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The Pros and Cons of Studying CIPD Online

Online learning has now virtually taken over the education sector. Whether you’re a high school or university student, or a busy corporate executive, online learning has swiftly become the preferred learning method for those looking for a better work-life (or study-life) balance. 

Don’t just take our word for it though! Studies found that online learning is just as effective as in-person learning (if not more effective), while it has also proven to improve student retention rates and even reduce study time by as much as 60% for students and employees alike. 

That said, working professionals who have taken particular advantage of online learning in recent years are HR and L&D practitioners looking to start or advance their careers. Being that online learning enables them to schedule their learning around their busy lives, it also gives them the flexibility to meet their personal and professional obligations. However, it goes without saying that online learning doesn’t work for everyone. 

If you’re a current or aspiring people professional considering studying CIPD online, in this blog we explore the pros and cons to help you decide if it will work for you.

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What are CIPD qualifications?

The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) is the world’s leading training and accreditation body for human resources and learning and development professionals. 

They offer a range of globally recognised HR and L&D qualifications, which tend to act as a prerequisite for most jobs in the industry, with an aim to maintain high standards of training in the HR and L&D professions. 

Offering qualifications at three various levels, each corresponding to different career stages, you can find a CIPD qualification that suits you whether you’re an industry newcomer or a seasoned professional.  

Sought after by employers worldwide, it’s no wonder why CIPD qualifications symbolise the utmost credibility and professionalism for HR and L&D training across the globe. 

The pros of studying CIPD online 

1) Flexibility 

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of studying online is the flexibility students have to study wherever and whenever best works for them without having to follow a rigid schedule. All they need is a secure and reliable internet connection to access their online study material. 

The benefit of flexibility is particularly appealing to adult learners of all ages and circumstances in full-time employment, as it enables them to study without sacrificing their job and financial security, while also allowing them to fit their studies around their busy lives.

The flexibility of online learning not only provides learners with the added convenience of creating their study schedule as it suits them but is also proven to have a positive impact on learning outcomes. 

Online learning also allows students to revisit any materials they’ve already reviewed as much as needed, giving them more control over the learning process. As a result, studies from Oxford College found that online learning creates information retention rates of up to 60%, compared to 8-10% of traditional face-to-face learning, which means students are more able to retain what they’ve learned online. 

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2) Affordability 

For many, the cost of their studies is a huge consideration, and often the reason they decide not to enrol on a course. With traditional, in-person learning environments becoming exceptionally expensive, another great benefit of online learning is affordability. 

Since students can study from anywhere they wish, commuting to get to a physical classroom is eliminated, which can save them from huge transportation costs. 

Additionally, since all course materials are available online for students to access at any time of the day, students no longer need to pay for expensive textbooks like they once would. Paperless material is also favourable for the learning provider too, reducing course running costs. 

Along with that, without rent payments and electricity bills for the class location, running costs become even lower, which means that tuition fees are also far less expensive for online courses compared to their physical alternatives.

3) Efficiency 

The efficiency with which learning is delivered is also another major advantage of online learning.  Teachers have an array of modern visual instructional material they can choose from to deliver their lessons and they can all be accessed through video software such as Zoom and Google Meets, used for online education. 

These tools range from PowerPoint presentations and decks to PDFs, videos, and podcasts, all of which can greatly enhance a student’s learning process, as they can learn from materials that are most effective for them. 

By utilising diverse teaching materials that emphasise visual learning, instructors can develop and improve the efficiency with which they deliver their classes, while also pricing further beneficial for learners in reading information. 

Studies have found that 65% of research participants “retained visual information with the highest efficiency”, proving that visual learning is the most prevalent of learning methods.

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4) Self-paced

Pretty much all online learning is self-paced and for individuals with busy schedules and in full-time employment this is a huge advantage, as they’re free to progress through a course’s learning material at their own pace and based on their schedule. 

While tutors may suggest working speeds and add a few deadlines to ensure students are on track, these are not set in stone and students are not obliged to follow them. Therefore, students can set their own pace for learning, being able to revisit lessons they need more clarity and understanding of, or simply skipping over those they already have a good grasp of. 

Contrastingly, in transition classrooms, since the tutor needs to guide the entire class through all the learning material at a set speed which represents the majority of students’ learning speed, this can result in some students being left behind, while others may be bored and uninterested. 

So, online learning and the ability to be self-paced keeps learners engaged throughout the entire learning journey, which justifies the high student retention rates. 

5) Increased Learning Opportunities 

Most online learning providers will offer students a wider range of courses to choose from to study, depending on the skills and knowledge they’d like to develop, which wouldn’t otherwise be as accessible in physician learning environments. 

This is usually the case since certain learning programmes require a minimum number of students registered for a course to run, in order to justify the costs of maintaining a physical classroom setting.

Contrastingly, online lessons can be recorded and uploaded for students to access at any point, also cutting down running costs, while having a wider pool of students when not being location-bound. 

Not only that but through online learning, students develop useful skills that can benefit them in their ongoing professional development. Skills such as self-discipline, organisation, time management, and motivation are all essential skills for online learning, which can also be applied to their profession since they correlate with some of the skills expected by HR and L&D managers. 

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Cons of studying CIPD online

1) Sense of Isolation 

Oftentimes, students find it beneficial to be in the company of their peers and feel more confident in a campus community, with easy access to tutors and contacts with their fellow students. 

However, in an online class there's very limited interaction between students and most questions must be saved for the end of the class or emailed directly to the tutor. This frequently results in students feeling a sense of isolation and detachment from their learning journey. 

It’s imperative, therefore, for learning providers to allow some form of communication between students, either through video conferencing tools, chat rooms and online forums, to exchange collaborative learning, marching the effectiveness of traditional classrooms. 

2) Technical Issues 

We all know that technology is imperfect and sometimes we face a few issues. And while that is usually okay and the issues are not a big problem to deal with, when you’re studying online any little technical issue can disrupt your learning. If that issue persists, it can cause you to fall behind in your studies. 

Needless to say, before registering for an online course you must ensure you have reliable access to a computer (either laptop or desktop, really doesn’t matter) and a high-speed internet connection to have a smooth and seamless learning experience. 

Technical issues that are likely to happen in online learning environments include:

  • Slow and inconsistent internet connections,
  • Malfunctioning software,
  • Old and run-down hardware,
  • And sometimes it can be as simple as forgetting a laptop charger. 

However, errors can also occur from the tutors’ side not just the students’, and that can often cause lack of continuity in the learning experience and can involve issues such as:

  • The tutor being unable to connect for a live session
  • Inability to upload learning material
  • Failing to respond to students’ questions in a timely manner 

But, with the flexibility of online learning, issues like these can only affect the short-term and with a few adjustments to your schedule, you’ll be back on your learning journey in no time. 

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3) Increased Screen-time

Now, this is an issue we all struggle with on an everyday basis, and sadly online learning contributes to this problem. Increased screen time is an ongoing concern, especially in the latest years, with an average user aged 16 to 64 spending an average of 6 hours and 37 minutes in front of a screen every day, according to 2023 research from Data Reportal

And while spending time in front of a computer for learning purposes isn't necessarily a bad thing, it can carry its own negative physical effects like poor posture, headaches and eye-sight issues. 

This is particularly concerning for professionals with an office-based role as they tend to spend the majority of their day looking at a screen. So, when you’re not studying or working, instead of winding down by watching TV, find a hobby away from screens you enjoy and give your eyes a well-deserved break. 

4) More Distractions 

The internet is geared to distract people from what they’re meant to be doing and when studying online, you may find yourself picking up your phone more frequently and aimlessly scrolling through social media apps. 

A 2022 study found that online learning students (25.1%) were more likely to be bothered by visual distractions compared to face-to-face students (19.6%). Since in physical classrooms , tutors are more able to identify which students are struggling to concentrate in online learning, students should directly contact their tutor if they’re facing such issues and seek support. 

However, this is where skills such as discipline, organisation, and self-motivation are developed for online students, who ask for help and take measures to improve their concentration and ultimately their learning performance. 

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5) Fewer Networking Opportunities 

This goes hand-in-hand with the sense of isolation discussed previously. Online classes, although some enable student interactions through forums and video conferencing platforms, don't provide opportunities to network in a larger campus community. 

Nevertheless, with a CIPD membership, you have access to a wide online community of like-minded individuals, whom you can connect with to seek guidance and advice, have industry-related discussions with, and grow your network. 

A CIPD membership is available for all stages of the CIPD journey, from Student Member through to Chartered Fellow, CIPD offers great networking opportunities for everyone, at all stages of their career. 


Deciding whether or not to study your CIPD qualification online truly comes down to whether it will best fit into your current lifestyle, and whether you can commit to self-study.

If you’re looking for a self-paced, flexible, and cost-effective way to gain your CIPD qualification and advance your HR or L&D career, then online learning is the way to go.

Enhance your HR or L&D career with a 100% online CIPD qualification. Enrol today.

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