Challenges In Online Education

Challenges in online education

As technology continues to advance, changes have come in the field of education. No longer do students need to attend a physical classroom, they can take classes online from anywhere as long as they have Internet access. While this sounds ideal, there are challenges in online education that a student needs to consider when they are looking at taking their schooling through a virtual campus.

The challenges are not limited to the student as one might think but to the education provider as well. As a result, they need to make changes at their end to ensure a quality course for their students and to make sure that they are recommended to others.

Challenges for online courses providers

Plagiarism

For instance, in a traditional classroom there are concerns about plagiarism but online, the scope for it is much larger. A student has access to many more resources and this includes finding information that has been put on the Internet by students who have taken the course. It is possible that copies of the teacher resources have been illegally put on the Internet and students can find it and cheat on their course. While this does not help the student at the end of the day, it can make the difference between passing a class or not.

Grade Assessment

Another issue for the teacher is grading their online students. You cannot get an idea from an online course how well the student has learnt the material. Not all students do well on written assignments or exams and as a result, they may not get good grades but they know the material. In a classroom setting, the student likely would be participating in class and the teacher would realize that they know what is going on

Student Feedback

Depending on the course, it can be difficult to get the course material written in a way that it is easy for a student to understand. As you cannot see the students faces as they are learning the materials, you cannot tell if they understand or if you need to try to explain it a different way. This can be one of the largest challenges in online education because everyone learns differently and not at the same rate.

Challenges for online courses students

Of course, being a student taking courses via distance is not easy. It is a easier than in days gone by when you got everything with paper and had to mail in your assignments and hope the postal service got them there in time. But there are other challenges in online education to overcome.

Motivation

One of the biggest issues for people taking online courses is being motivated to the work. It is too easy to tell yourself that you will do it later, that you don’t need to finish it tonight, you’ll have time tomorrow. But life has a tendency to get in the way and tomorrow never actually happens and you are suddenly doing two weeks of assignments in a week. They get rushed and your marks suffer.

Part of the lack of motivation is a lack of accountability. Every online course is different but there are some courses that only require you to write the exam and not submit any assignments. Therefore, students tend to ignore their course work. Conversely, some courses require you to hand in assignments but they do not contribute any marks to a final grade so doing well on them does not matter. It is not too difficult to do an assignment halfway just to get it handed in to move on to the exam.

Lack of individualized learning

For some students, not having a teacher in front of them going over the information can be a challenge. Everyone learns differently but people tend to learn more from listening than they do from reading a textbook or writing down notes. Sometimes there are other local students that they can get together with to work on their course work with but that are a luxury instead of an expectation.

Lack of personal mentorship

Another issue can be the availability of a teacher or tutor to help a student. As it requires more effort to get in touch with someone to help them with a problem, some students may not reach out for help when they need it. Help via email or other text mediums can be difficult as the tone of an email is not always obvious and someone may get discouraged by the wording of a response and not reply back that the answer wasn’t helpful. Even if the tone is fine, an explanation may not make sense to the student but they are too embarrassed to ask for further assistance.

Addressing the challenges

Fortunately, by recognizing the challenges in online education steps can be taken to address them. The tools we use for online learning need to catch up with all these issues. Live discussions can be setup to get some interaction or time to talk to the teacher.

As with any evolving industry, challenges in online education are expected to be minimized gradually with the development of enhanced methodologies and tools.

Online Education Industry: A Success In The Making

Online education

When I tell people that I graduated with a law degree by correspondence, they tell me that I’m extremely intelligent -considering that you don’t attend classes or liaise with fellow students on a daily basis. What I’m trying to get at is that online education isn’t a new fad, trend or innovation. Whilst the use of Information Communication Technologies (ICT’s) is a huge stride forward, the concept of distance learning has been around for ages, perhaps ever since the age of dinosaurs:-). With origins in long distance correspondence via regular mail, online education has overcome the many challenges of distance learning and made it more interactive, expedient and, consequently, more affordable.

Why Online Learning: What Needs Does It Solve

1. DISTANCE.

The first -and most obvious reason- is that online learning overcomes the problem of distance. We all aren’t fortunate enough to stay close to a university or college. Most of us have to travel far from our hometowns just to have access to higher learning. For the unprivileged few who remain, that’s a door to their future closed shut right before their eyes. However, with the growth of internet access, all one needs is a regular internet connection to gain a college education.

2. VARIETY.

Having been born and raised in a 3rd world country, I’m no stranger to the apparent lack of variety and depth in the courses and qualifications offered at institutions of higher education. You find that students obtaining exceptionally high grades at Advanced Level end up enrolling for general degrees that are pretty much an insult to their intelligence. And as if that wasn’t enough, the curriculum doesn’t have depth and is mostly predated. Online learning therefore offers students the variety that allows them to explore a vast and developed world well beyond their borders.

3. EASE OF ENTRANCE.

Mainly because neither is there competition for sitting space in university lecture halls, nor is there the issue of overworked lecturers. Online universities and colleges generally have less stringent entry requirements than regular universities. No TOEFL tests for undergrads or stressful degree grading for Masters or Doctoral studies. On top of that, mature entry has allowed even people in their 70-80’s to get professional qualifications.

International Developments In Online Education

Statistics don’t lie. According to The Distance Education Enrollment Report 2017 -which looks at statistics from 2015- over 6 million students were enrolled in an online college or university, taking at least one online course or more. Furthermore, public/state owned institutions lead the pack, enrolling more than 60% of said total.

Growth in online education

These staggering statistics, however impressive, are just a drop in the ocean when you look at the strides online education has made in recent times. In the past 3 years, there has been an increase in institutions offering degrees and postgraduate studies rather than just short courses. But what is more telling is the 1 million reduction in on-campus students between 2012 and 2017, a sign that e-learning has truly transformed the nature of learning in the 21st century.

Popular Areas Of Study: Which Are The Top Niches Pursued By Students?

Apart from ICT, Computer Science, Programming and Internet Security, there are a number of niches that have grown in demand owing to globalisation. Examples that easily spring to mind are Tourism, E-commerce and Internet Marketing, Languages, Early Childhood Development, Anthropology and Culture Studies, Digital Art and Photography, Psychology, and E-learning itself, to name but a few.

This clearly shows a seismic shift from conventional areas of study previously seen in high esteem, like Accounting, Medicine, Pharmacy, Law, Engineering and Aviation, which are predominantly practical subjects that require real physical interaction between students and lecturers. Be that as it may, this isn’t to say that these areas are stagnant. The online platform has also helped such career professionals to access information on leading developments in other parts of the world. Which is why you also get international accreditation programs being offered by online learning institutions.

Main Benefits

– Global reach
– Lower education costs
– Resource friendly
– Flexibility

Foreseeable future

There’s no telling what the next big thing after e-learning will be, but the forecast looks sunny, with clear skies and no chances of rainfall:-).

With projections for the online education industry having been pegged at a whopping US$325 Billion by the year 2025, we can only expect this ‘industry’ to grow. What is perhaps the biggest challenge for this promising sector is resources. Students in the developing world lack basic resources, like computers and access to regular, high speed internet. But over and above, e-learning has changed the nature of learning in unique and commendable ways.