In-Person vs Online Lessons: What’s the Difference in Learning?

Apr 13, 2022

Whether you love it or hate it, virtual learning has become a part of the lives of millions of kids all around the world. And even when things go back to “normal,” online lessons won’t be going anywhere. Music lessons have certainly also been caught up in this trend, with many schools (including us!) now offering online lessons in addition to their traditional in-person music. But the question many teachers, parents, and students all have is: how effective are online lessons compared the in-person?

The truth is, it depends, and there are some great benefits to both!

Let’s dive in!

In-Person: Better for Hands-On Experiences

Whether it’s for music lessons or job training, working with instructors and other students in person offers much more opportunity for interaction. Being able to speak with another person, face-to-face, usually grants greater clarity and understanding than trying to make yourself understood through texting or email. Even video or live chats don’t offer the same level of human interaction.

Although remote learning technology has improved in leaps and bounds over the last several years, there are many subjects where at least some in-person training is required or preferred. For example, an in-person music instructor is more able to help a beginner with posture and fingering techniques than online.

Online: Better Flexibility

One of the greatest advantages of taking lessons online is the incredible flexibility is offers that wouldn’t normally be available in a more traditional, in-person setting. Online lessons offer a superb option for people who also work remotely, have a full schedule, or have other responsibilities that make it difficult to schedule a routine, in-person session.

This benefit has become especially important recently as people have struggled to readjust their schedules to adapt to the new normal, however temporary it is.

In-Person: Allows Students to Learn at the Same Pace

Classroom and in-person learning are able to keep each student learning at the same pace, on the same timeline. This is an advantage for certain programs, where more than one student wants or should learn together. In the context of music lessons, this might apply to bands learning to play together at the same time. In-person instruction is probably a little better for this situation.

While a band can learn together at the same pace online, it’s more difficult to monitor several people independently, watching videos, finishing their practice tasks, etc., all at the same time. Generally speaking, in-person lessons offer more structure and organization.

Online: More Program Variety

When it comes to in-person lessons, they tend to be fairly ridged, with specifically set beginning and running times, as well as a set curriculum, and always at the same place.

However, online lessons have the freedom to break out of these restrictions. You can often work with your instructor to decide when the best time to “meet” is weekly, as well as craft a more personalized curriculum that can be adjusted on the fly, per your unique needs and learning pace. And what’s more, even if in group learning, online lessons offer the ability for all the students in the class to be spread out geographically, and not tied to the instructors they may have locally.

In-Person: Face-to-Face Interaction

Going hand-in-hand with the hands-on experience of in-person lessons, comes the greater face to face interaction. Being in the same room with the instructor and other students offers a number of advantages, including the ability to have group activities and interactive projects. Students that find learning easier when they can work directly with others, as well as students that find it more difficult to focus when sitting in front of a screen, will likely find in-person lessons easier to sit through, and more engaging in general.

Digital interactions have their benefits, as we’ve seen, but they lack a certain quality that is found in every in-person interaction. The fact is, everyone absorbs knowledge and information differently, so it’s important to consider how students prefer to learn.

Online: Usually Less Expensive

One of the most basic, yet most compelling benefits of online lessons is the reduced cost. Costs are usually reduced in two main ways:

  • Course Costs: In general, online lessons tend to be less expensive because there are fewer operating costs, like building rentals, parking lots, and maintaining a full, on-site staff.
  • Transportation Costs: the cost of gas and wear and tear on a vehicle can add up pretty quickly and depending on when and where your in-person lessons are, you might be paying more in car maintenance than lessons. With online learning, the commute is a simple walk to the computer and the only wear and tear is on your floor.

A Short Word on Screen Time

With remote and online learning replacing much of the in-classroom learning kids would otherwise be doing in school thanks to COVID-19, many parents are concerned about the sudden increase in the “screen time” their children are having.

While the amount of screen time a child gets is definitely something parents should be monitoring and are right to be concerned with, experts agree that it’s the content that matters far more than the hours. In fact, the science argues that the extra screen time, particularly for distance learning, shouldn’t concern parents unnecessarily. Rather, it’s content that is too overstimulating, like video games, that parents should focus their concern on.

That said, Doreen Dodgen-Magee, psychologist and author of Deviced! Balancing Life & Technology in a Digital World, agreed that content matter more than hours, but went on to warn that if children don’t take some kind of break from the screen it can lead to “a constant state of hyperstimulation that can really be toxic for their system.” She does note, however, that the effects of too much screen time – like lack of focus and dependence – are reversible.

In-Person or Online?

As you can see, there are clear benefits to both in-person and online lessons. It’s important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each before making a decision that will impact you or your child’s learning process.

Are you looking for online music lessons or summer camps for you or your children? We’ve got plenty of flexible programs to choose from! Check out our online lessons here and browse our online summer camps here. Be sure to sign up while there’s still room!