Self-Study vs. Classroom: Which One Is Better for Learning IT?

Self-study or classroom? Which one is better for learning IT? Learn the advantages and disadvantages and make your decision.
IT Classroom

These days learners have the world at their fingertips. You can virtually explore another continent on a VR headset, you can teach yourself how to play chess with international opponents on social media, you can learn a foreign language with just a laptop. In the 21st century, technology in education is here to stay, and student learning is changing to make good use of that technology. With that transition comes a variety of options and added flexibility.

Information technology (IT) students are taking advantage of this shift and utilizing digital learning tools and activities to make the learning process their own – in the classroom or via self-study methods at home. The question is: Which is better? As you can imagine, the answer depends on you, the student.

Is It Possible to Learn IT by Self-Study Methods?

This is an easier answer – yes! Of course, it’s possible to learn IT by self-study methods, people do it every single day. Typically, the self-study learning environment requires some type of online learning activities.

You’re probably familiar with these resources, as they are a staple in education these days from elementary school to secondary school and high school to higher education. While free resources are available, you’ll likely have to purchase some type of edtech to master IT concepts and track your progress.

5 Important Factors to Consider When Choosing Classroom or Self-Study

There are some important factors to consider when choosing your learning experience. Each option comes with considerations regarding time, cost, level of interaction, accessibility, and data relevance and flow.

1. Time

In a traditional classroom environment, the time is set for you. You know up front that you’re enrolling in a class that will take a certain number of weeks or months to complete. You are typically given a syllabus in the beginning of the class that shows you how the learning experience breaks out over that period, giving you definite expectations for your learning outcome.

When self-studying, time is not necessarily structured, unless you purposely make it that way. Some people find this to be an advantage – you can learn the material as quickly as you’re able or you can take your time. But if you don’t have that drive to learn at your own pace, this time flexibility can quickly become a disadvantage.

Not sure how to get started with studying? Download our free study planning worksheet to stay on track and get certified.

2. Cost

Enrolling in an instructional technology course can be expensive, especially if you are taking multiple courses at the same time. The cost of classroom learning covers the expense of the space, the materials and the instructor. Sometimes students are asked to pay additional fees for lab equipment or additional study materials that aren’t included in the cost of the class.

Self-study can be less expensive than taking a class. The right self-study materials have been written and developed by subject-matter experts, and that’s included in the purchase price. Online learning can be less expensive than an in-person class because you aren’t paying for a classroom.

But the best digital learning tools aren’t free. You’ll likely have to purchase a bundle of resources to effectively learn the material and boost student performance.

Learn how you can save money on CompTIA training solutions, whether you self-study or participate in a class.

3. Interaction

Human interaction occurs in a traditional classroom setting. You’ll have a teacher, and you’ll interact with other students on assignments and group projects. The learning process includes asking questions and learning from other’s questions. Your teacher will probably use apps and other educational technology resources to supplement their lessons, but the biggest benefit is first-hand interaction with the teacher.

And while self-study might sound a bit isolating, that’s not entirely true. Many online learning experiences include games, different types of questions and interactive labs and scenarios to hold your attention and simulate real-life situations. In other words, you’ll have interaction – just not of the human variety. You can also find communities of other IT pros – such as on Reddit, LinkedIn and Facebook Groups – for comradery, accountability and support.

CompTIA Live Online Training enables interaction between you, your instructor and other students, with the convenience of learning remotely. Read more.

4. Accessibility

The biggest hurdle in terms of accessibility in a classroom environment is getting there. You’ll have to have reliable transportation to and from the class, and your schedule will have to accommodate the class time. Taking online courses can help alleviate that.

Self-study methods allow for maximum accessibility. By design, you can self-study nearly anywhere at any time. This may be an ideal option if you have a work schedule that doesn’t align with in-person or online courses, or if transportation is an issue. Because you are in charge of your own learning when you self study, you can work at your own pace and go over the lessons as many times as you want.

5. Data Relevance and Flow

When taking a traditional class, each instructor has their own teaching method and may present each lesson differently. There’s usually a curriculum to follow and an order to learning that leads to student achievement. The class objectives may change from year to year as curriculum is updated to reflect new technologies and industry changes.

This can be true for self-study methods as well, if you are using the proper training solutions. For example, using a book to learn the fundamentals of IT support is only effective if the book is sufficiently up to date. Using online learning materials is usually a better bet, because it’s easier to make updates in real-time versus printed resources.

Pros and Cons of Self Study for Learning IT

Pro = It’s all up to you. You decide when, where and how you study!
Con = It’s all up to you. If you lack the motivation, you can easily fall behind.

If self study is your top pick, make sure you set yourself up for success. Start by creating a study plan – and stick to it. Your study plan should include how many hours you will dedicate to your studies each day and/or week. You may also want to consider where you’ll study that will offer the least amount of distractions. Then choose your study materials – and choose wisely.

Select training solutions that not only teach the material, but help you practice what you’ve learned and identify knowledge gaps. These resources will include multimedia simulations to engage and train you. When you align your action plan to your desired learning outcomes, you win.

Pros and Cons of the Classroom for Learning IT

Pro = Your learning is structured. All you have to do is show up and do the work.
Con = Your learning is structured. You may need more time or less time to master competencies.

If a traditional classroom environment is your first choice, find yourself a class and register! Make sure the course you sign up for aligns with your goals. For instance, if you’re working toward an entry-level IT support role, you don’t need a class that includes coding or development.

Even though the classroom environment has everything structured for you, it doesn’t mean it’s a cake walk – you still have to show up, pay attention, participate and complete your assignments in order to learn the material and prepare for the on-the-job scenarios.

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Which Is Better?

The digital divide is upon us. Organizations far and wide are searching for qualified IT talent – that can be you! If you’re a college student or an IT pro participating in professional development, you have plenty of learning opportunities.

Identify your learning style and carefully consider the factors outlined above when choosing the learning process that will work best for you. A lot of the pros and cons depend on your unique situation, personality and preferences.

Learn IT Skills with CompTIA

Whether you choose self-study options or a classroom learning experience, the fact that you’re learning is all that matters. The best option is the one that you will find most successful.

CompTIA has everything you need to learn IT, whether you prefer self-study or classroom learning:

  • CertMaster Learn: Learn at your own pace with interactive lessons and videos. 
  • CertMaster Labs: Get hands-on practice using real software applications in a virtual environment. 
  • CertMaster Practice: Test your knowledge and find out if you’re ready for the exam. 
  • The Official CompTIA Study Guide: Learn and review exam objectives with our comprehensive textbook. 
  • CompTIA Live Online Training: Train in real time with experienced instructors from the comfort of your home – or anywhere!
  • CompTIA Tech Career Academy: Ready to launch your IT career? In as little as 16 weeks, learn the skills you need to prepare for your CompTIA A+ certification exams and receive targeted professional development and career services to land your first IT job. 

Ready to get started? Sign up for a free 30-day trial of CompTIA CertMaster Learn + Labs to begin learning!

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