In today’s increasingly digital world, you may have heard the term “brick and mortar school” used to refer to traditional schools with physical classrooms and buildings. If you’ve wondered what exactly brick and mortar schools are and how they differ from online or virtual schools, you’ve come to the right place.

In short, a brick and mortar school is a traditional school where students physically attend classes in person. But there’s much more to these traditional institutions, which have served as pillars of education for generations.

The Origins of the Term “Brick and Mortar”

The term “brick and mortar” is commonly used to refer to traditional physical buildings, particularly in the context of schools and businesses. The origin of this term can be traced back to its literal meaning, where “brick” represents the construction material used for buildings, and “mortar” is the binding substance that holds the bricks together.

However, when used in the context of schools, the term carries a deeper significance.

Refers to the Physical Buildings Themselves

In the realm of education, “brick and mortar” specifically refers to traditional schools that have physical buildings where students attend classes. These schools are often characterized by classrooms, libraries, playgrounds, and other facilities that facilitate face-to-face interactions between students and teachers.

The term is used to differentiate these physical institutions from online or virtual schools, which primarily operate through digital platforms.

Dates Back to the Rapid Growth of Online Businesses

The term “brick and mortar” gained popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s during the rapid rise of online businesses. As e-commerce began to flourish, traditional retail stores faced increasing competition from online retailers, leading to the need for a term that distinguished physical stores from their virtual counterparts.

This term was then adapted to the education sector, where traditional schools needed to differentiate themselves from the emerging online learning platforms.

Distinguishes Traditional Schools from Online or Virtual Schools

By using the term “brick and mortar,” educators and researchers can clearly categorize traditional schools that operate in physical buildings. This distinction is essential as it allows for a better understanding of the unique characteristics and challenges faced by traditional classrooms.

It highlights the importance of face-to-face interactions, socialization, and the physical learning environment that brick and mortar schools provide. On the other hand, online or virtual schools focus on utilizing technology to deliver education remotely, often through video conferencing, online assignments, and digital resources.

It’s important to note that the term “brick and mortar” does not imply any superiority or inferiority of one type of education over the other. Both traditional and online schools have their own strengths and limitations, and their suitability depends on individual preferences, learning styles, and circumstances.

The use of this term simply helps to provide a clear distinction between these two educational approaches.

Defining Key Features of Brick and Mortar Schools

Physical School Buildings

One of the key features of brick and mortar schools is the presence of physical school buildings. These buildings serve as a dedicated space for students to attend classes, interact with their peers, and engage in various activities.

The physical infrastructure includes classrooms, libraries, laboratories, sports facilities, and other amenities that contribute to the overall learning environment. The presence of a physical school building provides a sense of community and allows students to have a designated place for their educational pursuits.

In-Person Classes

In brick and mortar schools, students attend classes in person, rather than through virtual or online platforms. This face-to-face interaction allows for immediate feedback, real-time discussions, and collaboration among students.

In-person classes foster social interactions, help students build relationships with their peers, and provide opportunities for group work and team projects. This traditional form of education allows students to engage directly with their teachers and classmates, creating a dynamic learning environment.

Face-to-Face Teacher Instruction

In brick and mortar schools, teachers play a vital role in delivering instruction to students. They are physically present in the classroom, providing direct guidance, explanations, and demonstrations.

This face-to-face interaction allows teachers to assess students’ understanding, address individual learning needs, and provide immediate support. Teachers can observe students’ body language and facial expressions, enabling them to gauge comprehension levels and adjust their teaching strategies accordingly.

This personalized approach to instruction fosters meaningful connections between teachers and students, enhancing the learning experience.

Hands-On Learning Experiences

Brick and mortar schools often offer hands-on learning experiences that go beyond textbooks and lectures. These experiences involve practical activities, experiments, and projects that allow students to apply their knowledge and skills in real-world contexts.

For example, in science classes, students may conduct experiments in well-equipped laboratories. In art classes, students can explore various artistic techniques using specialized materials. These hands-on experiences promote active learning, critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity.

They also help students develop practical skills that are relevant to their future careers.

Brick and mortar schools continue to be a popular choice for many students and families due to the unique benefits they offer. The physical school buildings, in-person classes, face-to-face teacher instruction, and hands-on learning experiences all contribute to a well-rounded education that prepares students for future success.

Pros and Cons of Brick and Mortar Schooling


Brick and mortar schooling, also known as traditional classroom education, offers several advantages for students:

  • Interactive Learning: One of the biggest advantages of brick and mortar schools is the opportunity for face-to-face interaction between teachers and students. This allows for immediate feedback, clarification of concepts, and personalized attention.
  • Structured Environment: In a physical classroom setting, students have a daily routine and set schedule. This helps them develop discipline, time management skills, and a sense of responsibility.
  • Social Interaction: Traditional schools provide students with the chance to interact and build relationships with their peers. This social interaction fosters teamwork, collaboration, and the development of important social skills.
  • Access to Resources: Brick and mortar schools typically have well-equipped libraries, laboratories, and other resources that can enhance the learning experience. Students have direct access to books, computers, and other materials that may not be readily available at home.


While brick and mortar schooling has its benefits, it also comes with some drawbacks:

  • Geographical Limitations: Traditional schools require students to commute to a physical location, which can be challenging for those living in remote areas or with limited transportation options.
  • Rigid Schedule: In a brick and mortar school, students must adhere to a fixed schedule, often starting early in the morning. This can be restrictive for students who thrive in alternative learning environments or have other commitments outside of school.
  • Increased Costs: Attending a traditional school often comes with additional expenses, such as transportation costs, uniforms, and school supplies. These costs can add up and put a strain on families with limited financial resources.
  • Less Flexibility: Traditional schools may have limited flexibility when it comes to accommodating individual learning styles or catering to specific needs of students. This can be challenging for students who require personalized instruction or have unique learning requirements.

How Brick and Mortar Schools Differ from Online Schools

Learning Environment

One of the key differences between brick and mortar schools and online schools is the learning environment. In a brick and mortar school, students attend classes physically and interact face-to-face with their peers and teachers.

This allows for immediate feedback and collaboration, fostering a sense of community and social interaction. On the other hand, online schools provide a virtual learning environment where students can access materials and complete assignments remotely.

While this flexibility can be beneficial for some students, it may lack the same level of social interaction and hands-on learning opportunities found in traditional classrooms.

Class Format

The class format in brick and mortar schools typically follows a structured schedule with set class times and specific subjects taught each day. Students attend classes in person and follow a predetermined curriculum. In contrast, online schools often offer more flexibility in terms of class format.

Students have the freedom to choose when and where they study, allowing for a personalized learning experience. However, this flexibility also requires students to be self-disciplined and motivated to stay on track with their studies.

Teacher Interaction

Another aspect where brick and mortar schools differ from online schools is teacher interaction. In traditional classrooms, students have direct access to their teachers and can ask questions or seek clarification during class. Teachers can also provide immediate feedback and personalized guidance.

In online schools, teacher interaction may be primarily through virtual platforms such as email, discussion boards, or video conferencing. While online teachers are still available to answer questions and provide support, the level of interaction may be different from that of a physical classroom.

Social Experience

The social experience is an important aspect of traditional brick and mortar schools. Students have the opportunity to build friendships, participate in extracurricular activities, and engage in face-to-face interactions.

This aspect of socialization is often seen as a valuable part of personal development and growth. Online schools, however, may offer different avenues for socialization, such as virtual clubs or online forums.

While these platforms can facilitate interaction among students, it may not entirely replicate the same social experience as being physically present in a traditional school environment.

Schedule and Pace

Brick and mortar schools typically follow a fixed schedule, with specific start and end times for classes. Students are expected to adhere to this schedule and complete assignments within set deadlines. In contrast, online schools offer more flexibility in terms of scheduling.

Students can study at their own pace and have the freedom to create a schedule that best fits their individual needs. This can be beneficial for students who require flexibility due to other commitments, such as work or extracurricular activities.

Access and Availability

Accessibility and availability can also vary between brick and mortar schools and online schools. Brick and mortar schools are often limited by geographical location, requiring students to physically attend classes at a specific campus.

Online schools, on the other hand, allow students to access education from anywhere with an internet connection. This can be particularly beneficial for students who live in remote areas or have difficulty commuting to a physical school.

The Future of Brick and Mortar Education

As technology continues to advance and reshape various aspects of our lives, it is only natural to wonder about its impact on traditional brick and mortar education. While online learning and virtual classrooms have gained popularity in recent years, the future of brick and mortar education remains strong and relevant.

This article explores some key aspects that will shape the future of traditional classroom education.

Implementing More Technology in Traditional Classrooms

One of the ways brick and mortar schools are adapting to the ever-changing educational landscape is by integrating more technology into their classrooms. This allows students to access a wide range of resources and tools that enhance their learning experience.

From interactive whiteboards to educational apps and online platforms, technology is being used to make lessons more engaging and interactive. For instance, teachers can use virtual reality to take students on virtual field trips, bringing the outside world into the classroom and making learning more immersive.

According to a study conducted by the National Education Association, 79% of teachers believe that technology has a positive impact on students’ education. This shows that integrating technology in brick and mortar schools not only helps students learn better but also prepares them for the digital world they will be a part of in the future.

Blended Learning Approaches

Brick and mortar schools are also embracing blended learning approaches, which combine traditional classroom instruction with online learning. This approach allows students to have more flexibility in their learning journey while still benefiting from face-to-face interactions with their peers and teachers.

For example, students can watch recorded lectures or complete online assignments at their own pace, while still attending regular classes for discussions and collaborative activities.

Blended learning has proven to be effective in improving student performance and engagement. A study conducted by the Clayton Christensen Institute found that students in blended learning classrooms outperformed their peers in traditional classrooms in terms of grades and test scores.

Blended learning also allows students to develop important skills such as self-discipline, time management, and digital literacy, which are essential in today’s fast-paced world.

Continued Importance of Hands-On Learning

While technology plays an important role in the future of brick and mortar education, hands-on learning remains a crucial aspect of traditional classroom education. Hands-on activities, such as experiments, art projects, and group discussions, provide students with valuable opportunities to apply their knowledge, develop problem-solving skills, and foster creativity.

Research has shown that hands-on learning can significantly improve students’ understanding and retention of concepts. A study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that students who engaged in hands-on activities performed better on tests and had a deeper understanding of the subject matter compared to those who only received traditional instruction.

Additionally, hands-on learning promotes collaboration and teamwork, essential skills for success in the workplace. By working together on projects and solving real-world problems, students develop communication skills, critical thinking abilities, and the ability to adapt to different situations.


While online education continues to grow in popularity, traditional brick and mortar schools still play a vital role in education today. The rich social interactions, hands-on learning, and face-to-face instruction offered by physical schools remain invaluable to child development.

However, we may see brick and mortar institutions evolve by incorporating more technology and flexible learning approaches in the classroom. The definition of school itself will likely expand as we find new ways to provide quality education.

But the core benefits of gathering students and teachers together in physical learning spaces are unlikely to ever become completely obsolete.

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