I interviewed one of my colleagues who is a mother and had taken a few online business courses. She preferred online over onsite classes so that she could be home with her son, especially after work.
She took courses in which she sat through videos and courses in which everyone joined in at a certain time. She likes the latter better because she preferred the interaction with the instructor and other students through webcam. The liveliness of the participation made her learning experience much better than going through videos.
One of her biggest complains was that the interface was way too crowded for her laptop. She had to have too many window browsers open including one for video, one for the lesson, one for class discussions and one for exercise. She wished the design was simpler to let her focus on her main task.
I also interviewed another colleague who took an onsite Linux class. The first class, the instructor walked through the installation process and helped out the students who had trouble. The other student in class could also hop on another student’s computer to help with the installation.
In each lesson, the instructor took the students through the materials. He typed command lines on screen and the students followed along. After that the students would go through the exercise on their own and then moved to the next lesson. Every three lessons, the students would have an assignment to complete for a grade. The assignment based on the lessons the students had learned.
My colleague said the course could have been easily offered online because every task required using the computer. The students could learn at the own paste and they would have more time to troubleshoot their own codes before asking the instructors or other students.
Then again he liked the onsite class because he could meet with other students. They could take a break and connect with each other. The social aspect appealed to him and he wouldn’t think that online classes would offered the same experience.