In an experiment that compared the same introductory economics course that was taught online and in a lecture hall, it was discovered that "online learning on average beat face-to-face teaching by a modest but statistically meaningful margin," as reported in a New York Times article.
With the ability to hit pause and rewind the tape to take notes, this gives the students in the online class an advantage over their peers in the classroom who have to pay attention to the lecturer while frantically taking notes. Those who have had to speed-write in a lecture class back in the day would know that listening and taking notes simultaneously is no easy feat!
However, this article also takes a cautionary tone explaining that online learning is not necessarily for everyone despite its benefits and convenience. As the article points out, "certain groups did notably worse online. Hispanic students online fell nearly a full grade lower than Hispanic students that took the course in class. Male students did about a half-grade worse online, as did low-achievers, which had college grade-point averages below the mean for the university." This reinforces the common knowledge that some students are better suited for online learning than others. This is not to say that they are inherently better or wired differently but the profile of successful online learners typically are self-directed, independent, resourceful and highly motivated. Ironically, the very benefits of online learning such as the time-shifting convenience and flexibility might in fact lead to the academic demise of students who are less self-motivated.
However, if you have the right attitude towards learning, online courses might in fact better serve you than classroom teaching, as this experiment has shown. Not sure if online learning is right for you? Why don't you take the online learning assessment and find out?