How eLearning Providers Can Help Students Who Struggle Online

3 Ways eLearning Providers Can Help Students Who Struggle Online

Online learning has expanded educational opportunities for students in a variety of subjects all around the world. It has enabled learners of diverse backgrounds to access coursework that would otherwise be out of reach and it has also helped school systems offer more flexible teaching options beyond traditional classroom instruction. At the same time, however, there's a growing body of evidence that seems to indicate that eLearning platforms have not done a great job at accommodating learners who begin courses with a lack of preparedness or pre-existing learning difficulties [1].

For eLearning providers to take the next step into the real mainstream of education, more must be done to provide the kind of course design, educational support, and resources needed by learners who haven't traditionally thrived in the medium. To do that will require some rethinking about the way courses present information, both to enhance engagement and provide opportunities for students to access helpful resources and direct educator support. Here's a look at some of the best ways you can do that.

1. Rely On Pilot Feedback

One of the best ways for eLearning providers to make sure their offerings satisfy the needs of the widest variety of learners is to conduct targeted pilots of their courses. To gather the right data, course piloting should segregate learners into groups, based on their prior academic record and any identified special needs they may have. In that way, course designers can gather detailed feedback on where additional resources may be necessary and to whom they should be provided. In addition, from an educational point of view, it's important to test the pilot students' absorption of the covered material to compare the results of the different groups of learners. That way, the course can go through a rigorous ADDIE cycle to look for possible improvements. In some cases, it may become obvious that a particular course should be split into advanced and basic sub-courses to accommodate the intended learners.

2. Focus On Spaced Learning

One of the difficulties eLearning operators face in designing courses that lead to positive outcomes for all students is settling on a format that will encourage maximum information retention. That's because there's no single format that will satisfy every learner. Still, there's a strong case to be made that focusing on spaced learning will provide the best possible outcomes for the widest variety of students. By breaking up courses into short segments and then reinforcing the covered topics with a review, later on, students tend to commit more information to memory and show increased comprehension. It also makes it possible for learners to precisely control their pacing while working through the course, allowing students who may have otherwise fallen behind time to regroup and review.

3. Be Resource Heavy

One of the primary advantages that eLearning has over traditional classroom education is an ability to draw resources from any number of online sources to provide students with the tools they need to succeed. That makes it possible to marshal teaching resources that fit a variety of learning styles, which can then help students customize their own path through a course. For example, providing students with instructional videos alongside text-based lessons allows them to choose the format they prefer, without sacrificing any learned information. To cover all the bases, courses should include materials in a variety of formats, such as:

  • Graphic organizers
  • Digital canvas work
  • Animated video
  • Infographics
  • Detailed text explanations

Basically, the more formats that students can access to digest required information, the easier it will be for them to construct a learning pathway that works for them. It's also vital, especially in challenging subjects like mathematics or sciences, to provide students with the digital equivalent of the tools they'd use in a physical classroom, like branch-specific calculators and scientific discipline-focused simulations. That way, students who thrive in hands-on and in-person settings won't be left behind in the digital-only format.

Putting It All Together

By carefully crafting courses and vetting them through pilot testing, it should be more than possible for eLearning providers to achieve better results for students at all levels of academic achievement. As long as the right resources and tools are put at students' disposal, they should be able to navigate any self-directed or teacher-supported course with relative ease. Students should also show higher retention and comprehension rates, which should, in turn, improve outcomes as they progress through successive courses. Of course, it's important to realize that no eLearning course can be all things to all students, but with the right structure, materials, and data-driven design, they should get fairly close.


[1] Promises and pitfalls of online education