For as far back as we can remember, the American education system has revolved around the classroom setting. We all remember sitting in a classroom with 25+ other students, sitting through lectures, working on group projects together, and completing educational worksheets. Yet, in recent years, there’s been a huge shift toward self-learning.
So, is self-learning or classroom learning better? While self-learning is convenient, flexible, and pace-driven, it’s nowhere near as useful as classroom learning. In a classroom, you have the chance to work with and learn from your peers. You’re also being taught by a skilled instructor who can adapt the instruction to benefit your learning style.
Both self-learning and classroom learning have their own benefits. So, let’s go into a little more detail about how each style can benefit your education. We’ll also touch on why each style might not be so useful to some people.
Benefits of Self-Learning
Self-learning can be just about any type of learning that occurs outside of the normal classroom setting. You can opt for self-learning in your own time by researching topics you enjoy learning about. Or, you can sign-up for a self-learning online course where you play the role of both instructor and student.
Let’s go over the benefits of self-learning.
Flexibility in Scheduling
The problem with regular classroom setting formats is that there’s a huge and consistent time commitment.
Every day (or on set days during the week), you have to set aside hours of your time to travel to school and then sit through an in-person class. This also takes up extra time at home when you’re assigned homework.
One of the greatest parts of self-learning is that you’re learning on your own time and at your own pace.
That means you have a lot more flexibility in regard to other areas of your life. You can hold down a paid work schedule and squeeze your learning in when you have the free time. Or, you can complete your school work after your children have gone to sleep at night.
As long as you’re getting your work done by the assigned due date, you shouldn’t have any problems with progress.
The flexibility of self-learning also gives you the ability to personalize your education.
Since you’re progressing at your own rate, you can spend a little more time on the areas or topics that you’re struggling with. You can actively pause your session and do some of your own outside research, which is not something you can normally do in an instructor-led course.
That means you can also speed through the areas that you already feel confident in. This allows you to keep up a good pace and avoid being slowed down by questions or clarifications from other students (like in a classroom setting).
The problem with in-person classes is that they aren’t for everyone.
All students are required to sit in the same classroom, in the same desks, with the same exact assignments. That’s problematic if you have a preferred learning environment and a normal everyday classroom just isn’t it.
A regular classroom might be an absolute nightmare for you if you struggle to sit still or lose focus easily. It’s even worse if you know how to avoid these things, but know it’s against the rules in a regular classroom.
You can set up your own “classroom” or “office” in your home with self-learning. You also have the freedom to:
- Use a more comfortable chair, desk, or learning set-up.
- Take breaks as you need if you get bored easily.
- Listen to music or TV during your learning if it helps you to focus.
- Fidget, move, or talk whenever it’s convenient for you.
- Perform your own outside research on your own time.
Self-learning means you don’t have to worry about how your actions or inactions impact those around you. You know what helps you to focus and remain comfortable, and you have the full ability to do these things with self-learning to get the best education for you.
Benefits of Classroom Learning
Classroom learning is any learning environment where you’re surrounded by peers and have an instructor. This gives you the chance to socialize with those around you, work on projects or assignments together, and engage one-on-one with your instructor. This is the style of education and learning that you’re probably used to.
Let’s go over the unique benefits of classroom learning.
Interactions With Peers
A lot of people view the regular classroom or school setting as more of a social setting. While that might be true, working with your peers also has the potential to boost your learning and understanding of content knowledge.
That’s especially the case when it comes to higher-level assignments.
This is a list of things you might gain by working with your peers:
- Understanding of new studying or learning methods.
- Improved social skills and confidence when working with those your own age.
- A better comprehension of content knowledge that you’re struggling with.
- The ability to bounce ideas off of others.
For a lot of students, interacting with peers in the classroom is more than enough to stay engaged. This is especially useful if you struggle to stay focused during lectures or simply need some social interaction here and there to stay entertained.
Most importantly, you can use your relationships with your peers to advance your education. You can do this by asking one another for help or setting up group study sessions before big exams or tests.
Guidance & Leadership
The problem with self-learning is that it can be difficult to stay focused or motivated. If you can’t even find the effort to open up the module on your computer, you won’t be even the slightest bit productive during the day.
That’s where having a skilled instructor helps.
A teacher is able to keep you focused during the lesson, especially if you find your teacher to be engaging.
While self-learning modules online can be tedious and hard to sit through, your teacher can bounce back and forth between several different activities to keep you constantly engaged and interested in the class.
Most importantly, you have a source of knowledge at your fingertips. When you struggle in a self-learning setting, you have one of two options:
- Email the instructor and possibly wait hours or days for a response (which puts your learning to a grinding halt).
- Do your own research and hope the resources you’re using are accurate and explain the content well.
In a classroom setting, you can simply raise your hand and ask your teacher for greater clarification. Your instructor can then explain the information in a way that’s much easier to understand. Or, you can even ask your classmates for clarification.
But, the instructor also plays a huge role in behavior management.
Let’s say you struggle to focus during class in the self-learning environment. When you’re in a classroom with a teacher, there are set rules for how you’re allowed to act. These guidelines can keep you off your phone, focus for longer, and improve your success.
After all, rigid schedules and rules might just be what you need.
Self-learning and classroom learning both have their own benefits, but classroom learning is beneficial for most people. That’s because you can learn directly from your instructor and work one-on-one with your peers.
Classroom learning is much better when it comes to getting clarification on areas you might be confused about. The rigid scheduling of this method is also much more convenient if you lack motivation or focus on your own. Plus, it helps to build your social relationships at the same time.
- Toppr: Self Study vs Classroom Study
- NIH: Research on cultivating medical students’ self-learning ability using teaching system integrated with learning analysis technology
- NIH: A systematic review of the factors – enablers and barriers – affecting e-learning in health sciences education
- NIH: Is Peer Interaction Necessary for Optimal Active Learning?
- Carnegie Mellon University: What are the benefits of group work?