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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Edge, LPC

In-Person Vs. Online Learning: Problems and Solutions to Online Learning

There are many challenges students face with online learning. Here are a few differences between in-person and online school. Each section has solutions to the problems with online learning.

Peer Interactions

In-person learning is vastly different than online learning for several reasons. One, when you are in-person, you are physically around your peers. You can see them face to face, talk with them, and receive immediate feedback from them rather than sending them a text, waiting, then responding.

Even through a video call, interactions are better and more enhanced through in-person interactions. Because of this, students can often feel lonely with online learning due to not feeling connected to their peers and friends.


A way to respond to this problem is for students to make it a point to spend time with friends and peers online and in-person. Be safe with in-person interactions, but plan fun activities that are socially distanced like frisbee golf, riding bikes, or rock climbing. Spend time together outside and catch up on what’s going on in each other’s lives.

Spend time online too through video games or the House Party app. To really connect with friends, don’t text, call them. Forget about the Snapchat streak. A truly meaningful interaction comes from live interactions and talking. Relationships build when we can hear the other’s voice and see their face rather than texting.


The next difference is in-person school puts students in an environment to learn. Physically being in a classroom improves the learning experience because everything in that classroom is focused on learning.

When students are at home, part of their room could be devoted to learning, but not all of it. Their home is associated with relaxing, family, and fun. Because of this, it’s more difficult for students to be engaged with online learning due to what they are used to with in-person learning.


Set up an academically focused school environment. If possible, do all your schoolwork in one section of your house away from distractions and entertainment. This room or location should only really be used for schoolwork. At least pick a place that's not your bedroom.

The dining room or kitchen can be a lot less distracting the easier to do school verses our bedroom. Our bedroom is associated with rest and fun, making it an easy place to lose focus on academics. Also, have all your school supplies close by your work location.


Distractions happen at in-person and online school. However, it’s much easier to get distracted with online learning.

At in-person school, you don’t have your gaming computer with you (unless it’s the school’s laptop). In-person, you are being monitored by the teacher and have to stay engaged. This leaves little room to watch Netflix or chat on Discord.

However, with online learning from the comfort of your home, one can easily watch the latest episode of the Mandalorian on one tab and listen to the teacher lecture about Algebra in another. There are less boundaries and more potential for distraction with online learning. This makes online learning much harder than in-person school.


Distractions are everywhere but we can put up boundaries online to help us focus. Use Freedom or Flipd to help keep you focused on your academics. Use Forest to encourage time away from your phone.

Have a device that’s only used for school. If you only have one device, make two separate accounts – one for school and one for fun. This helps you not get on Discord to see who's online.

Hands-On Learning

When students are in-person, they can experience their education rather than watching it through a screen. Students can physically cut a piece of wood in shop class or dissect a frog in a Biology lab.

With online school, almost all assignments are online. Some assignments might need to be printed then uploaded online, however, most assignments are all online. With all assignments being online, it leaves out the opportunity to learn from physically writing things down, working through problems on a whiteboard, or learning how to use a Bandsaw.

Physically writing things down with a pen and paper helps with memory retention and this is negated with all online learning.


Print out your assignments and fill them out with pencil/pen and paper. Take notes on a notebook during class to help retain the information (taking notes also helps with focus). If you are a visual learning, get a white board and use that to help solve problems.

Teacher Interactions

Teachers are more accessible with in-person learning. With online school, many students struggle with not being able to get immediate feedback about something from a teacher.

For a lot of online learning, teachers are pre-recording their lectures then sending them to the students. Doing this does not allow students the ability to ask questions in the moment. Students have to email the teacher, wait a day or so, then hopefully get a response that makes sense to them.

This is an inefficient way for teachers and students to interact. In-person school allows students to get clarification on topics much quicker than with online school.


Students are at the mercy of the school and teachers. If the lectures have to be pre-recorded, there might not be anything the student can do.

However, teachers probably have office hours or can schedule a time to meet with students. Write down all your questions as they come, then ask them to the teacher during a virtual office visit. Ask the teacher if they have a preferred method of communication and use that.

Physical Activity

One huge difference with in-person and online learning is physical activity. When students are physically at school, they have to walk to and from class, walk to lunch, and be active during PE.

With online school, each class is located in the same room. Unless the student makes a point to do it, there is little reason to physically move the entire school day. Physical activity, even just walking from class to class, is better than no activity at all.

The more physical activity will help improve cognitive functioning in classes and if students are stagnant most of the day with online school, it’s harder to stay focused and motivated academically.


In-between each online class, stand up and stretch. Walk around your room, refill your water bottle, use the restroom, or do some pushups. Move your body in some way throughout your online school day. It’s also a good idea to go outside for a walk during lunch or after the school day.


With online learning being more difficult than in-person, it’s no wonder why many students are struggling. Students can still do well with online school, it’s just harder.

Just like exercising every day, it's hard. It’s easier to sit on the couch and watch Netflix. But, when we exercise consistently, we feel better and our lives are improved. The same idea applies with online school.

It might be harder to put away our phones with online school, but it's possible. It's possible to make good choices and succeed with online learning. Get support from friends, parents, and teachers. See the positives from succeeding in online school and be encouraged to continue. And hopefully, online learning will not have to last forever.


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