While online learning resources have proved to be a boon, especially during these unprecedented times, e-learning has its challenges.
- Huge Technological Divide and Inaccessibility
Despite the pandemic, e-learning has aided educational institutions in continuing classes and enabled uninterrupted learning for students to a large extent. However, the presence of a significant digital divide between demographics has become more apparent than ever. The relationship between technological literacy and income equality has led to a huge portion of the population being left behind. A UNICEF report stated that two-thirds of the world’s school-age children have no access to the internet at home. India might be home to the world's largest edtech players but the digital infrastructure required to provide equitable technological access to rural and low-income households is still severely lacking, with most being unable to attend online classes.
- Lack of Face to Face Interaction Could Create Significant Social Isolation
Virtual learning allows wider access to resources for people all over the world. However, the lack of in-person interaction prevents students from otherwise forming healthy bonds with members of their cohort. The social distancing that is mandated to stay safe and protected could lead to a generation of children growing up with a lack of vital social skills. There is also a huge risk of being faced with a mental health epidemic as a survey recorded that 7 out of 10 teenagers reported mental health struggles, including an increase in feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and depression.
- Online Learning Is Still Limited To Certain Disciplines
Due to the remote, theoretical nature of the delivery of e-learning resources, it is more suitable for subjects in the social sciences and humanities. STEM disciplines such as engineering and medicine require a good deal of learning to be done through hands-on practical application of concepts. Practical exposure, in terms of hospital residencies and industrial training, and on-ground project experience is crucial to their educational disciplines. Presently, there is no easy way to overcome this challenge.
- Possibility Of Cheating During Course Assessments
A significant challenge, faced by educators teaching virtually, is closing loopholes that some students might use to gain an unfair advantage in their examinations. On-campus testing allows for direct and close observation of students to prevent cheating. However, online students are evaluated remotely and can easily cheat, collude with other students or even engage a proxy to take the exam in their place, when taking exams without a live video observation and appropriate identity verification. Compared to traditional testing methods, detecting cheating during online course assessments is much harder, without the use of appropriate proctoring tools.
5 Common Misconceptions about Online Learning
Online learning is growing exponentially in recent years. Now more than ever, students are signing up for online courses to supplement their learning or enrolling for a fully online degree. However, there is still scepticism about the legitimacy of online courses in comparison to a traditional, offline degree. This has proven to be a significant challenge to the widespread adoption of online learning. Here are some myths and misconceptions about online learning debunked:
- You’re on your own and have to teach yourself
Online learning is done remotely and not in a conventional, physical classroom. However, not being physically present with your instructor doesn’t mean that you will be left to your own devices and have to fend for yourself. Online course educators are just as responsible for guiding their students and teaching them the course material, regardless of whether it is online or offline. Virtual classroom solutions include features like question and answer forums, polling scoreboards, etc., to enable students to speak up, clarify doubts and engage with their professors. While physical interactions might not be possible when learning online, there are several ways to get in touch with and build a rapport with your instructor, during virtual work hours and through email and social media.
- There is no interaction with classmates
The opportunity to meet and bond with classmates might be limited in an online learning course but there are ample ways to still interact with them. Regular peer-to-peer interaction and learning are a requirement for several online learning courses. Creating reports and presenting group projects using web conference solutions like Skype, Zoom, or Google Meet enables team building, student engagement, and peer review. Discussion groups and chat rooms also allow classmates to discuss coursework. Tools like social media can also be used to network and build relationships with classmates and other alumni.
- Online courses are easier than offline campus-based courses
The most popular misconception about online learning is that they’re easier than traditional on-campus courses. This also creates the perception that online courses are of poor quality and lower standards than traditional courses. Most online courses, especially accredited ones, go through a rigorous design process to ensure that the course is well structured and the learning material is delivered in the most optimal way possible. Online courses can be just as challenging as their offline counterparts and require good writing and communication skills, time management, and hard work to excel in them.
- You have to be tech-savvy to learn online
Technology has made life simpler for us in a myriad of ways and continuous advancements have made the adoption of technology much easier. This dispels a common misconception about online learning. Online platforms are increasingly sophisticated and well designed for optimal learning experiences. Apart from basic skills about how to navigate your computer or connect to the internet, most of the tools you will need are very easy to use. Several online courses have various links and tutorials to help if you need any help. You always have your instructor and fellow classmates to turn to as well. Irrespective of your age or profession, online learning is for everybody.
- Online degrees are not valued by employers
Online learning might have been viewed warily by employers in industries that require legitimate qualifications. With the ever-increasing popularity of online learning, the stigma once associated with it has decreased considerably. Virtual classroom tools often simulate the technologies used in the modern workplace. In some instances, some employers might value an online education more than a traditional degree. Around 83% of business leaders view an online degree at a reputed institution as being just as valuable as an on-campus degree. Additionally, a survey conducted by Northeastern University found that 33% of HR leaders believe that online education will ultimately be better than traditional physical instruction.