While we continue to adjust to life during a pandemic, online learning has become the chosen mode of educating students all over the world. Only a year ago, learning online was considered just an optional way of learning. In addition, educators were not fully prepared to shift teaching and learning in such a dramatic way.
Online learning can be an effective way to teach and learn; however it takes proper planning and implementing activities in order to provide quality education. With almost a year of adjusting to this way of educating, there are still issues that students face despite online learning being a mandatory practice in some schools.
What can Hinder Some Students’ Success During Online Learning?
There are many factors that can hinder the success of students utilizing an online learning mode. First, having an appropriate learning space is crucial. However, this is not always possible in some homes. With many family members also trying to work and learn from home, ideal spaces are not plentiful. Not to mention, being at home also could be noisy and distracting depending on the household.
The second issue that is rather common for students is dealing with internet issues. Households may not have had the proper bandwidth to handle multiple users needing a strong internet connection for learning and working. In addition, a major issue for students learning online is when a teacher continues to deliver traditional modes of instructing and assessing in the online format. Teachers had to make a huge leap into the technology world and so their instructional tool box might lack the necessary “know how” to successfully shift teaching in the virtual world.
For instance, lectures (whether provided asynchronously or synchronously) lack student engagement. In addition, students can easily cheat to secure answers for assessments. While these issues can be problematic and need to be resolved, students cannot fix those concerns without the assistance and cooperation of others.
There are also other concerns that hinder successful online learning that students do have the power to fix themselves. First, students may lack technical and digital proficiency. Students may find it hard to decipher teacher instructions and directions. Students can be confused by the wording that is provided to them. Without having the teacher present, it is sometimes difficult for students to discern what the assignment is or how to complete the assignment as the teacher intended. This can also be an issue related to students lacking adequate digital literacy skills.
Another issue that hinders the success of students learning online is the ongoing struggle of managing time. Students are now expected to manage assignments on their own. They need to stay organized with many due dates and multiple modes of submitting assignments.
The last issue that students face is staying motivated. It is difficult to maintain a productive level of energy when you are forced to look at a computer screen each day as part of your studies.
Strategies for Overcoming Obstacles of Online Learning
Lacking Technical and Digital Proficiency
First, students need to know what technology supports are available. Each school has authorized personnel and resources that can help students access a range of support services from technical problems to guiding students in properly utilizing a certain instructional technology program. Teachers need to remind students of these resources and encourage the students to reach out themselves.
Also, both students and teachers need to pay attention to the wording used in the instructions and directions. Teachers will typically use proper names and labels for certain technology skills and actions that may be unlike slang terms that students use and know. For instance, a teacher might direct students to “use a search engine” while students may say, “google it”, meaning to search a topic on the internet. Students need to know the proper terms so when in the workforce, they can understand and be understood.
In addition, teachers should be very descriptive in their directions. Extra details are a must so that students can understand not just how to complete an assignment but how it is supposed to be submitted. It should never be assumed that students will be able to infer such information. Constant reminders and helpful hints should also be provided to students. When it comes to providing directions and setting expectations, there can never be too much information provided!
A crucial skill in being a successful student is managing one’s time. This is a life skill that students do need to achieve despite what educational format is mandated. However, with online learning, it is important to learn this skill sooner rather than later. Students need to do their best in securing a location for working that has the least amount of distractions.
Identifying distractions and activities that waste one’s time is important. For instance, constantly checking email messages could interfere with actually getting work completed. Students should identify specific times to check email messages.
Also, students need to follow a specific schedule. Synchronous delivery of instruction provides a schedule for students; however, asynchronous formats do not. Students also need to learn to “chunk” big projects and tasks into smaller parts. Students may need the scaffolding expertise from teachers to be able to do this effectively.
Also, students should get into a habit of focusing on completing one thing at a time. Jumping from task to task may make a person feel they are accomplishing a lot but in reality nothing ever gets completed or completed with quality.
Motivation is a key ingredient in being successful. Being able to overcome boredom, distractions, and confusion can be hard to do by yourself when learning online. It is hard to do when in a classroom setting but the external motivation can be very helpful to sustain energy and focus. But when it is removed from the equation, how can students motivate themselves?
For starters, making goals is an important part of sustaining motivation. Students need to set goals and post these goals in plain sight. When things get difficult, the goals may be encouraging reminders to keep going. Students also need to commit to participating in discussions and connecting with others. Even if these activities are optional, students need to have camaraderie with others to help fuel the motivation tank. Students may also benefit from journaling their thoughts daily to encourage self-reflection.
In the end, these common obstacles students face in an online learning format do have their benefits. These obstacles are forcing students to develop self-directed learning and creative problem-solving skills in order to gain technical and digital proficiency, manage time, and sustaining motivation. These two deeper learning competencies are essential for students to be successful in their futures.