The Benefits of Taking a GMAT Online Course vs. In-Person Classes

by Emmanuel Carita
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Benefits of Taking a GMAT Online Course vs. In-Person Classes

Online classes in just about any subject imaginable have skyrocketed since 2020, due in no small part to the global pandemic of that year. But what started as a convenience has become a mainstay of the academic world, with many students choosing to continue with online classes rather than return to the classroom.

GMAT courses are no different, with most major course providers now offering GMAT online courses as standard (check out our exclusive comparison of the best GMAT online courses). Though some are limited to pre-recorded video classes and online materials, some also do live instruction classes with a limited number of students, or even private one-on-one courses that are entirely online, along many other benefits.

More choice is a good thing, of course. But the question facing many GMAT candidates now is: which is better? Should I take an online course or stick with traditional offline classes? What are the benefits of taking a GMAT course online, as opposed to offline?

During the course of this article, we plan to tackle these questions and examine the pros and cons of both online and offline classes, as well as help you decide which sort of course is best for you.

Offline and Online GMAT Courses: What You Should Consider 

When thinking about whether or not GMAT online courses are right for you, there are a few things that you should consider first.

Your Preferred Approach To Learning

Some students are naturally gregarious and thrive in a social study environment, with classmates to bounce ideas off and discuss things together. Others are more solitary and learn better if they’re studying independently, without the distraction or the social labor that comes with interacting with other students.

Naturally, then, choosing an online or offline class pretty much comes down to your personal preferences. Do you work better in a group, with activities that center around student-led discussions and brainstorming? Or are you more suited to figuring out things for yourself, with minimal interaction with your fellow students?

It’s important to note here, however, that taking an online GMAT course does not completely preclude you from peer-to-peer interaction. Unless you’re opting for private tuition, online classes do have other students, and there will be times when you’ll interact with them. Self-study/one-to-one classes are the only ways where you’ll have absolutely no interaction with other students.

Logistics

A big logistical consideration if taking offline classes is how you’re actually going to get to the classes. What kind of transport are you going to use to commute there? How do the costs of either impact your weekly/monthly budget? What about the time needed to get to and from the study center? How will that gel with your work schedule (if you’re working)?

With online classes, none of these considerations really matter. All you need is a computer (or a tablet), an internet connection, and a quiet place.

Your Schedule

Something that goes hand-in-hand with the logistical issues mentioned above, as we mentioned, is your schedule outside of your GMAT classes. If you have a hectic working life, it may be very difficult to accommodate ongoing offline GMAT classes. You’ll need to set time aside time for commuting to the study center, and this can be very busy with a full workload.

There may also be times when emergencies crop up, or you simply can’t make it to class due to other obligations. When it comes to offline classes, this may simply mean that you lose your class slot.

This may also be the case with online classes too, but they tend to be more flexible, and so there’s a better chance that you can reschedule. In addition, the fact that you don’t need to commute means that it’s easier to fit online classes into your pre-existing schedule.

What Are The Advantages Of Online Learning?

Though some people prefer the cut-and-thrust of being in a physical classroom with a tutor and other students present, the fact is that there are many advantages to keeping things online, too. Let’s take a look at what the benefits of GMAT online courses are.

What are the Advantages of GMAT Online Courses?

You Can Spend More Time Studying 

As pointed out in the previous section, one of the big issues with offline classes is getting to them. Long commutes (or even relatively short ones) can be physically and mentally draining, and can add to the stress of a day that might already have more than its fair share of stresses.

Online classes remove almost all of that associated stress – as well as the time investment of commuting to a physical location. And this is one of the major benefits of taking a GMAT online course. You can do an online class pretty much anywhere that’s quiet – in a café, at your office, at home, or even (connection allowing) the park.

And all that time you save on commutes? That can go right back into studying. If you’d have spent an hour on the bus getting to an offline class, you can instead spend that hour reviewing and prepping for the GMAT. Online classes are, simply put, far more time-efficient.

More Flexibility

A corollary to the lack of commuting time is, of course, increased flexibility. With online classes, you may find that you’re able to attend classes that might not have been possible had you been commuting to a training center. If all you need to do is pull out your tablet and connect to the WiFi, after all, then it gets a lot easier to join class.

But even with this added flexibility, it may sometimes be the case that you still end up missing a class or two. With an offline class, if you miss it, you miss it. But online classes are generally recorded, meaning that even if you miss it, you can still watch it back later.

Sure, it’s not quite the same as actively participating in the class, but it’s a handy backup to have nonetheless.

GMAT Online Courses Are Cheaper 

One of the primary benefits of taking a GMAT online course is a lower price. This one sounds incredibly obvious, but the truth is it doesn’t actually occur to many people unless they look at the numbers. But once you’ve realized it, it makes perfect sense – of course online classes are cheaper than offline ones.

For one, there’s no need for a physical classroom, which means no need for a school or training center. This represents a massive reduction in overheads for the training provider – no rent, no AC, no utility bills, no furniture, no onsite staff such as cleaners/receptionists/security, and no physical materials (which can be very costly). All they need are online materials and, in some cases, instructors.

Those savings, of course, can be passed directly onto you. This means that online classes are far cheaper than GMAT in-person classes; Kaplan/Manhattan Prep’s offline classes, for instance, were $1520 at the time of writing, whereas their online equivalent was $1280. That’s a pretty considerable amount of money that could be going elsewhere!

Increased Personalization

Another aspect of online classes that makes them preferable to in-person ones is that it’s much easier to tailor the course according to what you need. After all, there’s no need to schedule physical classes to accommodate students, which means that things are more easily reshuffled and that students get to focus on the things that they’d like to focus on.

What’s more, many online classes are not ‘lectures’ per se, and feature neither instructors nor fellow students. They’re simply interactive videos that you can pick and choose from, meaning that you’re easily able to skip the ones that are not relevant to you, and focus on the ones that are. You can also re-watch such videos at your leisure, making sure you’re able to review the classes that are most important to you and your progress.

Increased Collaboration With Other Students

This one seems very counterintuitive at first glance – how can you possibly collaborate more with other students in an online setting than offline? With an offline class you spend time in the physical presence of other students, and it’s easy to, for instance, go for a coffee after class and discuss what you just learned.

Firstly, it’s important to dispel a misconception. It’s commonly assumed that online classes must necessarily be completely teacher-centered – that is to say, that the teacher talks, and the students simply listen and take notes. Aside from this limited teaching interaction pattern, the only other one possible is a single student talking while the others (and the teacher) listen.

This actually isn’t the case with many online classes, and particularly for online GMAT classes. Many course providers have ensured that the technology used for online classes facilitates student-to-student interaction, using such tools as breakout rooms in order to ensure that students are able to discuss the topics raised and collaborate on in-class activities.

Outside of live in-class interactions, there are message boards. These can be created by the instructor and are a great way to allow the students to discuss what they learned in class, submit homework and projects for peer/tutor feedback, or simply socialize with one another outside of the classroom.

Message boards can actually be more effective in facilitating student collaboration than traditional, self-managed offline study groups or meetups. They’re inclusive by definition (as everyone has an account and the ability to participate at any time), and they may actually be better for socially anxious students who would be reluctant to participate in a real-world setting.

It’s also much easier for students to share ideas, start discussions, and submit their work for peer review – particularly since time is irrelevant on a message board. Students could put up a practice AWA essay at 2am, and wake up to feedback on it from their classmates the next day.

All in all, online classes lend themselves – quite paradoxically – to increased student collaboration and interaction – making this factor a clear GMAT online course benefit.

Technically Straightforward

A big concern that many students have – particularly those who are technology-averse – is that setting up and attending online classes is going to be complicated or too much effort. It might be a pain to make it to a traditional offline class, but once you get there, it’s much more straightforward than worrying about connection strength and microphones and webcam configurations, right?

This may have been the case ten years ago, when online classes were in their infancy and there were still a lot of snags to work through. However, the necessity of distance teaching in the Covid era has meant that the technology underpinning online classes has come on leaps and bounds.

Apps like Zoom or VooV have streamlined and simplified all aspects of joining online meetings and classes, and it’s quite often a case of clicking a link and entering your class. Furthermore, integrated mics and cameras have long been the standard in laptops and tablets, and they’re typically quick and easy to set up on desktop computers.

What’s more, general improvements to internet infrastructure worldwide mean that dropped or choppy connections are exceedingly rare now, and so you’re unlikely to experience these kinds of interruptions during online classes. Even if they do crop up, they’re usually quite quickly fixed, meaning you can get back to your classes sooner rather than later. And in the rare event that you do experience a serious error, you always have the recordings to fall back on.

Expedited/Instantaneous Feedback

When submitting homework in an offline class, you can expect to wait a while – days, or in some cases weeks – before you’ll receive feedback from your instructor. This wait can sometimes be so lengthy, in fact, that it’s not uncommon for students to forget what they’re receiving feedback on in the first place – making that feedback much less effective.

With online classes, it’s much easier to get feedback more quickly. In the case of the multiple-choice sections of the GMAT, that feedback can be instantaneous, since it’s simply a matter of the system returning your results once you’ve finished. Even with AWA essays, you can receive feedback from your peers quickly, and your tutor will be able to see your essay as soon as it’s been submitted online, meaning you don’t have to wait until the next class in order to receive feedback on it.

This means that students are able to respond more quickly to feedback, and implement changes to their approach to various parts of the test sooner rather than later. They can, in many instances, also understand why they made certain mistakes – and thus improve their understanding of the various parts of the GMAT.

Better Course Materials

With an offline course, it can’t be guaranteed that all students will have access to computers or similar devices like tablets. This means that instructors can’t really use interactive or enhanced materials in their classes, because not all students will be able to participate.

The one exception to this is if the training center in question actually has a sufficiently large number of tablets (or rarer still, laptops) to ensure that every student in the class has access to one. Needless to say, this is prohibitively expensive and not something you can expect to see in many training centers.

This isn’t an issue with online courses, where every student, by definition, has access to an electronic device. This enables the use of more sophisticated teaching materials, such as interactive videos/activities and computer-adaptive tests (as on the real GMAT). Students can, as previously mentioned, also revisit these materials at their leisure.

The benefits of this approach – rather than the traditional offline one – are obvious. Students are not limited by outdated or clunky old-school media (which can, in some centers, still consist of such things as poorly-photocopied and blurry handouts). They are granted access to the last in cutting-edge and interactive materials on the likes of the courses provided by Kaplan and The Princeton Review.

Such materials are excellent at concept-checking students along the way, frequently asking clarifying questions or checking students’ understanding of what’s been said before moving on. This means that students are more engaged – both because the materials are more interesting and visually appealing, but also because they know that they will later need to demonstrate their understanding of the content featured in the materials.

All of this leads to a deeper understanding of the content of the GMAT, and makes for students that learn more quickly and efficiently than in an offline class (or in a self-study situation).

Conclusion

Although it can initially seem that GMAT online courses have a number of drawbacks in comparison with their traditional offline equivalent, the fact is that the technological advances brought about by necessity in 2020 have completely revolutionized online teaching for everyone.

This makes for a better experience for students all around. With enhanced collaborative tools, interactive (and higher-quality) teaching materials that can be reviewed at your leisure, and the elimination of logistical impracticalities such as commuting costs/times and the need for physical infrastructure, GMAT online courses have never been in a better place than they are now. Taking a GMAT online course comes with so many benefits that the choice is easy for most students.

What’s more, many of the traditional arguments against online teaching (technical issues, the lack of sociability) have been almost entirely eliminated. And this is in addition to the considerable savings on offer with GMAT online courses. In essence, there has never been a better time to get into an online course. Consider signing up for one today.

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