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Know the Difference Between In-Person, Online, Virtual & Hybrid Classes

At Pima, you'll find a class that works for any schedule.

One of the benefits of college is that you have the flexibility to choose the type of class that is the best fit for you. As a student, you are balancing a lot of responsibilities, whether it be working a full or part-time job, parenting or preparing to transfer to a four-year university.

Choosing a class schedule that works for you can help you succeed in your education and give you the flexibility to keep up with your other responsibilities.  

Pima offers several types of classes that you can choose from to best fit your schedule and learning style:

  • In-Person – You attend a lecture or lab on specific days and times and collaborate with your instructor and classmates.
  • Online – You complete class activities online at your own pace on the PimaOnline platform and may have some flexible meeting times. 
  • Virtual – You attend live online meetings on specified days and times and complete additional work independently.
  • Hybrid – You learn online and in-person. Think of this as a mixture of an in-person and online class. 
  • Self-Paced In-Person – You work on-campus each week at your own pace with faculty guidance in the room defined in your class schedule. 
  • Self-Paced Independent – You work off-campus at your own pace with study materials prepared by College faculty.


When deciding what classes to take, it’s helpful to know the main benefits and differences between in-person, online, virtual and hybrid courses. 

In-Person Classes

In-person classes give you the opportunity to make connections with your instructor and classmates while learning in a hands-on environment.

In-person classes happen on our various campuses and will look different based on the subject. Typically, you’ll be required to meet 2-3 times a week with your instructor and classmates and complete homework on your own time in between classes. 

The main benefit of in-person classes is they provide social support and the chance to ask questions to your instructor in real time.

For hands-on programs like automotive technology or nursing, in-person classes give you the time to put your learning into action and practice essential skills with the support of your instructor. 

Nursing students smile in blue masks and scrubs.

Self-Paced In-Person Classes

A big part of in-person classes is meeting on campus at the same time each week. If that commitment won’t work with your job or parenting schedule, Pima also offers self-paced in-person classes. You work on-campus each week at your own pace in the room defined in the class schedule and with faculty guidance.

This gives you the opportunity to practice skills in person and build your own schedule. 

Self-Paced Independent Classes

Pima also offers self-paced independent classes where you work off-campus at your own pace with study materials prepared by College faculty.

It's a good idea to check in with your program advisor to see if your program offers self-paced classes. 

Online Classes

Online classes are usually a mix of video recordings or live lectures supplemented by readings and activities that you can complete on your own time. The main benefit of an online class is that you can manage your time to do the work on your own schedule without needing to attend a virtual or in-person class at the same time every week.

Most of the work in online classes is completed independently. There may be some flexible meetings with your instructor or classmates, but online classes are designed for you to do the work at a time, location and pace that works for you.

Each week, you will be asked to submit work for different deadlines and respond to your classmates’ work on Pima’s online learning system, D2L. Our time management calculator is a helpful tool to help you see if online learning is the right fit for your schedule. 

Pima has multiple programs offered entirely online.

Virtual Classes 

During the pandemic, virtual learning became the new normal. While Pima is excited to offer different types of learning options this fall, you may find that you want to continue virtual learning. 

The main benefit of virtual classes is their flexibility. A virtual class allows you to complete your coursework at home. But, unlike online classes, virtual courses have meetings that happen at a regular time each week in a virtual classroom, like Zoom or Google Meet. You will have work during the synchronous online meetings and on your own in-between classes. 

A virtual class might be the right fit for you if you like working from home or if you have responsibilities that make it difficult to commute to campus on a regular basis. Virtual classes have the added benefit of you getting to meet directly with your instructors and classmates during the online meetings each week. 

Have questions about the technology and resources you'll need to succeed in a virtual class? We offer many support services to help you navigate Pima's digital spaces. 

Hybrid Classes 

Hybrid classes combine in-person and online learning, meaning they have a mixture of in-person class activities and online assignments.

The main benefit of a hybrid class is you can manage your own time, while still making those beneficial in-person connections with your instructors and classmates for lab or other hands-on assignments.

Many hybrid class sessions are recorded and uploaded to D2L, the College’s digital learning system where you submit assignments and review the syllabi for your classes. Re-watching a recorded class online is a great way to review content if you believe you missed something.

If you like the flexibility of online learning and the social connections of in-person learning, a hybrid class is a great way to experience both types of learning in the same class. 

How do I know which type of class I have?

The best way to know how your class will be offered is to check your class schedule in your MyPima account or go to the Schedule of Classes. You will receive full details from your instructor prior to the start of classes. 

Registration for Fall semester is open now. Fall classes begin August 19.

Make a Class Schedule that Works For You

Think about both your learning and scheduling needs while creating an educational program that works for you.

Being able to select from a mix of hybrid, online, virtual, in-person and self-paced classes gives you flexibility and allows you to decide how you learn best for each subject you are studying.

Search for classes and start building your Fall schedule today.

If you have additional questions about the types of classes offered at Pima, you can sign-up to chat with an advisor.

Whatever options you choose, you maintain full access to instructors and the College’s resources. This Fall, Pima will offer a combination of online and in-person student support services – tutoring, advising, library, testing and placement and more.

It’s also a good idea to follow the Library on Instagram or Twitter (@pima_cclibrary) to learn about events, contests, featured resources and new and improved services.

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