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Online Education Versus Traditional Education: Which Is Best?

This week I would like to talk about the battle between online education versus traditional education.

I believe that I am learning Spanish so much faster and a lot more efficiently studying online than I would have had I signed up for traditional language learning classes in a traditional classroom environment.

I mentioned in my very first post that I have tried to learn other languages the “old fashioned way” – in a classroom with teachers, grammar books and forced role-play conversations with other students etc. It’s not great to learn something just because it’s part of a curriculum, especially if you’re not particularly interested.

Despite being taught English from grade 4 to grade 12 in Denmark, my English skills did not improve a lot until I actually moved to England after high school, and was surrounded by the language at all times. But even while I was still a kid in Denmark going to school, it was music and movies that helped me improve my skills, not the boring classes at school. 

LingQ

 Traditional Education

5 Reasons Why Studying Online Beats Studying In ClassIn a traditional language learning environment a typical lesson looks like this: Students read a text and are asked to answer a number of questions. The teacher acts as judge or examiner. He or she then explains difficult words and grammatical structures. Additionally the class may include reading some texts out loud to practice pronunciation. In the next lesson they read a new text and repeat the procedure. Sometimes, roleplaying is thrown in to make things slightly more exciting.

There are many issues with this type of learning. First of all as a student, you do not get to choose the texts that you’re reading and that is not very motivating, so even if you really wanted to learn the language and had the motivation, being forced to read texts you are not interested in can potentially completely kill your motivation.

Secondly, if the sole purpose of reading a text is to answer some dumb questions then you can find the answers and respond (the answers might even be at the back of the book) without even understanding the text.

Being forced to do something has never been a great motivator, and the only pros of traditional language learning that I can think of are:

> You don’t need much self-discipline because you are being made to study.

> You are forced to think about grammar, which as an independent language learner I avoid because I hate it.

> In a classroom environment you’re not alone, and this may be a good thing if you are an extrovert. (Having said that, on LingQ there’s a great community of people that you can reach out to should you ever feel isolated, so as an independent language learner, you aren’t necessarily alone unless you choose to be).

Why studying online is better

Steve Kaufmann and numerous other language enthusiasts have said many times that motivation is the key to successfully learning a new language.

I couldn’t agree more, which is why I think that studying online independently when you have a good reason like travelling, work or just due to pure interest in a certain language beats forced language learning every time.

Studying online gives you more:

1. Freedom

When you study online it is up to you to decide when you are ready to see a teacher or even if you ever want to involve anyone other than yourself (It is probably a good idea eventually, but it’s up to you). That gives you all the freedom in the world. The freedom to involve others or not and this is especially great for shy people like me, I am not yet ready to speak with others but online studying leaves it up to me when that will happen.

2. Resources

Like I mentioned earlier, when studying in a traditional environment it is up to the teacher to decide what you read and why. When studying online, you get to choose.

On LingQ I can import pretty much anything that takes my fancy from music to movies or whatever it may be. There are telenovelas in Spanish from every single Spanish speaking country that are fun to watch.There are numerous great movies from the Spanish speaking world. There are famous singers whose songs I may not yet understand, but I can listen and look up words that I want to learn.

I don’t need to learn from some dry textbook.

3. Choices

This is closely related to freedom of course, but studying online independently opens language learning up to an array of many different choices that you have to make as an independent language learner.

Things such as how much time you want to spend, where you want to study and when you want to reach certain goals – those are all choices that you have to make.

The thing about studying online and by yourself is that it takes a certain degree of self-discipline, but if you’ve got the motivation then making the right choices is easy.

4. Studying at home

This one is short, but sweet. Maybe you don’t feel like leaving the house one day, maybe it’s raining or snowing or maybe it’s too sunny? There are lots of excuses for not studying, but when you are studying online not wanting to leave the comfort of your own home isn’t one of them.

5. Studying online on YOUR time

Online Education Versus Traditional Education - your time is precious To me having the freedom to choose when I want to study and how much time I want to spend on it, is one – if not the – best thing about studying online. If I have time to study two hours one day and only half an hour the next day then that’s what I’ll do. I can study at 2am or 2pm – it is up to me.

Do you agree with me that studying online is better than traditional classroom language learning or do you perhaps miss a more traditional approach? I’d love to hear what you think.

 

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32 Comments

  • Nina Ninche
    March 31, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Hey Lykke and everyone else. I’ve read all your posts so far, but I skipped this one and went on commenting right away, just to say one thing.
    Although online learning is the highest on my list of the things I like, I want to share my thought on studying in class. I go to classes. I sometimes feel like there’s no point in it, but I think that preserving real, genuine, human contact is important, which online learning doesn’t have. I would like so much that the teachers are more open-minded, that the classes don’t have a strong curriculum, that teachers have freedom and are creative, etc, and to use online tools too. I’ve heard that some of them do that, and I’m happy because of that. I will now read your post. Sorry for my ramble. 🙂

    • Lykke
      March 31, 2015 at 6:03 pm

      I like rambles, sometimes yes the online stuff can feel slightly solitary- however, I think that on LingQ at least there’s a good way of keeping in touch with others that have the same interests as you – namely language learning

  • Darryl
    March 31, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    Also, online tools are more powerful. For example, LingQ tells me exactly how many known words I have in a language. Classes don’t offer that.

  • Jeff
    March 31, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    Repetition

    Studying online give you much more opportunity to listen many times to the same thing. I find this to be the best way to start learning a language.

    It doesn’t happen in a classroom because that would be even more boring. Typically, you move on to lesson 2, not having mastered lesson 1. You don’t build confidence by doing that.

    • Lykke
      April 2, 2015 at 10:16 am

      I agree. That was my experience too.

  • Jack
    March 31, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    Hi everybody . It’s the same for me , I have learned english in school but it was when I have to use this langage in work that I have made progress . Now I’m retired and i like to continue to practice . So I have subscribed to some on line courses , but what is missing for me it ‘s the discussion . I’m looking for advices , where is it possible to find a place to make comment as I’m doing right now ?

    • Lykke
      April 2, 2015 at 10:05 am

      Hi Jack
      On LingQ there’s a forum where you can ask anybody anything related to languages. If you haven’t already you can create an account – doesn’t cost anything. In the forum there are people from all over the world with the same issues and/or who can help you. Give that a try perhaps 🙂

      • Jack
        April 3, 2015 at 12:18 am

        Thanks , I’m going to try

  • Troy
    April 1, 2015 at 12:02 am

    I also agree with all this, and with Nina that classrooms offer HUMAN contact. I’ve suggested that my students make use of online resources, like LingQ, WITH A FRIEND. Because if you’re not motivated to study by yourself, then you might be motivated enough if you’ve got a friend. This is one big reason why humans form groups … togetherness is (often) more motivating than isolation / seclusion.

    • Lykke
      April 2, 2015 at 10:02 am

      Hi Troy

      I don’t necessarily disagree. Sometimes having other people around you helps you push yourself harder. Also, there might be a test that you have to study for etc. For me it wasn’t the right way but that’s not to say that studying in class isn’t for everyone. It can feel a bit lonely I suppose, but I think LingQ has made an effort of creating a community that you can reach out to as an independent learner. Maybe it’s not the same as being surrounded by people, but it’s a start 🙂

  • Liza Valero
    April 1, 2015 at 7:14 am

    As a 40 year old mother of three, the opportunity of learning a language online has made it possible for me. When I was in school and college, I took my required language courses and did well in them. But I was not truly motivated at that time and did not understand the value of learning a new language.
    Now, I have decided that I wan to learn, and that makes all the difference.
    Learning in the classroom may not be right for all students, but it is the introduction that is key.
    My oldest son, now a Senior at the University of South Carolina, Go Gamecocks!, took Spanish in high school which sparked a fascination in him. His love for the language led him to traveling in South America for 6 months, and now he majors in Spanish, his goal being to become a Spanish Professor.
    Online learning is fantastic for all the reasons listed above and more, but our young people still need to be introduced to a myriad of learning experiences, including languages. In my opinion, at least.

    • Lykke
      April 2, 2015 at 9:54 am

      Thanks for your comment Liza. I am thrilled for your son, that sounds great. I am sure he will make a great Spanish teacher. That is another good point though, a great teacher might also make all the difference. I remember that my teachers weren’t very inspiring, which didn’t help. They had been doing the same job for 20-30 years and seemed to hate evevry minute of it. Also, there were 30 of us in class so each student didn’t get enough time with the teacher.
      It’s great to hear that you have taken up language learning again – best of luck to you 🙂

  • Lucas
    April 1, 2015 at 7:27 am

    At the university level, you should consider that the professors are both experts at teaching in addition to being bilingual. This is what they do professionally- ensuring others achieve fluency. It may seem obvious, but these courses are highly effective if you’re motivated to succeed, which you should be, especially in America, considering their price(Spanish 101 was $1700 or so for me). There’s also nothing stopping someone from using something like LingQ or Assimil in conjunction with the course materials.

    Just food for thought, and again, I was only talking about the university level where you pick the language you want to study and aren’t “forced” into it, though even as a kid I’d wonder how you would quantify how much of your learning came from shows/music vs classroom instruction. Seems like they would overlap and reinforce one another.

    • Lykke
      April 2, 2015 at 9:48 am

      I think you are absolutely right about that. Studying languages at university level doesn’t represent as many issues in that (hopefully) you have chosen to be there and to study a certain language. I also think you are right that a combination of the two might be worth it as it can sometimes be tough to convince yourself to study when you are doing it on your own. For me though, learning French, German and English at school (before university) did no good. There’s also the possibility that it was too many languages all at once? I do much prefer this online thing though, I love the freedom of it.

  • Moacir
    April 1, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Study on your own beats study alone anytime. I always studied English on my own, but this year I tried to take some classes and I hated. I will continue to study alone, is much more fun.

  • melissa
    April 5, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    Hi☺️☺️☺️ I’m totally agree, because when u enroll yourself in classes, somehow u will worry about the grades and not about the knowledge!!! As well it is good to reach someone who speaks the language that u want to learn to improve your skills and creat new ways to learn more

    • Lykke
      April 6, 2015 at 10:11 am

      Yes that is true too, maybe the pressure is worse because of grades. I didn’t even think of that – good one. Thanks 🙂

  • Dwight
    April 7, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    I note that many people complain that they didn’t learn much in classes, but later acquired an active knowledge when faced with using the language. But I suspect that the time spent in classes provide a vital foundation for the later acquisition. Perhaps it wasn’t enjoyable and not very efficient, but class did force a certain consistent discipline and gave a familiarity if not ready knowledge or ability. I got a start in German in high school for which I have always been grateful, regretting mainly that I didn’t make as much use of the opportunity as I could have. That was 50 years ago and thanks to that start and later efforts of my own I have a solid command of German although it takes me a while to get warmed up. The experience also lead to an interest in languages that brightens up my retirement years (along with mathematics, which, as well as a great hobby, gave me a career and a comfortable retirement (starting at 54)).

    • Lykke
      April 7, 2015 at 3:50 pm

      I guess some people are just better at grammar than others. To me it’s like math and that is also not my favourite thing. I am not much for structure of any kind, suppose I am one of those creative types that likes to do things on the fly 🙂
      Flunking my German written exam although I tried really hard, put me off language learning for a long time.

  • ColibrEve
    April 11, 2015 at 9:10 am

    I studied French literature, English, Spanish and German languages at the college for 2 years. At that time, I was so motivated that I found it was correct the way they were doing it.
    It was mostly in my languages courses that my notes where the highest and best one.
    I am pretty self-motivated since I have realized that routine isn’t that boring; finally all the different life routines we can establish are giving us more power to realize our most important life dreams.
    I totally agree with you. I am happy to be here because I can study anytime I wish, from anywhere I want, which of course gives me more freedom, plus LingQ is really resourceful.

    • Lykke
      April 13, 2015 at 3:13 pm

      Awesome – glad you feel that way. I like LingQ, I do think it can be a little hard to find some its greatest features, which is a shame. Anyway, that’s partly why I am writing this blog. To help people – existing as well as new users – to realize LingQs potential and some of the things you can do on LingQ that youmight not realise right away. Particularly the exchange, it’s really cool, but if I didn’t work here, I am not sure I would have found out about all the things you can do there 😉

  • Agnieszka Karch
    April 11, 2015 at 10:07 am

    Studying online has a lot of advantages although I still value traditional learning environments. When you learn in a group, you benefit from the social aspects of learning languages – debating, discussing and making friends. You can also learn from other people, including learning from their mistakes. I guess you need a balance of online and group learning to maximise your potential.

    • Lykke
      April 13, 2015 at 3:07 pm

      Sometimes you do. The social part of studying in a class is definitely what’s missing from online studying, but I think when it comes to time and money (classes tend to be expensive) then online studying is definitely to be preferred. What I meant with this article was really that in elementary school or whatever you call it you are often made to study languages that you may not have any interest in and then the classroom is a terrible environment, but when you become an adult and you choose to join a language class, online or IRL then it’s probably because you are interested and motivated 🙂 I think that’s what REALLY matters. Also people learn differently. I think a mix of the two are great, if you can afford it and have the time to go to class.

  • Rosemarie
    April 12, 2015 at 1:52 am

    Hi there! I prefer going to a traditional class as it then motivates me to keep studying. What works best for me is having that personal contact, then going online afterwards to expand my knowledge on what I’d just covered in class. Without the formal classes I tend to get lazy and less motivated because I tend to take my time learning instead of continuously progressing to keep up with others in the class. That’s just me anyway and I prefer some formal structure.

    • Lykke
      April 13, 2015 at 3:01 pm

      Hi Rosemarie – I think that’s true. When studying online you have no one to kickstart you, but yourself, it does take a lot of self-discipline.

  • Cecelia
    June 3, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    I agree 100% with this. Learning a language in a classroom taught me like 10% and only made me frustrated (being around others & moving at the teacher’s pace) – while when I learn at home, online, on my own time, I tend to learn like 90% ! 🙂

    • Lykke
      June 3, 2015 at 2:39 pm

      I am glad you agree 🙂

  • Tony
    March 10, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Hi, Thanks for sharing the information. Now a days online education is very important to every one and these information will really help us a lot..Thanks once again for these lovely post..

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