The idea of the alternative study is not new. It started in 1873 by Bostonian Anna Eliot Ticknor, who offered correspondence courses by mail. Online learning options have grown tremendously in the last several years. Things to consider on this trend are that online learning offers flexibility and saves time for adult students. It is becoming more acceptable with 65% of schools offering graduate face-to-face (F2F) courses also offering graduate courses online. According to the essay writing service DoMyWriting private organizations are also getting in on the act and many groups and employers use organizations using online learning tools for training. This trend is expected to continue with a distance learning annual growth rate of 18.2%.
While there are benefits to the students and the faculty when teaching online, it is important to recognize that there are also challenges unique to the online classroom. These challenges are not for the student alone. Instructors may need to understand the differences as well so that both parties get the most from this emerging learning environment.
Issues with Online Learning
While online and distance learning options are continuing to grow and expand, students of online learning need to be prepared for potential pitfalls or challenges they may not have in a traditional classroom setting. Students may feel a lack of Interaction and have feelings of isolation. To help with this instructors need to elicit feedback and utilize open-ended discussions. The instructors should help learners to integrate and apply subject matter.
To get a more personal feeling for the groups/class students and instructors should post small bios and/or reference their websites to give a sense of personalization. The use of Discussion Boards/Questions to promote conversations is also highly recommended. Many times students feel the Discussion Boards be especially helpful in offering insight and feedback. All users do, however, need to be mindful of electronic messaging manners, such as no all caps/yelling, cursing, or inappropriate content.
Instructors should use written assignments to demonstrate learning and comprehension of the covered assignments. This also provides a more formal approach to papers or coursework that would be required in traditional classrooms.
While online learning offers many positives, there are some things that learners may have to consider differently than a face-to-face course:
- Group Projects: Difficulty in fair workloads. The Instructors should use bulletin boards or public posting areas
- Language and Communication Barriers: Written and verbal communication skills should be considered, as well as any learning disabilities such as dyslexia, vision impairment, etc. Students need to prepare for their challenges
- Technological Difficulties: Students must be able to use common software and computer programs. Of course, they must also have Internet capabilities/access
One of the biggest hurdles that some may face is that no one is standing over you to ensure your work is completed on time. Online students must possess a certain set of skills to be successful in this environment. Ideally, students must be self-managed, self-directed, and self-motivating. Students also need to have time management skills – including preparing in advance for projects. Students should seek the support of friends and family during study time and have a quiet learning place. Students will need to speak up if questions with assignments or due dates, otherwise the instructor won’t know the student needs clarification, even more so than a traditional classroom.
Online Instructor Challenges
The online instructor also needs to consider their unique position and plan accordingly. Things the instructor should consider and be aware of are Learning Assessments – have students learned? They should also utilize mixed assignments to give the most rounded and thorough teaching methods. This can be done via Discussion Boards and Written Assignments, some even utilize phone interviews and discussions. Lastly, the instructor needs to ensure that the work is authentic to the student. Plagiarism software and other references make this a little easier to verify than before.
Some tasks are recommended for online instructors. These tasks can help keep the instructor, student, and entire course on track:
- design assessments
- select media and delivery options
- develop course materials
- identify learning objectives
- design content and activities
- implement the course
- evaluate and revise
The Future of Online Learning
Students should familiarize themselves with the potential challenges before enrollment and prepare for them. Instructors also need to educate themselves on how to conduct an online classroom. By doing this, positive results will reflect online learning for all involved. The online learning environment is expected to continue to grow and evolve. Instructors, students, teachers need to work together to ensure its future success. Online learning is becoming more accepted overall and this offers many people, such as working adults, options they may not have had.