Lecture Differences Between Online and Live Courses

Posted on March 18 2017

Modern technology has changed many major areas in life, and chief among them is the learning sphere. The ability to take classes and even earn diplomas online has rapidly expanded the options available to students, and at The American Academy, our programs offer the flexibility and affordability many kids need.

For many, this has started a theoretical conversation surrounding how different people learn, and whether the online or classroom setting might be more beneficial for certain individuals. Especially within a lecture-related setting – which is easily possible through online courses as well as in person – there are a few big differences that might influence which area is best for you. Let’s take a look.

Classroom Management

In a physical classroom, the teacher moves students around and groups them in ways that will make things run more smoothly. The teacher can manage different groups accordingly. In an online setting, though, grouping is different – conferencing software makes it easy to group students, but many teachers find it’s easier to manage the entire group as a whole. For this reason, even in a lecture setting, online classes work most effectively in smaller numbers to allow the teacher proper control.

Back Channel Engagement

In a traditional lecture, the use of back channels like cell phones is frowned upon and often even banned, with good reason. They aren’t conducive to a focused, in-person lecture scenario.
With online classes, though, these kinds of back channels might be encouraged to help with lecture engagement. Many online classrooms have a text function built in to allow another avenue of engagement for the audience, and many will employ both a presenter and a “host” to manage these back channels in online style lectures. Some people may find they benefit more from this sort of arrangement.

Different Presenting and Feedback Tools

It’s tougher in theory to gauge the responsiveness and interest level of an online classroom during a lecture – for a live group of students, a bunch of bored faces would usually paint a pretty clear picture, but this isn’t an option in the online sphere. For this reason, presenters have to take advantage of other tools, such as audience questions or votes to help engage the students. Again, though, there are many students who will respond much more vigorously to this sort of specific stimulation than a more straightforward classroom setting.


We think of anonymity as a bad thing in the classroom, but this can actually be backward in some situations. Many students are more introverted, and may struggle with the idea of speaking up to ask what they may view as a silly question in a lecture with dozens or even hundreds of other people.
With online courses, this anonymity can actually be very helpful. Students aren’t intimated by asking a question if it will remain anonymous, which can help the learning process for many kids.

Want to learn more about the differences between the online and classroom setting, or about any of our online academy services? Speak to the educators at The American Academy today.