Pin Me

The False Dichotomy of Online and Traditional Education

written by: •edited by: Carly Stockwell•updated: 11/19/2015

When an industry suddenly changes, people start to panic — especially when that change is because of technology. Education is dealing with this right now. But is the panic about online education warranted?

  • slide 1 of 3

    As online tools become more common, teachers worry about their future job security, and universities wonder whether four-year degrees will continue to be valuable. Many wonder whether online education will spell the end for traditional schooling.

    The answer is “no." Technology will not replace teachers. Technology will help teachers do their jobs better. It’s important to dispel the notion that this is a battle between two sides by figuring out how technology can complement — not replace — traditional education.

  • slide 2 of 3
  • slide 3 of 3

    Embracing Change

    One of the biggest questions we face in education today is how to change the way we teach and get knowledge to stick based on what we know now about how people learn.

    In-person education tried to adapt to research on information retention, but until now, we didn’t have the tools to keep up with the new findings that seem to arrive daily. Online education won’t replace traditional education, but fighting to keep online learning out of our schools only slows our progress when we could be improving our pedagogy by including it.

    We need a hybrid: a blend between online and traditional education that provides for the needs of every student and uses teachers’ skills in the areas they’re needed most. Creating this hybrid will improve the educational experience in three key areas: responsiveness, engagement, and personalization.


    The current and future needs of schools aren’t the same as they once were. Just 10 years ago, for example, there was no need to educate students about the kinds of mobile technology we now have, but today, that information is critical to most career paths.

    The data collection and feedback that online systems make possible don’t just help with the “how" of teaching, but also with the “what" (the subject matter).

    Traditional learning today can’t quickly respond to analytics, studies, and direct feedback because of their rigid structures. Hybrid models will allow us to collect data, see what works and what doesn’t, and use that information to improve the classroom experience on the spot.


    Online courses alone can only do so much. The same is true of traditional classes. Combining the two, however, presents a world of opportunities.

    We know that video and interactive content grabs (and keeps) students’ attention much better than static text or lectures. People simply find it easier to remember something they do rather than something they just read or hear.

    Imagine a classroom where videos and interactive learning tools are just a click away and teachers can prevent minds from wandering by providing engaging materials at a moment’s notice. That kind of fluid engagement and interactivity will distinguish a hybrid system from its predecessors.


    The rigid structure of education today bores quick learners, stresses slow learners, and prevents students from maximizing their potential. Incorporating online tools into a teacher-guided classroom will allow each individual student to learn at his or her own pace while still covering all the material.

    This model also allows teachers to use their talents to the fullest. When courses are self-guided, teachers can spend less time providing the content and more time actually teaching — answering questions, providing interactive examples, and helping students learn the material.

    Despite all the benefits discussed here, this summary doesn’t even address the advantages of hybrid education outside of a traditional learning environment. Long-distance students, students with special needs, and many others could all benefit greatly from teacher-led programs blended with online resources tailored specifically for their needs. A hybrid system eliminates the guesswork so everyone can focus on education.

    Ultimately, the dichotomy of online and traditional education is a false one. Online tools exist to enhance the instructor-learner connection, not sever it. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can merge these two systems into one to give students the comprehensive educational experience they deserve.

    About the Author: Mattan Griffel is the co-founder and CEO of Y Combinator-backed One Month, the first online school for accelerated learning. Mattan created One Month Rails, the bestselling online Ruby on Rails course for beginners to learn how to build web applications. He’s also the NYC Ambassador to the Thousand Network, a collection of young leaders around the world, and was selected as one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Education this year.