In-Person vs. Remote Learning: Which One is Better? A Reflection on the COVID Era

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In 2019, attending any educational institution through your laptop screen was, for the most part, unprecedented. Fast forward a year or two, and then it became practically the only option for learning for quite a while globally. While I wasn’t here at Bellevue College through the initial spike of COVID-19, I was here for the aftermath. When I first enrolled at Bellevue College in 2022, it was something that I am glad that I have passed. I can summarize it down to just a few words: damp masks, social distancing, and fogged-up glasses. While online learning wasn’t my cup of tea at that time, there are some obvious benefits to taking an online course over an in-person one. This op-ed covers what these are and compares them in further detail.

When it comes to the differences between online learning and in-person learning, I like to separate them into two categories: the pre-COVID era (2019 and earlier) and the post-COVID era (obviously acknowledging that the pandemic has not been eradicated completely but has rather simmered down drastically and no longer affects us on our day-to-day life). At first, I would assume that someone coming from the pre-COVID era would be apathetic towards learning everything online, with limited communication, no cooperation, and just the overall effectiveness of learning in that class. 

With the integration of applications like Zoom and Microsoft Teams into Bellevue College, I felt like students around me always liked the method of teaching due to the common flexibility of that class, which is completely justifiable. But to me, I find it far more engaging to be there in-person sitting a few meters in front of the professor, and watch him or her present everything in detail, even if it is less convenient to take the daily commute, I just feel like it allows me to switch my brain on completely. In-person has been a reliable method of learning since the dawn of time. However, I feel like I should also mention that, without a doubt, online learning installs a great bridge between accessibility and education. 

Going further into depth about online learning, it is split up into two parts: asynchronous work and synchronous work. Which work the exact way they sound, with synchronous being the model that doesn’t follow class times with online lectures, whereas asynchronous is completely offline. I think that there is no worse combination of any two things than an inflexible and strict teacher and an asynchronous course. When I say inflexible, I don’t mean turning assignments a day late. It means when you have a teacher who refuses to offer office hours outside of the listed time despite being in a different course throughout that time period. Personally, I have had pretty negative experiences with asynchronous online learning, but I wouldn’t mind taking a synchronous course if I had to. Looking back at this, I realized how convenient it would be if you were able to access the office hours of that class before signing up for it. Regardless, even if this is a very specific scenario, it is just an example of one of many things that could go wrong when you have limited communication. 

Online learning doesn’t retain the level of intricacy and emphasis on learning. Overall, I think that in-person learning is the better learning experience for most, but online learning can be useful at times for reasons like inclusivity, accessibility, and flexibility. I hope that with this in mind, more colleges like BC apply both of these for an equal, inclusive community for all.