Below, we have outlined differences that often exist in the way instruction is conducted in the face-to-face vs. online classroom. It is important to understand these differences and take them into consideration when deciding whether or not an online course is a good match for you.
F2F: The face-to-face classroom can be (but not always is the case) a passive learning environment. In a traditional lecture style class, information is sometimes fed to the student and then passed back to the instructor through written proctored assessments. The environment is also physical. Both student and instructor have the ability to see, hear and pick up on physical cues and body language.
Online: The Online classroom is typically a more active learning environment. Students must work to acquire information. Through interaction and participation, students take an active role in course material and delivery. In an asynchronous online course, there is a challenge in not being able to “see” the instructor or fellow students in real-time exchanges.
F2F: Students typically have regular reading assignments from the textbook and other resources provided or referred to by the instructor to supplement material covered in the face-to-face classroom.
Online: As in face-to-face courses, there is typically a textbook from which there are assigned readings as well as supplemental resources provided by the instructor. An online course, however, also requires additional extensive reading not necessarily included in the face-to-face course. Lecture documents, discussion postings, student-to-student and student-to-instructor interactions, course announcements and assignments must all be accomplished in writing and acquired by the student through reading.
F2F: Class meetings occur at a specific time in a specific location according to a set schedule. When in class, the instructor typically sets the pace.
Online: It is up to the student to set their own pace for much of the work that needs to be completed in an online course. While there are deadlines and due dates that must be met, students typically have quite a bit of flexibility in determining where and at what time of day they participate.
F2F: Discussion takes place in the restrictive environment of a physical classroom. The instructor often leads and controls the focus of the discussion to reach a conclusion in a limited amount of time. Since time is limited, responses typically must be formulated quickly. There could also be some intimidation of speaking live in a classroom setting, but there is also the benefit of visual cues of fellow students and the instructor.
Online: Students have more of an opportunity to develop well thought out, researched discussion responses. The students often carry the bulk of the discussion interaction with the instructor acting as a facilitator only interjecting when necessary. The online discussion evolves over a period of time longer than that of the face-to-face classroom (often more than one week) which allows all students in the course to contribute and reach conclusions together.
Exams and Quizzes (Assessments)
F2F: Exams and Quizzes are typically delivered in the face-to-face classroom during regularly scheduled class time. Students are usually monitored during the exam period which is limited to the length of the meeting period.
Review of the assessment typically takes place during a class meeting.
Online: Exams and Quizzes are given online (unless other arrangements have been announced by the instructor in advance). Typically there is a window of opportunity during which a student can begin taking an online exam or quiz, but once started the assessment may be timed. For example… a student may have between Monday and Thursday to take a test, but once they select the “Begin” button, they have 40 minutes to complete the test. It is, therefore, important to study for the Online assessment as you would for the face-to-face version and be fully prepared.
Review of the online assessment takes place online, after the instructor has released the grades. It is up to the instructor which fields are displayed in the feedback, but common review fields include, the question, whether the student got the answer correct or incorrect, the correct answer, comments, and the grade.
F2F: Homework assignments, research papers, labs, etc. are typically submitted to the instructor in person and in hard copy form in the traditional classroom. Given the dramatic increase in the number of face-to-face courses that utilize online technologies, however, students may be required to submit assignments online in certain face-to-face courses.
Review of the graded assignment often takes place within the physical classroom.
Online: Assignments in online courses are typically submitted through an online dropbox. Depending on the settings chosen by the instructor, the student may have the ability to type directly in a message box, attach a file (or number of files), or submit their assignment multiple times. Dropboxes, like assessments have specific opening and closing dates that students must follow.
Review of graded assignments takes place online. When an instructor grades an online assignment there is the opportunity to provide a grade, feedback remarks, and/or a graded file attachment.
F2F:Since students are physically located in the same place at the same time, a face-to-face course lends itself nicely to group work. Class time can be used for this collaboration and work can be continued among the students after the class is over through scheduled meetings.
Online: Online courses also often include group work. Instructors have the ability to break their online students up into teams to collaboratively work on projects and interact using the discussion tool. Because most online courses are asynchronous, however, the benefit of being in the same place at the same time does not exist in the online classroom. It is therefore up to each student in the group to keep up with the work involved and do their part.