. They cut out the commute, allowing families to pursue a first-rate education without the added work. Because online schools are remote, they’re also an accessible option for students with mobility issues.

Next, online learning is often self-paced, meaning each student follows their own timeline for course completion. If a unit is difficult, a student can take more time; if a unit feels easy, a student can allocate less time. This model gives students who may otherwise fall behind a chance to catch up. It also allows students who might feel unchallenged by a classroom pace the opportunity to get ahead. Studies show that self-paced learning is more effective on the whole, as compared to instructor-led education.

Finally, because they’re self-paced and flexible, online schools foster an essential set of soft skills. Students hone their self-motivation, time management and digital literacy skills – skills that make them competitive in modern workplaces.

The Benefits of In-Class Learning

In-class learning also has a few undeniable benefits. To start, in-class learning forces students to socialize with their peers. While this forced social atmosphere can lead to bullying and pressure, it may also forge meaningful connections and friendships.

Next, some students thrive under the strict pace and constant surveillance of a brick-and-mortar classroom. They perform their best when a teacher keeps them on-task, and they use the academically competitive atmosphere to their advantage.

Finally, brick-and-mortar schools excel at many interactive, hands-on lessons, like chemistry labs and gym classes. By contrast, online learners may have to supplement their education with outdoor physical activity or hands-on STEM experience.

What to Consider

The differences between online and in-class schools are mainly a generalized dichotomy. Like anything, quality is more noticeable on an individual school basis. A fantastic online school like Ontario eSecondary School will outperform most or all brick-and-mortar establishments. Likewise, university-affiliated brick-and-mortar private schools will outperform most online establishments.  

Whichever route you choose, it’s imperative that you find a quality school. Do your research, vet your options, read testimonials, and meet with administrators to see whether the school is a suitable fit. Most importantly, consider what option would be best for you (or your kid). Every student learns differently, and choosing the right school involves understanding your academic needs.