Major Challenges Facing Online Education

The spread of Covid-19 struck us without warning and left educational institutions scrambling to respond to its emergencies.

It has also created a need to deal with such unforeseen, and catastrophic event creatively which is now predicted as the ''new normal''. Institutions made a swift shift to the online mode of learning amid the lockdown restrictions. Institutions were looking forward to this change but not this early.

In comparison to traditional learning, online learning has a lot to offer. It is accessible at lesser costs, great flexibility for both students and teachers and more. However, e-learning has certain challenges that require attention. It comes with particular characteristics, which can jeopardize the learning's success and stop courses from reaching out to its full potential. As per a survey, approximately 400 college students, who recently switched to remote learning - 60% of them stated that they were somewhat prepared for the change and expressed their concern about staying focused and maintaining self-discipline. At the same time, another survey showed that 77% of 800 college students found online learning much worse than in-person classes.

Therefore, in this post, we have enlisted major online learning problems and probable solutions for all of them.

Boredom

In this highly-digitized era, online learning is meant to provide a solution to the boredom of classroom-based learning. However, this is not always the case. Several e-learning courses consist of never-ending texts or have multiple-choice questions that fail to engage students. With courses like these, students often get bored, and this lack of engagement and motivation is one of the main reasons for e-learning courses failure. Students often stop accessing the platform and do not complete their course; even if they do, they do not follow it whole-heartedly.

Solution

To keep learners interested and engaged, find an online course that is interactive, dynamic and fun. You may also take help from interactive e-learning resources as there are currently multiple providers offering all types of interactive study materials, with challenges and ventures, videos, gamified solutions and more.

Technical Issues

Not every student is tech-savvy or has access to high bandwidth or the strong internet connection that online courses require. There are also compatibility issues (with operating systems, browsers or smartphones) that add a layer of difficulty. All this may lead to their frustration, reduces engagement and interest, the learning experience gets disrupted, and they probably abandon the course. Moreover, most of them do not even own computers and seek help in the Learning Resource Centers for technical assistance. Also, quite a few live off-campus and find it difficult to keep in tune with the chosen course's technical requirements.

Solution

The only solution to this problem is choosing online courses that do not require advance technology, high-speed internet connectivity or much internal memory, and comes with a solid and simple script. Look for courses where you do not have to download any course material and check whether the courses run smoothly on different smartphones, browsers, and operating systems. Furthermore, be sure that the online course picked has a simple and comprehensive forum for help and a FAQ section to sort all kinds of difficulties then you can be certain that technology will not be a problem will not make the learning process problematic.

Gadgets Shortage

Not every student & teacher has a personal gadget to use. Many of them share their laptops, mobile devices and computers with their parents or siblings to keep up with their remote work.

Solution

Many institutions have provided a laptop to its teachers and students for remote learning, and no strict deadlines are defined for submitting the given assignment. Furthermore, in many countries, lectures are broadcast on TV to make it accessible to a wider audience. You may do the same.

Digital Literacy

Though children of this era are fast learners and can manage the computer well; however, a certain degree of technical proficiency is required; which includes the ability to log in, participate successfully in classes, submit schoolwork, and communicate with teachers and classmates. Learners also need to understand online communication etiquette and know student rights and responsibilities in an online learning environment.

Also, a handful of students do not know how to operate basic programs such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint or cannot fix basic computer problems, as they have any knowledge in this area. Thus, technological proficiency is a must, as it enables students to manage their assignments and courseware in an organized manner without facing any challenge.

Solution

To overcome this issue, choose a school that provides access to a full range of support services, including technical support by phone, email, and live chat, which you can access when you have any tech-based questions or provides basic courses in digital literacy to enhance students' knowledge in the field. Also, pay attention to the instructions provided by your teacher about logging in, files submission, etc. Knowing the netiquette is also vital. This includes avoid typing in all caps (that's perceived as yelling), be respectful, contribute thoughtfully and avoid sarcastic and witty replies.

Virtual Classroom Engagement

Although online courses are enriching, students are provided with various kinds of study materials, help get their assignments done, and a forum or chat room for class discussions, but some students do not find a virtual classroom as engaging as a traditional one. Lack of human contact, absence of a teacher and inability to discuss problems are the probable reasons.

Learners look for a physical place where they can get their queries solved and practice with real tools, but that is missing in online learning.

Solution

First of all, you need to address the problem at the earliest. Then, contact your instructor privately, either through the virtual learning platform, email or through a call. Ensure you convey the issue clearly so that the professor can make you understand the material better. S/he may recommend supplemental learning resources to help you brush up on the basic information you are unfamiliar with.

The other way out is to foster personal interaction in online classes through webinars, group work, forums or ques-and sessions where students can discuss and resolve their queries. Teachers can also practice blended learning, i.e. combine online courses with some classroom training. This kind of mixed training would reinforce what students have learned and enhance the training's educational value. Thus, whether before, during or after the course, blending the online and offline worlds would help overcome one of the most obvious limitations of e-learning.

Security Issues

From the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, online platforms have been a fertile ground of cyber-crime. Many institutions, teachers and students have fallen prey to these crimes. For instance, in recent past, it was reported that Zoom, a remote conference services company stores all video conference recordings on storage space without a password; also institutions had been a victim of zoom bombing during a class. This proves we have to be careful while choosing the digital tools for online learning delivery and safeguarding our sensitive data should be one priority.

Solution

Though companies make generous partnership offers to the teachers & students, we cannot be 100% sure about our data security. So, we should pick online platforms carefully and read all the explanation and privacy policy provided. Besides all, be careful about the data you disclose on the Internet. Also, refrain from visiting suspicious websites and applications, be attentive when opening emails from unknown senders, avoid clicking on the suspicious links, update your software often, etc. You may take help from the National Cyber Security Alliance recently launched the COVID-19 Security Resource Library to get up-to-date information concerning privacy and security safely.

Self-Motivation

In online learning, self-motivation is an essential requirement; but not all manage to stay motivated throughout the course. After enrolment, many learners fail to catch up the virtual classroom requirements, maybe due to low bandwidth, little or no access to technological devices or other technical issues.

Solution

Firstly, learners have to find the motivation to follow this new education mode and equip themselves for future challenges. It is hard to practice, but they need to adopt a positive attitude to overcome eLearning challenges. They need to understand that it is necessary to reap the eLearning's benefits in the future.

No Practical Knowledge

In online learning, there are some limitations; not every subject can be mastered. For instance, subjects like science (Biology, chemistry and physics) has shown that the best way to learn something is by practising it. The more you practice, the better you learn. It is the experiential learning through which we can internalize and recall the content and skills we learn. However, several online courses neglect this part and focus solely on theoretical content and external lessons. Students do not get to practice, and the learning process does not give the desired outcome.

Solution

One solution to this problem is to use useful and practical courses with simulators to practice. Simulators have been used for decades (mostly, by pilots and surgeons) to recreate real-life situations. This should be brought into use so that students can practice and experiment in safe and controlled environments. With its incorporation in learning courses, learners will solve this problem and put their new knowledge and skills to practical use.

Course Quality

In this information-laden world, there are thousands of free online courses and powerful platforms such as Wikipedia, YouTube and Google, the course content sounds interesting and must be excellent and of the highest standard but not all are up to the mark. Many students may get frustrated when they discover that they can learn more independently, without needing their institutions' simple, mediocre courses.

Solution

Having such issue, all you can do is find, select and prioritize the best courses.

Adjustment of online courses for differently-abled students

With the worldwide closure of schools and a shift to remote teaching, the differently-abled students(deaf and hard of hearing) are transferred from their offline classes with interpreters and put at home with poor ability to adjust the remote learning to their needs amplifying these adjustments. The online learning mode has already been a kind of challenge for the students; those differently-abled have to face a double problem and increasing the chances of falling behind.

Solution

These students can be provided with the lesson script, made by teachers as supportive material catering to each lesson's requirement. Providing video transcription is another way to reach out to the deaf or hard of hearing students. Motion-picture based material can also be used; it will help keep all students engaged. Last but not at the least, using AI-powered personal assistants may also be of great help to the students with special needs.

Did we miss any? Do let us know.

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About the Author
Author: Saniya Khan
Saniya Khan I am Saniya Khan, Copy-Editor at EdTechReview - India’s leading edtech media. As a part of the group, my aim is to spread awareness on the growing edtech market by guiding all educational stakeholders on latest and quality news, information and resources. A voraciously curious writer with a dedication to excellence creates interesting yet informational pieces, playing with words since 2016.

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