Before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, online learning was growing in its popularity. With the rapid onset of the virus, many schools had to reposition themselves to operate online. There are many upsides to online learning, but there are also some challenges of online learning.
Here, we will break down what online learning means, the challenges of online education, and ways in which students can overcome the problems of online learning.
What is Online Learning?
Online learning refers to education that takes place over the internet. Online learning may also be called “e-learning.” It sits under the umbrella term of distance learning. This means that rather than learning within a classroom, students can access their course materials online and learn from a distance away from a school campus.
Online learning can take place with live lectures using video technology such as Zoom, or it can take place with pre-recorded lectures and materials. In the latter case, students have the flexibility to log online at their convenience and learn at their own pace.
Challenges of Online Learning and How to Overcome Them
There are many advantages to learning online, which we will cover shortly. But first, let’s take a look at some of the challenges of online learning and methods to transform the cons into pros.
In any environment that relies on technology, technical difficulties are bound to arise. If a student is learning or a teacher is trying to teach, and the internet connection is disrupted, the class is put on hold. There are situations in which monitors are delayed, and it’s hard to stay in real-time with live lectures, or the WiFi is spotty, and you lose out on hearing key information.
While you cannot always control your internet connection, you can control how you deal with it. Should a technical difficulty occur while you’re trying to learn, inform your professor or the institution to let them know what’s happening. They may be flexible with the deadlines of your work or provide a recording of the class.
Time Management / Staying Motivated
Time management can be cited as a major pro to online learning, but it can also be considered a con. This is especially the case if you are easily distracted or unmotivated to pace yourself properly. With online learning, students have to have a lot of self-motivation and be proactive in removing distractions from their learning space. Distractions may be children, family members, friends, pets, or other technological devices such as phones.
To make the most of your online learning experience, it’s useful to set up a quiet and dedicated study space. Set short-term goals, and when you accomplish them, then you can reward yourself with a break.
When you are used to a physical classroom setting, you are likely to show up in the mindset to be focused on learning. However, when you transfer your learning environment to wherever you have internet access, you may find yourself learning from home, a coffee shop, library, friend’s house, or even outside.
While this flexibility may be nice, it could also be hard to stay focused. Along with the point above of properly managing your time and study space, keep a running list of your short-term and long-term goals when it comes to your education. Refer back to that list whenever you feel distracted.
It may be useful to connect with your peers who are also learning online and work “together” even if you are physically in separate locations.
On the point of conversing with your peers, some students may find that the online learning problems may affect one’s social life. When you’re in a classroom with other students, it’s easy to get to know one another and connect based on similar interests.
The good news is that even if you’re learning online, there is a lot of technology that can promote social interaction while you are in your online learning environment. For starters, many schools utilize learning platforms that allow for interaction.
For example, at the University of the People, students use Moodle to partake in forums with fellow classmates to share their perspectives with one another. You also can connect with fellow students via social media and grow the connection to meet in real life.
The Benefits of Online Learning
Although it seems like the challenges of online learning may consist of a long list of hardships, the reality is that there are likely to be more upsides than downsides. This is especially true if you approach online learning with a positive mindset and focused attitude.
Students who choose to learn online, especially when it comes to higher education, can reap the benefits of:
- Flexibility: You no longer have to base your schedule around when lectures are offered. Instead, you can log on to your computer to learn whenever you can. This makes it easier to balance your social life, family commitments, work responsibilities, and more.
- Self-paced: It’s rare to find an entire classroom of students who all learn at the same pace. With online learning and pre-recorded lectures, students have the power in their hands to rewind, rewatch, and pause lectures to take notes, revisit topics, and learn at whatever pace is most conducive to their understanding.
- Global Perspective: With traditional college campuses, there exists a geographic barrier to entry for some students. For example, if a student in South Africa wishes to attend a college in Los Angeles, then there are extra costs that come along with doing so, as well as the need for a student visa. When it comes to online learning, the physical and geographic barriers are non-existent. This allows students from every corner of the globe to be placed in the same learning environment to connect and share diverse perspectives.
- Affordability: When you compare traditional on-campus college to online institutions of higher education, it’s common to find that the online option will be more affordable. Granted, online colleges have less overhead costs than large for-profit campuses, which translates into lower costs for students.
Take the University of the People as an example. Our 100% online and accredited university is tuition-free. Students from over 200 countries and territories are in attendance earning their degree or non-degree certificates from our selection of programs.
The challenges of online learning are easy to overcome if you are willing to put in the work and address them. While some of the problems of online learning are not in your control (i.e., technical issues), most of the significant challenges are solvable with a positive mindset, planning, and a strong desire to learn.