Online vs. Face-to-Face Learning

You’re not teaching yourself; you’re becoming a more self-directed learner.

Online courses often require more student engagement than a face-to-face course because the instructor isn’t able to monitor your progress in the same way as a physical classroom.

The statements given in the next sections state how the two environments compare and then explain how they are different. Explore this section to see if there are any misconceptions about online courses you may have!

1. You have an instructor!


  • The instructor is not physically in front of you, but may use videos or PowerPoints or other resources to explain course concepts.
  • They monitor discussions throughout the week and interject with feedback throughout the activity’s timeline.
  • Depending on the instructor, you may use private discussion boards, email, or another method of communication to communicate questions to them.


  • You may see your instructor standing in front of the class lecturing or teaching the material.
  • They may lead discussions actively during class time.
  • You can ask questions to your instructor right there in class.

2. In your class you interact with your instructor, classmates, and you complete different activities depending on the course.


  • Most classes are delivered asynchronously, which means you, your peers and your instructor work on course activities at different times, based on your individual schedules. Though this allows for flexibility, you will still need to meet deadlines throughout the term – typically weekly.


  • Classes are delivered synchronously, which means you, your peers and your instructor work on course activities at the same time.

3. You are expected to be a participating member of the class.


  • Learning is convenient, but requires organization and self-discipline.


  • Attendance-mandatory courses help keep some students on track.

4. Your learning will involve interacting with others in the course, both instructors and peers.


  • Discussions with peers and instructors take place when convenient via Canvas discussion boards, email and private messages. This allows you time to think through responses to the questions and comments posed.


  • Interactions with peers and instructors are face to face, verbal and spontaneous, during set class times.

5. Students receive full UIS student support services and resources, including library services, academic advising, career services, and tutoring.


  • Academic advising is done remotely through email, phone and sometimes video conferencing with faculty or professional advisors, depending on your program.
  • Career services are available by appointment.
  • Online tutoring services are provided through The Learning Hub.
  • Library services are provided remotely, and students have access to a wide range of services and resources online.


  • Academic resources are available on campus.

6. Successful students spend 3-4 hours per week per credit in full semester classes. (Shorter terms differ.)

Online offers accelerated sessions in the summer term, which would require approximately 6-8 hours per week per credit hour. 

7. Depending on your class you may be expected to purchase or use different resources to aide learning

Online courses require certain hardware, software and network requirements. Textbooks and other course materials are purchased through the UIS online bookstore.

8. Your classes may include quizzes and exams. 


Online exams are taken through Blackboard or software from your textbook publisher. Some courses require that you utilize online proctoring (Examity) for completing these quizzes and exams.


These are completed during class time with your instructor as the proctor.

Next: Tips for Being a Successful Online Learner

Components of this document have been adapted, with permission and appreciation, from a similar work from the University of Wisconsin Colleges Online.