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Classroom vs Online Learning for CME: Which is Right for You?

By January 8, 2024January 9th, 2024CME Activities

Practitioners have many types of CME to choose from, including classroom and online learning, as well as journals, point of care, and other formats. Live CME is a prominent option among healthcare professionals and continues to grow in popularity. For physicians considering classroom vs online learning for CME, it’s important to understand the general benefits of in person learning. The advantages of face-to-face learning, as compared to online classes, have been studied in a variety of settings recently, due to COVID’s disruption of traditional classrooms. However, you must also be aware of any factors that could make online courses the best choice for your personal continuing education.

CME in the Classroom

In person learning is generally considered the most effective method of CME. There are several distinct benefits of classroom learning:


Classroom settings foster active learning, such as discussions, problem solving, and case studies, which is proven to result in a deeper understanding of materials than passive learning. In person, instructors can personalize courses to attendees’ interests and knowledge gaps, even within a structured curriculum. One study found that almost half of learners found it difficult to ask for clarification on new or difficult topics when learning online, a barrier lessened by the dynamic nature of face-to-face learning. Additionally, the value of nonverbal communication, which is often lost when learning virtually, cannot be downplayed.


Learning can be hard, even for experienced practitioners. The human element of classroom learning, as compared to online courses, leads to a sense of community. Presenters can feel when attendees might need additional support while networking with peers can be motivating.

Fewer Distractions

Classroom learning removes the distractions of everyday life innately present in other delivery methods. Whether it’s unscheduled patients, employees’ questions, or kids’ activities, personal responsibilities can easily get in the way of focused time for CME. Removing or ignoring these distractions requires discipline and planning not always possible for busy doctors. Lastly, while technical issues are possible in classrooms that use technology, these problems are likely a bigger disruption to personal online learning.

CME on Demand

With all the benefits of live continuing education in mind, it’s also important to consider when in person learning may not be the best option. Online and on demand CME courses are flexible and convenient, without associated travel costs, which gives physicians (who may be restricted by time, funds or any number of other limitations) more CME options. Because of this, you may be able to choose CME more tailored to your practice. Or, you may be able to engage more fully with the material at the exact time and place it works best for you.

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