The Difference between Classroom Learning and Online Learning

graphReflection on Topic 4

After deciding to start from the second Scenario of Topic 4 our discussion began with the question what was the difference between face-to-face learning and online learning. So, what is different?
In classroom teaching, people always face each other, work in F2F groups, or work alone at home. In online learning settings there is also the possibility to learn F2F by meeting virtually at the same time as in a video conference or a webinar. Although videoconferencing is not the same as being present in the same place at the same time, there are many parallels. Voice, for example, facial expressions and gestures are preserved, as are paraverbal signals. What is omitted is body language, although this is also partly perceived. Perhaps our brain and above all our history of perception are also important. We have so often perceived body language in classrooms, in the office, at home that we are able to complete partial perception. Gaps are automatically completed by our brain. This also applies to the complete body language when voice or speech-ductus are perceived.

Perhaps we can also see the difference by asking ourselves what the properties of the elements are in learning design and looking at how and where exactly the differences are.
In the following I try to determine such differences. I start with the nine W-questions of didactics, which Hilbert Meyer formulates in his work “Didaktische Modelle” (2009). After Meyer, nine questions starting with the letter W in German describe actually, what didactics is all about. By answering those questions, you already can describe a part of your framework for a certain learning objective. Translated into English the questions are: who learns what from whom with whom, when, where, with what (by which means) why and how (German “wie”).

Classroom Learning Online Learning  Difference (1=yes; 0=no)
Who learns Students Students 0
What learning objectives learning objectives 0
Why learning objectives learning objectives 0
Where  in the Classroom anywhere 1
When  At the same time at different times 1
from whom teacher/facilitator and peers  teacher/facilitator and peers 0
with whom peers peers 0
with what media in the class, also computers tablets, internet media for the course;
internet communication tools, resources
how Methods for classroom teaching methods for online teaching and learning 1

From the table above we can see that the WHEN, WHERE and HOW differ with respect to face-to-face learning and online learning. This may sound like little, but it has consequences.


The communication must be possible with a time delay (this concerns WHEN). It must allow contributions to be made, discussed, replied to, quoted etc. if others have already posted their contributions hours or days before. This means that if communication is to take place at different times, it must take place either in writing or via recorded audio or video. Until now, written communication was widespread, e.g. via forums. These contributions are also stored and can be seen, heard or read at any time and several times.
With regard to the WHERE, the difference lies in the fact that one no longer necessarily has to come together in order to work together. Together with the temporal displacement of communication, new possibilities of cooperation arise. The fact that contributions are no longer ephemeral, as spoken language is in face-to-face conversations, but rather stored and repeatable several times, makes us more independent of time and space.


As in the table above, the HOW has even more consequences, they concern the methodical implementation. There are many possible ways of doing this. In the course of the ONL181 course we got to know different methods. One of them is that of the course itself. The Problem Based Learning (PBL) allowed us to deal with a realworld case and to formulate our own view on it. So there was always something to work out, because we could start from ourselves. The rest was, in a nutshell, our group discussions in the online conferences and our individual reflections on it.
Another method was presented in this topic 4: Gilly Salmon’s 5-step model of online learning, which describes the process a learning group goes through online and how to facilitate it. This model can also be used as a planning basis for an online course. Together with Salmon’s model one can use the good old Bloom’s taxonomy of learning, adapted for the digital age (Churches, A.). The taxonomy consists of learning objective-verbs that can be translated into online activities.
The many other online resources we shared during this course reveal a rich and complex world of online learning models and methods. Happy exploring and experiencing in your classes!

Bibliography and Links

Salmon, G. (2013). E-tivities: The Key to Active Online Learning. ROUTLEDGE.
Meyer, H., und Jank, W. (2009), Didaktische Modelle, Berlin Cornelsen, S. 16 ff.

Andrew Churches Digital Bloom’s
Digitally Blooming

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