The education industry was one of the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with institutions scrambling to find solutions to keep their doors open. In these times of need, online learning tools emerged as a boon. In the last two years, investments in EdTech tools, especially in the online education segment, have skyrocketed, resulting in significant technological improvements. Online education has many benefits such as portability, ease of access, reduced need for physical infrastructure, lowered costs and greater flexibility. But that isn’t to say that it doesn’t come with its demerits.
Cons of online learning
Here are some challenges of online learning as a student
1. Feelings of Isolation
Humans, by nature, are social animals. Most people like to interact with and get to know others, especially in social settings. And although students get to interact with their classmates over Zoom or Google Meet, it is not the same as physical interaction. Online learning affords students the ability to study, work, and pursue other interests all at the same time. But the absence of their coursemates and teachers in the immediate environment can cause students to feel isolated. They start to feel disconnected from the class and might not engage the way they normally would in a physical setting.So it’s no surprise when students turn off their webcams and doze off during online classes. Not only does this foster indiscipline, it also causes students’ academic performance to suffer as teachers cannot personally attend to each student’s needs. It’s easy to get frustrated when you can’t talk to your teachers and classmates face to face and voice concerns immediately. However, there are things you can do to power through.
2. Lack of Motivation
Most students start virtual classes pumped and ready to go, but as the courses progress, they find that they’re no longer motivated to even attend classes. Due to the lack of face-to-face interaction, some students find it hard to focus during online classes. The physical absence of teachers or classmates takes away the sense of urgency and motivation that students need to attend classes on time, meet deadlines, and make progress. This could lead to procrastination and declining grades. Contrary to popular opinion, long texts, learning assignments, and quizzes don’t help matters, and can even contribute to students losing motivation to attend classes.
Lack of motivation is a common issue amongst students. Here are some ways students can maintain a work-life balance and succeed academically:
- Set realistic long-term and short-term goals and plans to help them stay on track with classes, assignments, and projects. To-do lists are also important for meeting deadlines. Crossing activities off a to-do list can be highly motivating.
- Students who need direction or help can check out websites and self-help books.
- Practice positive affirmations. Giving yourself short pep talk to affirm that you can do whatever you set your mind to can motivate you, especially during tough times.
- Try to interact with teachers and classmates as much as possible. Log in to class daily to see class discussions and course updates. Ask questions, share your opinions, and engage in healthy debate. Being active in class can provide a sense of belonging that keeps you motivated to continue.
Teachers can also incorporate gamification in their online courses to motivate their students to attend and participate during classes. Here are some 8 tips for staying productive while studying online if you are going through a slump of being demotivated.
3. Lack of Technical Equipment
To attend online classes and succeed at remote learning, students need a device with a strong internet connection that they can type assignments on, e.g. laptop, desktop computer, and tablet with a keyboard.
These devices don’t come cheap, especially for low-income students.
- Some schools give out devices to students that can’t afford them. So if you can’t afford necessary devices for your online classes, ask your school if they provide laptops or tablets to remote students.
- Use a library. In some regions, public libraries have computers they allow students to use. If you have a library like this in your area, try to use it.
- Borrow from family or friends. If these don’t work out, you could ask relatives or friends who have a laptop to lend you theirs for some time till you’re able to get your own.
4. Technical Issues
Millennials and Gen Zs, as they’re called, are generally proficient in using computers and technology. But this doesn’t mean that they don’t face technical issues from time to time. Learning with computers requires students to understand how to use multiple software–some of which have steep learning curves. If a student facing technical issues were on a physical campus, they could easily ask for help from the IT department. With online classes, the student has to try to figure things out alone. If they’re lucky, they’ll have someone close by to help them, but chances are, the person won’t be available all the time. Technical issues are not limited to students, though. Teachers face them too–low internet bandwidth, spotty reception, and video glitches, among other things. These issues disrupt learning flow and make learning tedious.
To reduce the technical issues that students and teachers experience during online classes, here’s some measures they could take:
- Before enrolling in an online class, students should check if they have access to the necessary technology they need to succeed at home. If they don’t, they should check if the school offers technical help (via phone, email, and live chat) to online students.
- When attending online classes, students and teachers should use a high-quality internet service provider (ISP) for fast connection. If they don’t have access to a good ISP at home, they can use free Wi-Fi at a public library or coffee shop nearby. There, they can attend classes, participate in group discussions, talk with teachers and coursemates, and turn in assignments.
- Teachers should provide a comprehensive guide that contains technical times, digital literacy guidelines, and online attendance regulations
- Teachers should record class sessions on their computer for students who couldn’t make it to class.
5. Online Distractions
As wonderful as the internet is for learning purposes, it also comes with a ton of distractions. Constant notifications from blogs, videos, and social media platforms can distract students from their classes and assignments. And once they’re distracted by these notifications, it’s very easy for them to start scrolling through these platforms mindlessly.This can cause them to forget that they have classes, assignments, quizzes, or exams.
To be productive in online classes, you need to identify things that can distract you and stop you from achieving your objectives. If you are getting distracted by the internet and social media, here are some things you can do to stop it:
- Turn on social media blockers during classes and exams. Or you can turn off your notifications completely. When you’re done studying, you can go back online or do some other fun activity.
- Tell people around you about your daily schedule. This way, if they see you getting distracted by technology, they can remind you to do what you planned to do that day. Think of them like human alarm clocks.
- Find a quiet place to complete your coursework. Even if it’s night, doing your work in a quiet place without your phone (or other unnecessary gadgets) present will help you pay maximum attention to your studies.
- Use dynamic learning design to make classes engaging for students. Encouraging your students to build things, take surveys, and have debates can help them concentrate more on their studies, as opposed to the ‘teacher speak, student listen’ learning model.
- Organize tests and quizzes that require students to respond verbally. When students interact physically and mentally during a class, they become less inclined to look through social media and/or blogs.
6. Bad Time Management
It’s unusual for employees today to have more than 20 minutes in the average work week to devote to learning and development. This makes microlearning an ideal design strategy for online learning programs. Microlearning divides content into small chunks of no more than five to 10 minutes, each chunk addressing a single learning objective. Short lessons or modules provide maximum scheduling flexibility and hold learners’ attention when time is of the essence. It’s unusual for employees today to have more than 20 minutes in the average work week to devote to learning and development. This makes microlearning an ideal design strategy for online learning programs. Microlearning divides content into small chunks of no more than five to 10 minutes, each chunk addressing a single learning objective. Short lessons or modules provide maximum scheduling flexibility and hold learners’ attention when time is of the essence.
7. Unmotivated Learners
This is one of the biggest challenges of online learning, or any type of learning for that matter. Without the physical presence of a facilitator and fellow learners, participants in online programs can easily lose motivation. Even in a virtual instructor-led training environment, they can end up multitasking — fielding emails and Slack messages, and getting distracted by unfinished work. The solution? Engagement, engagement, engagement. First and foremost, there needs to be some anticipation that the learning program will be worth the time investment required. “What’s in it for me?” needs to be answered in the messaging prior to the start of the program and made clear throughout. Every element of a program needs to be connected to that message. Additionally, extensive research has gone into the effects of adding gamification elements to increase engagement. A little friendly competition can go a long way in motivating online learners. Designers can build in opportunities to earn points or badges through the completion of activities. A leaderboard that shows their relative standing can also be motivating.
8. Limited Interaction
It’s long been a tenet of adult education that much of the learning that occurs in a group setting is the result of interactions between learners. Such interactions are opportunities for exchanging best practices, addressing common frustrations, celebrating successes, and expanding one’s network. An online setting can make this kind of learning difficult. However, learning and development professionals can design opportunities for interaction into online programs. When designing group sessions, for example, they can include discussion boards or activities to be completed in virtual breakout rooms. Online forums and bulletin boards enable those completing self-instructional programs to connect with each other as well.
9. Lack of Technical Knowledge
Unfortunately, technical issues are bound to happen in an online-only environment. This may sound obvious but technical issues, and internet connection only add to the online environment’s frustration and interrupt new distance learning sessions. Sometimes your computer will shut down, or there are moments when your wifi is spotty, and weak monitors can make it challenging to keep up with your virtual classmates and learning environment. The most important step is to stay in touch with professors and inform them about what’s happening. They should understand and be flexible about the situation, perhaps even recording class sessions on your computer through learning platforms as a backup. There will be technical issues, and it’s important to realize you aren’t the only one with this problem. If your school has technical support services, they can be a valuable resource. Even though there are challenges of online learning as a student; there are also some benefits. Check out our blog 7 Benefits you'll get from live online classes
10. Course Structure and Quality
The shift to online learning and other modern teaching tools was thought to bring about a modernization even in the course curriculum and structure. Sadly, that hasn’t been the case. Institutions have retained their obsolete course curriculum and structure even after shifting online. With companies such as Google and Tesla choosing to forego college as a prerequisite for employment, students are reconsidering college as a whole. Online resources such as YoTuTube, Goggle, Skillshare, Udemy and others offer better content on these subjects for cheaper or even free. These platforms also let them pick and choose their subjects, making the learning structure highly flexible. This should cause Educational Institutions to rethink their approach to teaching as a whole.
The above challenges of online learning are among the most common ones organizations face, but there are others. The only way to know for certain which challenges are the most problematic in any organization is to ask. Formative and summative evaluations of online programs should go beyond the measurement of learning outcomes to explore what, specifically, hinders learning. Following up post-training evaluations with individual interviews or focus groups that dissect the user experience may also uncover information that can be helpful in addressing the challenges of online learning.