4 Online Learning Weaknesses And How To Turn Them Into Online Learning Strengths
Online classes have a unique opportunity over traditional classrooms. Students can be reached from metropolitan areas to obscure locations. Online learning is quickly becoming more popular than traditional classroom settings, yet it is still a relatively new way of educating students. There are some issues that continue to plague online classes, fairly or unfairly, that are actually strengths in disguise. The following four points offer ways to help address common concerns in online classes and turn online learning weaknesses into selling points for any online program:
- Missing a human presence.
One of the benefits of a traditional classroom is the teacher is available to talk to immediately when there is a question or a concern. The student is also surrounded by their peers which can be both a good and a not so good thing. Good in the sense that if there are questions and the teacher is not accessible, another student can answer them as well. The other side of that is peer pressure and fear of inadequacy that deter students from learning. An instructor observing a classroom can see these tendencies and help encourage learning and minimize issues. Online courses can still have a human presence within them. Some students have a feeling of isolation and reservation about taking online classes. Others may feel positive about taking the course, but unsure how the actual mechanics of online classes work (everything from logging into class, posting discussions or turning in assignments). Instructors can schedule regular conversations over the phone, provide video announcements, and even use online conferencing software to make students feel more comfortable and guide them through the learning process.
- Lack of motivation.
Signing up for online classes is only half the battle! Schools are struggling with extremely high attrition rates and the race is on to figure out how to slow it down. Part of the reason students are leaving is the feeling of isolation mentioned earlier, while another part is having to deal with day-to-day external factors. Let’s face it; it would be extremely tough for anyone to focus on grasping an assignment when there is a threat of losing a job or wondering where the next meal will come from. Unfortunately, these types of issues (and more) are common and, in some cases, supersede the ability to learn.
- Student attrition.
Instructors can play a major role in reducing student attrition, if they understand that education is all encompassing. The experience that teachers have acquired over the years is invaluable to student development. Sharing positive examples of overcoming life’s challenges provide students with hope and determination. Teachers can also assess the emotional levels of their students by asking them to take an Emotional Intelligence survey at the beginning of class and sharing the results with them and ways to improve in particular areas. For example, if a student scores low in social skills, the instructor can challenge them to read about inspirational leaders, give examples of the people that influence them, and offer assignments that involve actively working in a collaborate team. Giving feedback on those assignments is priceless. This also works with helping students make good decisions regarding their personal situations. Students are still gaining experience so having a teacher and a mentor will only help.
- Unqualified instructors.
For all that the students must do, instructors also have a part to play in learning. There are times when classes are poorly designed, have below par implementation, and frankly not taught very well. There, I said it! A degree of responsibility falls on the teacher when students want to learn, but are unable to do so based on an unqualified instructor teaching a course. There are times that there is no choice but for a teacher to teach a class that he/she may not be as comfortable with. However, this should never be blatantly apparent to students. Instructors should also be life-long learners. Students look up to their teachers and consider them “the guru”. The period before classes start is an excellent time to learn as many relevant class skills as possible. Preparation can overcome lack of knowledge. During the breaks between classes, teachers should challenge themselves to learn a new skill that could be useful down the road. Asking questions to other instructors and learning about their success (and challenges) can make a difference between keeping a student engaged in your class and having high absenteeism. Just like students, teachers can use less than favorable situations and turn them into opportunities to grow. eLearning has immense potential and with a new perspective from instructors, students can enjoy a better educational experience.