Are Online Math Classes Easier or Harder? (It Depends)


Almost every student will have to take a math class at some point in high school or college. And many students will have the opportunity to take that math class online. Before you jump in and enroll, you should consider how an online math class differs from one in person.

Are online math classes easier or harder? Online math classes are more convenient since students can work on their own schedule. However, it can be hard to learn complex topics without a professor to explain things directly.  If you are not highly self-motivated or struggle with math, an online course can be challenging.

If you want or need to take an online math class, you should know how it works. While your specific class structure will depend on your school and professor, you may wonder if it will be easy. And in some ways, it will be easier than going in person.

How Online Math Classes Are Easier

Some things about an online math class make them easier. You don’t have to set aside the same time each week to go to class. Taking an online course means that you can work when you work best, which can make you more efficient.

Math can be a difficult subject, but if you know how to study in general, you can apply those skills to your math class. You don’t have to be a math whiz to take math online. But you do need to consider that it is still a class. You can’t slack off and expect to get an easy A just because the course is online.

More Flexible

One fantastic way that online math classes are easier is that they are much more flexible than in-person classes. You don’t have to find a class that works with your schedule since you can work on your time. If all the in-person options are full or you have other commitments, you can take the class online.

  • As long as you get your assignments done before their deadlines, you can work at 2 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning. If you are a serious night owl or an early bird, you can choose a study schedule that works for you.
  • You also don’t have to worry about commuting to school, finding a parking spot, and walking to class. All that time can add up, and it can take away from your study time or free time.
  • And if you work quickly, you may be able to work a week or two ahead. Then, you can finish the course early, freeing up time to study and complete other courses.
  • Online courses are especially appealing to people who work full-time or have a bunch of other commitments. You can still earn your degree without sacrificing other parts of your life.

For a lot of students, flexibility is the main reason they take online courses. But you need to have a lot of motivation and self-discipline. You don’t have a professor telling you that something is due, or at least not in person. It’s up to you to manage your deadlines and complete assignments and tests.

More Organized

It can depend on the professor, but online courses can sometimes be more organized than face-to-face classes. Your professor might load all the assignments and materials into your course platform at the start of the semester. If the professor has taught math online before, they probably have an outline to use.

  • You can go into your course platform and download your syllabus to see when everything will be due during the semester. Then, you can mark those dates in your calendar or planner to stay on top of everything.
  • If your professor is that organized, you won’t have to worry about waiting for them to reveal assignments. You can work at your own pace as long as you do not get behind.
  • You can check on your grades and submit assignments all in one place.

When you take a course in person, you will probably get a syllabus. But you may not have access to your professor’s lectures or exercises until the professor covers them in class. That can make it difficult for you to plan ahead, especially if you think you will need extra time later in the semester.

How Online Math Classes Are Harder

Unfortunately, a lot of students find online math classes are harder than face-to-face classes. Taking a course online requires a lot of focus, so it’s not the right option for everyone. Before you enroll in an online math class, consider how you learn best and if you need extra help.

Sometimes, going to a lecture can be useful. You will have the chance to ask your professor questions, and you can take more detailed notes. Plus, other students might have questions that you would not think to ask, but you can still learn from them.

Many universities report that the failure rates for online math courses are higher than those for in-person classes.  

More Distractions

Taking online math classes can be difficult because you can be vulnerable to distractions. If you have a spouse or kids and try to do your homework at home, they can be noisy. Your kids may need help with something, so you will need to stop working on your class.

  • If you don’t have a family, you may still have other distractions, like your work. You may need to answer work calls or emails, which can disrupt the flow of your studying.
  • A lot of people keep their phone nearby when working on an online class. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be distracting if you get a lot of notifications and alerts.
  • If you do your homework in a library or coffee shop, other people can distract you. Other customer orders may make it hard for you to stay focused on your work, or people walking by can be distracting.

If you want to take an online math class, you need to get rid of as many distractions as possible. Put away your phone and tell your family that you need them to leave you alone. Then, you can focus on the material so that you can get a good grade.

More Time-Consuming

It may sound counter-intuitive, but online math classes can take more time than going in person. You may not need to spend time driving to and from class, but you still need to devote time to your work. If you have a lot of distractions, that can mean you will need to spend more time studying to get the same amount of work done.

  • You need to prepare a good quality workspace with few distractions. But that can be hard if you don’t have a separate office or room to use.
  • If you don’t spend a ton of time upfront, you may need to spend more time studying for a test. You may be able to do your homework on your own time, but some classes may require you to take exams at a testing center without any notes.
  • Before you take an online math class, anticipate that it will take more time than you think. It may not, but it’s better to prepare for the worst.

It’s easy to think an online class won’t take much time. And while it may not require more time than an in-person class, it can be more time-consuming than you think. So plan ahead when scheduling your time to work on your math assignments.

Final Thoughts

Online math classes may cover the same material as a face-to-face class, but their execution can be quite different. In some ways, they are much easier since they offer a lot of flexibility. But unless you have enough focus and discipline, they can be much more difficult than you expect.

Glen Brown

I am a Technical Trainer and Manager with over 20 years experience in IT, Education and Business. I have multiple qualifications on each topic including post graduate qualifications. I have a passion for sharing knowledge and using technology to do this. If you would like to know more about me please see the about page of the website.

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