Are Online Classes Easier than In-Person Classes?

Are Online Classes Easier than In-Person Classes
Athina Hansen

Athina Hansen

Content Writer at Gradehacker

Are you deciding between online college classes or on-campus classes but don’t know if one is easier than the other? 


You might be considering online education since you have to balance other responsibilities such as work or family. But being that on-campus education is the norm, you might not be well informed about online classes and if there is a difference in the difficulty level.


In Gradehacker we specialize in helping college students with their coursework and exams. Since we have experience with online education firsthand, we’re going to share the difference between online and traditional education. In order to help you understand the difficulty level of both.

Self Motivation in Classes

Online Classes: Self Motivation to Maintain Learning Pace and Avoid Distractions

Online classes require more self-motivation than traditional classes. Suppose you decide to become an online student. In that case, you will need self-motivation to complete learning material and assignments on your own time. You won’t have an in-class professor who reminds you that the essay you haven’t started is due next week. It will be your responsibility to learn at the required pace and finish tasks on time.

Online classes can be completed anywhere, even in the comfort of your own bed! This means that you will need a determined attitude to manage your time well and avoid distractions that can arise from learning through technology or learning at home.

On-campus Classes: Self Motivation When Studying

On-campus classes also require self-motivation, but this is needed for studying and completing assignments. You won’t have to be self-motivated in remembering to attend class and making sure you are following the learning pace. In lectures, your professor will go over class materials and talk about the assignments you have to complete.

The Verdict: Online Classes Require More Self Motivation

With online learning, you will need a higher amount of self-motivation and a determined attitude. This is because it will be your primary responsibility to maintain a consistent schedule to watch lectures and not leave assignments until the last minute. As an on-campus student, you will also need to be determined but not when it comes to maintaining a learning pace.  When it comes to student attitude, an online class is harder than an on-campus class. In an online setting, you will have to be more diligent with your class management and avoid distractions.

Are Online Classes Easier than In-Person Classes

Class Workload

Online Classes: For an Asynchronous Online Course, Prepare to Read!

An online course can be asynchronous or synchronous. An asynchronous online course doesn’t involve scheduled meetings. You can complete work whenever you’re able to, but you still have assignment deadlines. When it is synchronous, it involves set meetings where a professor teaches subjects through an online video conferencing platform.

Online classes will involve the same academic assignments as on-campus classes. These assignments include reading, writing essays, etc. In asynchronous online classes, the reading workload tends to be higher than traditional classes, as reading will be the primary learning method. Another part of the workload of an online student is participating in discussion boards.

On-campus Classes: You’ll be Working on Assignments Outside of Class

If you’re an on-campus student, your workload will involve assignments to be completed outside of class. These assignments can include presentations, essays, reading, etc. Your actual learning won’t be a part of that workload as your professor is in charge of teaching you the necessary subjects.

The Verdict: Online Asynchronous Courses Have A Higher Workload

Online asynchronous courses have a higher workload, as learning is the student's responsibility. This means that online students typically have a higher amount of reading than on-campus students. Online students' workload also includes participating in discussions. A traditional student will also have a considerable workload, but learning will not enter this workload. In terms of workload, on-campus courses have it easier. This is because an online student's learning is part of their workload; also, the lack of in-person classes means knowledge can only be assessed through your classwork.

Course requirements

Both online and on-campus education must be approved through an accreditation agency. An accreditation agency ensures that an educational program fulfills the educational outcomes it promises you.

This means that students in online and on-campus classes are graded with the same standards. So, if you plan to become an online student, don’t expect the professor to grade your work less strictly or expect less from you.

The Verdict: Neither Type of Education is Less Demanding

Online and on-campus courses have the same academic requirements and expectations. This makes sure you will receive quality education no matter what format you choose.


Online Classes: You Can Work on Them Anywhere Anytime

Many online courses tend to release learning material for the week, which students can complete in their own time. Online classes can be seen at any time and anywhere as long as you have wifi! As it offers time flexibility, it is an option that is accessible for students who have busy time schedules.

On-campus Classes: Pre-Set Lecture Times and Location

With on-campus education, you are assigned set lecture times that you cannot choose. On-campus classes must be seen at a specific time and a specific location (university campus). This reduces its accessibility for those who have to focus on more than college.

The Verdict: Online Classes Are More Accessible

Online classes are more universally accessible than on-campus classes. Since online classes are not tied down to a place or time, they are easier to access if you are a non-traditional student and have a busier time schedule. On-campus classes are not as accessible since you don't have a choice in when or where to see them.

Are Online Classes Easier than In-Person Classes

Cost of Education

Online Classes: No Housing or Commute Costs

Online classes have a lower total cost than on-campus classes. In a survey, over 45% of students stated that affordability  was their priority. An online course implies reduced on-campus costs such as on-campus housing and on-campus meal plans.

On-campus Classes: On-Campus Facilities and Commute Costs

On-campus education involves a higher total cost. This is because it involves the added costs of university facilities, university housing or commuting, and a university meal plan.

The Verdict: Online Class Costs are Reduced

Online classes have a lower total cost due to not paying for on-campus services. This makes online classes a good option if you are looking to save money where you can.

Are Online Classes Easier than In-Person Classes

Student Mental Health

Online Classes: No Comparing Your Grades to Your Classmate

Online education doesn’t involve as much of a competitive nature between students. As an online student, your focus is on learning and getting your work done. You won’t feel as much pressure as in a classroom setting where you compare your grades to those of other students.

On-campus Classes: Competitive Environment

On-campus education involves a competitive environment. Just picture finishing a math exam and comparing answers with fellow students just to feel inadequate since you got completely different answers.

The Verdict: On-Campus Education Has a More Competitive Nature

The competitive nature that on-campus college embraces can affect the mental health of students. As an on-campus student, you can feel the constant pressure to get grades as good as another student and feel unsuccessful when you don't. Online classes focus on learning and don't have that in-person student interaction, so it can be easier for students to reduce anxiety and feeling unsuccessful.

Are Online Classes Easier than In-Person Classes

Which Type of College Education is Best For Me?

The difference between online and traditional education is the learning format, not the difficulty level. If you had in-person classes in high school and appreciated the guidance teachers offered, you might find an online education hard. Actually, a national research study found that 78% of 1000 students surveyed thought traditional classes were easier than online classes.

So you might be asking yourself which one suits me best?

An online program will suit you if you:

An in-person on-campus program will suit you if you:

We hope you now understand the difference between these two styles of college education. Online and in-person classes coexist so that students can pick the option that best suits their time availability and learning preference. 

If you are just starting out on your college journey and haven’t yet bought your college textbooks, be sure to check our articles on 7 Top Websites to Find Free College Textbooks in 2020.

We know that many choose an online education due to being at a later stage in life where they have a more demanding time schedule due to family or work. In case you are considering college at a later stage in life, read our article on 5 Reasons Why You Are Not Too Old for College.

Athina Hansen

Athina Hansen

Athina has worked with Gradehacker both as a content writer and a study consultant, where she assisted college students with nursing courses. Athina has a background of educating others and producing content, having tutored college students and produced articles for her school magazine. She brings her experience to her current role, where she writes content to empower and assist the non-traditional college student who is often overlooked. You can find her on LinkedIn