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What are the pros and cons of online learning?

Topics: Learning

From guitar to grammar, kids can learn just about anything online through videos, tutorials, how-to's, lectures, and even for-credit classes. The types of online lessons vary wildly: Some have a fee, some are free; some offer a dedicated time, teacher, and subject; and some are simply self-directed (available when you feel like learning something).

With the exception of formalized online school (another category entirely), online learning most often happens when your kid searches for something he or she wants to learn and fires up a video or a wiki to get more information. If your kid (or anyone in your family, for that matter) is weighing taking an online course -- especially if it costs money -- here are some pros and cons to consider.


  • It's driven by their passion.
  • Kids can choose from a wide variety of topics.
  • It costs less than a real-world class.
  • There's more flexibility -- a class can be short-term or long-term.
  • Online learning can be a boon for shy kids.
  • It also can be ideal for remotely located kids.
  • If the class is recorded, you can rewind, fast-forward, and pause.


  • The quality varies.
  • The lack of human interaction could contribute to a feeling of isolation.
  • The format could lead to kids procrastinating or quitting early.
  • Your kid must be a self-directed learner.
  • Your kid may not be able to see everything demonstrated clearly -- and he or she can't move up to the front of the class.
  • There's potential for inappropriate content.

Here are a few resources for online classes:

  • Lessonface offers live online music classes for all levels.
  • IXL provides a wide variety of pre-K through 12 math and language arts lessons, some for a fee.
  • DIY encourages kids to complete skill-based, hands-on "challenges," such as repairing a bicycle tire tube.
  • Instructables is a gigantic DIY site where users share how to build, cook, sew, invent, or try almost anything.
  • YouTube Education offers an incredible -- and frequently updated -- collection of interesting videos.
Common Sense Media

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