Everything That Can Go Wrong With Online Learning – And How to Fix It
Is online classroom the way to go? We list some of the top challenges that can stand in the way of effective online learning. Find out more.
Updated 21 Apr 2020
COVID-19 has caused most countries to go into some form of lockdown. However, even in the midst of a pandemic that requires us to stay at home, the advent of technology has made it possible for real life to go on.
In fact, faced with the uncertain nature of the COVID-19 outbreak, a number of universities and colleges are making the switch to online classes to ensure their academic calendar is not derailed.
However, online learning isn’t without its trials and tribulations. We’ve rounded up some of the top challenges of online learning and discuss how you can tackle them.
#1. Poor internet connectivity
Is poor internet connection dampening your productivity and ability to learn online?
You’re not alone. Ever since the lockdown, data shows that Malaysia has been experiencing a strain on its internet infrastructure, one of the worst amongst 22 countries. In addition, Telekom has also reported submarine cable damages, resulting in internet disruption across the nation.
This does not bode well if you are depending on a good, stable internet connection to access videos, lessons and assignments as part of your online learning. For those from rural areas with poor internet access, it can even mean being cut off from the learning system completely.
What can you do?
The good news is that the telcos are now offering free 1GB data daily as part of the government’s economic stimulus package. So, make sure you sign up for it!
At the same time, if many of your classes involve live video conferencing sessions, speak to your lecturers about having them recorded and making them available for you to access at another time, perhaps later in the night when the internet traffic has eased.
In lieu of live video conferencing, you can also suggest to your class to use voice calls apps like Discord. Voice call apps require less data than video calls and you don’t need to have a camera to make it work.
#2. Unfavourable home environment
Do you find it hard to focus at home?
There’s a reason why lessons take place in a specialised environment. The presence of an authority figure and a specialised space for studying allow you to focus on the lessons at hand.
Besides that, your housemates and family members may not truly understand what online learning is. This translates to disruptions in the middle of your online classes with yells of help from your parents to help out with chores around the house.
What can you do?
Before the lessons begin, inform your household members about your online class schedules. Explain to them the importance of you focusing on your lessons and that they should try to keep their volume down.
You should also keep all the distracting elements away. If you need to use your phone for class, try to minimise the possibility of being distracted by turning off app notifications or switching on the “Do Not Disturb” mode. If possible, don’t sit near the television or game consoles.
If many of your lessons take place on a set schedule, ask your lecturers to consider asynchronous learning where you can learn through recorded videos and access study materials on your own time. This allows you to choose a time convenient to your personal schedule — one where you are not needed for other things and when there are less distractions.
#3. Poor self-motivation
Focusing on the lesson at hand is a lot easier in class where you are surrounded by motivated classmates and instructors. Alone at home with distractions aplenty, it’s easy to lose that motivation and self-discipline required to effectively digest your lessons.
Moreover, not having in-person face-to-face interactions may also be taking a toll on your motivation and mental health.
What can you do?
Firstly, consider allocating a separate study zone specifically meant for studying. This will isolate you from the household and other distractions. Next, come up with a study plan and stick to it. Make a list of objectives to achieve in each class to remind you what to focus on.
Additionally, consult your lecturers on how best to stay engaged. Ask that they consider interactive quizzes and other incentives and reward systems to better suit the nature of online learning. Come up with fun, new ways to make online learning more appealing than just conventional text and static pictures.
#4. Not being able to adapt to the change
Making the switch from face-to-face in-class learning to remote online learning can be hard. Doubly so for those who, on top of not being familiar with the online systems used, also lack a certain degree of technological proficiency.
Additionally, even if you know how to use the system, you may not be familiar with online etiquette, such as muting your microphone when you’re not talking or not using strong language to avoid being misinterpreted. Remember, online learning is a completely different environment compared to in-class learning.
What can you do?
Be an active student. Familiarise yourself with the technology ahead of your class. This way, you won’t struggle to navigate the system when class is in session. You can also ask for help from your friends and lecturers.
Additionally, you should also research basic online etiquette to ensure smooth and polite communication. Be careful with humour and sarcasm since written communication is harder to accurately interpret. At the same time, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help if you have any questions, whether from your classmates or instructors.
In fact, many universities are offering support for their students in the form of helplines and guides. You should check if your university has these services as well. If not, why not suggest it to your lecturer?
While there are definitely challenges standing in the way of effective online learning, it is by no means impossible. Done right, online learning can cater to all types of learners, making it the perfect tool for learning in the 21st century.
So what do you think? Did we miss any of the challenges of online learning?