Why Do Students Find Online Classes More Challenging Than Face-To-Face Learning?

March 28 , 2020

Colleges are rapidly increasing the number of online courses they offer. Over the last 10 years, the proportion of students who have taken at least one online course during their time in college has risen from 11% to 33%. The number of online courses offered in K-12 has increased as well. For example, the Florida Virtual School now offers over 150 classes online, and every student in the Sunshine State must take at least one online course during their time in high school.

Benefits of Online Classes

Schools benefit financially from online courses because they are less costly to run than their classroom versions. You see, at every level of education, a large proportion of instructional costs is taken up by teachers’ salaries, and so less funds are ultimately needed in an online setting where one teacher is able to administer a course to more students than they normally could.

Students benefit from online learning too. For example, students who have full-time jobs value being able to log in to classes online on a flexible schedule, while students who live in remote areas appreciate the ability to hop on the Internet for lessons without any need to travel.

Negative Effects of Online Classes

While there are tangible benefits associated with online classes, not everything is groovy. For, several studies have found that students’ learning outcomes are worse for online courses than they are for equivalent, in-person courses when the students involved are less than average in proficiency to begin with. Take, for example, a study that analyzed student data from DeVry University. It was found that when students with low prior GPAs took a course online, their results were almost a full letter grade less than their results in the same course in a classroom. Moreover, taking the online version was associated with a decrease in performance in subsequent classes and an increase in the chance of dropping out of college.

                                                                       Many students draw a blank in online classes

But why do underperforming students struggle so much in an online setting? There are three main reasons.

Top Three Reasons Students, Especially Underperformers, Struggle with Online Classes

  1. Low Motivation

Teachers and classmates are ever present in a face-to-face learning environment to remind students to stay on top of their work. But in an online setting, their absence robs students of the motivation to remain engaged and complete assignments. Distractions like social media and Internet surfing easily hijack the attention of online learners and slow their progress to a halt. To combat this problem, experts recommend installing Website Blocker apps to block distracting Websites during study times, and furthermore, they encourage students to talk to themselves frequently in positive, self-affirming ways in order to stay focused on their goals. But, alas, students who are underperformers in the first place tend to be least equipped to implement such measures to reignite their motivation and resume their progress online.

  1. Poor Time Management

Even if a student is motivated to succeed, he or she may falter in an online class because of poor time management. In traditional classes, due dates for assignments and tests are generally spread uniformly throughout the semester, but because online platforms are able to archive course content and exams for any time of access, online classes can aim for flexible scheduling by spacing out due dates to a few points in the semester. And while this online feature is helpful to students who work full-time or have a family to take care of, it is wickedly detrimental to students who have poor time management skills. Online pupils who procrastinate even a little bit can quickly find themselves buried under an avalanche of work to catch up on. Organization of and adherence to routines are musts for online learning success. And having a good support system to help with responsibilities outside of school is important too. But unfortunately, a lot of online students, especially habitual underperformers, possess neither strong time management skills nor helpful support systems, and they fare badly in their online classes as a result.

  1. Absence of One-On-One Interaction

The one-on-one interaction that students get with their teachers and fellow students in a traditional classroom is missing in an online setting. For example, in classrooms, teachers can see any puzzled looks on the faces of their pupils and immediately respond by explaining the material in a different way, while shy students are able to benefit from their professor’s responses to questions posed by bolder classmates. But in a virtual classroom, such advantages are gone, and what’s more, satisfactory alternatives might not be available. For instance, communicating with an instructor by email might turn out to be time consuming, especially if the instructor is not responsive, while identifying which of your classmates would make ideal study partners can prove more difficult online, given the level of anonymity that is usually in play there. This is why online students are often advised to find a good tutor to help them understand their course’s content and prepare for tests. But sadly, this may not be an attractive option for underperforming students, because in many instances they deliberately chose the online version of their classes in the first place out of a reluctance to expose their embarrassing inabilities to other people.

It should be noted that the falloff in learning outcomes that occurs in online classes is steepest when it’s a math course that’s involved. Pass rates for online math courses tend to be dramatically lower than those for face-to-face counterparts, and it’s likely because the disadvantages of not having one-on-one interaction online are exacerbated by the nature of math. Here’s what I mean:

Reasons Math Students Have an Extra Disadvantage in an Online Setting

1) Math Can Be Abstract

After middle school, students find to their alarm that math starts growing abstract. For instance, letters such as “x” and “y” begin appearing in high school Algebra, limits that’re never reached are introduced in AP Calculus, and hypotheses that may or may not be true are analyzed in College Statistics. When this happens, many students get turned off and tap out. As far as they are concerned, math has become boring or too difficult to understand. It is at this point that motivating, empowering, and clarifying interactions between instructor and student become absolutely necessary to ensure that the latter’s frustrations are dispelled and success in math is achieved. And note, these interactions occur naturally in situations where a perceptive, caring teacher is constantly present, such as in a classroom, and not where communication between instructors and students tends to be infrequent, impersonal, and limited, such as online. It is no wonder, then, that hopelessness and feelings of being alone are rampant among online math and statistics students, and those who do not independently and proactively seek online math homework help or online statistics homework help are doomed to failure.

2) Math Is Cumulative

In most subjects, the topics in a course are, to a large extent, independent. Therefore, if a student falls behind in one topic, he may still fare well in the next topic. However, because the topics in a math course generally build upon preceding ones, if a math student falls behind early in the semester, he is unlikely to understand what is taught later in the course. For example, the topic “Adding fractions with unlike denominators” builds upon the topic “Adding fractions with common denominators” by using the intermediate step of finding a least common denominator. Hence, if a student does not understand how to add 2/7 + 3/7 at the foundational level, then he has little chance of moving on to master titillating sums like 6/9 + 9/6. Evidently then, for a student to be successful in an online math class, he must stay on top of his work at all times and grasp all the topics he meets along the way. And given all the online challenges we’ve discussed so far, it should be straightforward for the reader to recognize how difficult this is for students to pull off by themselves in a Web-based environment.

3) Many Students Have Math Anxiety

Does the following sound familiar? The problem before you screams: “Find x if (2x – 3)/(3x – 2) = (4x + 5)/(5x + 4)”. You begin to sweat. Your blood pressure rises. You begin to make careless mistakes. You may even fart involuntarily.

                                                                                                 Math anxiety can cause students to crumble on tests

If this rings a bell, then you probably suffer from something called “math anxiety.” Formally, math anxiety is “a negative emotional reaction to mathematics that interferes with the solving of mathematical problems.” Students with math anxiety generally score extremely low on math tests. They often misread questions, overlook entry points for solving, and finish way fewer problems than they have the ability to do. Math anxiety is believed to be caused by a history of poor results in the subject due to early, unaddressed learning issues related to one’s working memory, and even otherwise strong students can suffer from it. Understandably then, students with math anxiety need extra emotional and instructional support, and if you happen to be in an online setting where this extra support is typically not obtainable, then you’ll surely be tempted to toss in the towel and say, “I need someone to take my online math class for me.” But don’t do that. Instead, follow these proven tips for reducing your math anxiety:

* Practice deep breathing and meditation frequently to relax yourself.

* Create fun mnemonics that help you remember formulas and principles.

* Do the easiest problems first on homework and tests to gain confidence.

* Remind yourself repeatedly that success in math is based on hard work, NOT innate ability.

* Hire a caring, patient, knowledgeable math tutor, like the ones at Do My Math Work, to guide you through stressful moments.

Good luck!


For many students, like those with a low GPA or those who are taking a math or statistics course, achieving academic success is way more challenging in an online setting than in a face-to-face learning environment. Levels of motivation, organization, interaction, and anxiety are some of the factors that make the online setting more difficult for them to thrive in. But if those students exercise appropriate care, like cultivating a strong support system and hiring a tutor, it is possible for them to defy the odds and ace their online classes.

  • March 28 , 2020
  • admin

Tags :  online classes more challenging  online math homework help  online statistics homework help  take my online math class for me

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