CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS IN ONLINE TEACHING
- J. MEKALA DEVI
Assistant Professor, Department of History
The Standard Fireworks Rajaratnam College for Women, Sivakasi
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Online learning is education that takes place over the Internet. It is often referred to as “elearning” among other terms. However, online learning is just one type of “distance learning” – the umbrella term for any learning that takes place across distance and not in a traditional classroom. The physical classroom learning nowadays is no longer applicable for the current younger generations. Internet and distance learning which is generally known as online education plays a vital roles in the country’s education system. It is undeniable that online education provides ample of benefits to young learners. Nevertheless, there are also many negative implications from online education. Limited collaborative learning, increase in time and effort are the several negative implications from online education. Online courses are rapidly replacing traditional, face-to-face lectures in various universities. As technology improves, this trend will likely continue and accelerate. Researchers must evaluate the impact of online courses compared to their traditional counterparts. This two-part study quantifies the effect of two variables – social presence and learner control – on students’ recall, application and perceived learning levels in different lecture formats. Yet in online teaching, lectures are completely different than face-to-face learning environments. Unfortunately, all too often, online courses are still imagined (and even designed) as in-class courses without the in-class part, with an archive of PowerPoint presentations and a list of recommended readings as the core part of the teaching experience. The problems found were characterized as: computer literacy problems, infrastructure problems, communication problems, management problems, learning problems and emotional problems. The worked-out solutions categories included: communication means, management means, documentation means and training. Here are some challenges the teachers face in their teaching as an online instructor and some useful instructional strategies to help them navigate.
Online teaching poses a different set of challenges for educators and students, but collaboration and communication make it easier to stay connected and engaged.
In the midst of the corona virus pandemic, many higher education instructors were forced to pivot their instruction online to allow teaching and learning to continue. The world of education and learning is moving towards online training. The benefits are undeniable: reduced costs, great flexibility for the student and the ability to train thousands of people all over the globe at the same time. In addition, you can monitor what students are doing at any given moment, and it breaks with the inertia and passivity of classroom courses.
However, e-learning is not without its faults. Online training comes with its own particular characteristics, which can jeopardize the success of the training. E-learning should not be seen as a panacea. It only by knows the problems that other companies and institutions have encountered that you can implement programs to realize its full potential.
Unless thoughtfully crafted, online instruction can turn students into passive observers rather than active participants. Although these unengaged students may acquire the lecture content, they aren’t able to apply their learning outside the virtual classroom. They might pass assessments and complete learning activities, but they aren’t planning on using their new knowledge to make connections with previous material or real-world examples. For learning to be effective, students must be engaged in the quality, breadth and depth of their learning.
In online learning environments, it’s important to help students engage with course material in a way that makes sense for them. Providing them with ample flexible opportunities to reinforce course concepts will ensure that learning material sticks with them, even after they’ve completed their final assessment.
Especially when students are learning remotely, educators must recognize that students will only engage with course materials if they see them as valuable. With digital courseware, online teachers can adopt or create a customizable interactive textbook to extend active learning outside of class meetings. With in-line interactive questions, it is easy to track completion and comprehension of course content. These questions can be used to introduce new concepts, reinforce students’ understanding of topics and assess learning. Instructors can also easily export grades and participation data to their learning management system (LMS).
Students Mentality – Online training is boring
Although online training is meant to provide a solution to the boredom of classroom-based learning, this is not always the case. Many e-learning courses consist of never-ending texts followed by a long list of multiple choice questions that fail to engage students. More than e-learning, it feels like e-reading.
These types of courses mean that students often get bored with online training, and this lack of engagement and motivation is one of the main reasons e-learning courses fail. Students are simply not interested in taking the training, do not access the platform and do not complete the course. MOOCs (massive open online courses) are a good example: only 10% of students who register for a course actually complete it.
Find an online course that is dynamic, fun and interactive
To prevent students from getting bored, be sure to find an online course that is interactive, dynamic and fun. While this may have been difficult in the early days of e-learning, nowadays it is much easier: there are currently a number of providers offering all types of interactive training, with challenges and adventures, videos, storytelling, gamified solutions, simulators to ensure practice and game-based learning.
And if you want to add an extra motivational touch to the training, you can offer other incentives. Experience has shown, for example, that when students receive an official qualification or certificate at the end of a course, they become more engaged in the training. You can also promote competition by including rankings, classifications and prizes for the winners (cash or other rewards). All of these will enhance employee engagement and participants are not only more likely to finish the course but, above all, to learn more and better.
Staying Connected With Students
In an online classroom, much of the learning is completed asynchronously and students often feel disconnected from their instructor, as well as their peers. It can be difficult for instructors to teach online when they struggle to gauge how students are comprehending course content, and whether they are participating in learning experiences.
Feedback loops are key to building strong connections with learners in an online environment. When students complete a task, they get feedback and make adjustments accordingly. Feedback is meant to be non-evaluative and focused on a specific course learning objective. To give effective commentary, instructors must explain why a student is receiving the feedback, and suggest how they can improve in the future. This process also encourages students to reflect on that feedback, thus creating an iterative loop focused on individual progress and improvement over the course of a semester. Since this is an ongoing process, regular online formative assessments can build a continuous feedback loop. Using tools such as online assessments or platforms like Top Hat, you can provide specific, immediate feedback to students, giving instructors the chance to evaluate student performance.
Classroom response systems can also help faculty members understand how students are performing. When questions are posed to the class, for example, students can respond anonymously through their personal devices—the responses are then displayed on the screen in real-time. Some online learning platforms also offer weekly course reports to track student comprehension, outlining where they performed well and where they need more work. This can make it easier to identify students who are struggling and allows faculty to reach out with additional resources and support.
Students Encounter Technical Difficulties
While it may sound obvious, technical problems are one of the main stumbling blocks of online training. Very often, there are compatibility issues (with operating systems, browsers or smartphones), the courses never get off the ground or the student doesn’t know how to continue. All this adds to their frustration and reduces employee engagement, the learning experience is disrupted and they will probably abandon the course.
Offer multi-device courses and personal attention
When faced with this challenge, keep it simple. Choose online courses that do not require much internal memory or a high-speed Internet connection, and with a solid and simple script. Give priority to courses where you do not have to download any programs or print out documents. When you take the training before your students, pay attention to the sound quality (an issue that is often neglected) and be sure to try out the course on several smartphones, browsers and operating systems.
In addition, choose online courses that have a simple and comprehensive help page, a detailed FAQ section and an excellent student care service. If the online course has a chat service, email address or forum for sorting out technical glitches, you can be certain that technology won’t be a problem and won’t get in the way of the learning process.
The Students Don’t Know The Course Exists
This often happens: you’ve spent months preparing an online course, you chose the best provider, you know the course is essential for your employees… but nobody in the organization is aware of its existence. Students have at their disposal hundreds and thousands of courses and are often overwhelmed by the workload and daily routine. As a result, no one knows what the training course is about and, hence, doesn’t take it.
Launch a communications campaign
If you want your students to really pay attention to you, consider treating the launch of any training plan like the premiere of a Hollywood movie. Give a presentation in the company’s largest conference room (Could you show a trailer or a preview of the online course? Would the CEO give a speech?). Create anticipation using chain emails or place large posters around the office (along the lines of “Wanted” or “Coming soon”, for example). All this will spark students’ interest and you will have created a buzz even before the training begins. Make sure you explain why the training is important for employees and how it will help them to be better professionals and better people.
At the same time, be sure to inform your superiors and all department heads about the training. Based on the experience of different organizations, online courses work much better if you can get senior company staff involved. Senior staff are not only in a position to allow their team members time to attend the training, but can also lead by example and, hence, encourage staff lower down the organization to take the courses.
Interaction among students is one of the single most important elements of successful online education. Collaborative engagement motivates learning and promotes a deeper and more critically aware approach to the subject matter. Unfortunately, collaboration is one of the most difficult things to achieve when students are not physically present together.
Many discussion assignments do not support organic conversation. Posts are asynchronous, formal responses to prompts and so the required “discussion” of other students’ ideas is understandably forced. Such forums are more akin to prepared response papers than group exercises, and this may well be appropriate for your online content.
To encourage collaborative problem-solving, consider giving students a more specific task than simply “commenting” on each other’s ideas. Ask directly for constructive feedback about their classmates’ submissions. For example: “Focus on one claim in a colleague’s response that you think deserves to be developed in more depth. Suggest how that claim could be further developed and supported with evidence.”
Problem-based learning is a collaborative learning strategy that gives students the opportunity to apply course material to real-world case studies in small groups. This method, whether used in group learning or individually, helps students build upon their creativity and critical thinking skills. Students are invited to analyze, synthesize and then critique the information presented. By drawing on one another’s expertise and through seeking out online resources and tools, students who use problem-based learning can reach their course’s learning objectives in collaborative, meaningful ways.
The shift to online learning can be difficult. It can require restructuring course components using new pedagogical approaches, learning activities and tech tools that may be new to you and your students. The pandemic has surely caused a change in the usual teaching and learning practices employed in the on-campus classroom environments, but that doesn’t mean they must be abandoned altogether. By instilling collaboration, frequent communication and active learning into your classroom, you can still ensure students receive valuable and engaging educational experiences, regardless of where learning takes place.
Students don’t have time for online training
The e-learning format offers students great flexibility: they can take the courses when and where they like, at their own pace and with no physical limitations. However, so much flexibility often results in inaction. Time passes and the student still hasn’t accessed the training platform or completed the course. They have so much time and flexibility…that they can never actually find time to do it.
Set a time limit and send reminders
To solve this problem, firstly, ensure that the courses are divided into several parts and consist of brief lessons that can be completed in a short amount of time. If students encounter major stumbling blocks to learning, they will probably never find the time to tackle them. Divide the courses and conquer.
Secondly, don’t be afraid to set a time limit. The fact that the training is online doesn’t mean you can’t set deadlines. Establish a clear and simple calendar indicating when the student should have completed each part of the online course. In addition, send reminders to students telling them that they are running out of time and encouraging them to complete the course.
Students Need to Talk to People
Online courses have lots of advantages, but we also need to recognize their limitations. Students may sometimes get frustrated due to the lack of human contact, the absence of a teacher and an inability to discuss it with their classmates. Sometimes, the online world, no matter how enriching it may be, can become too small for the student and they may need a physical space where they can resolve their queries and practice with real tools.
Personal attention, forums and social media
If this is the problem, one solution is to foster personal interaction within the online world as much as possible. You can organize webinars, group work or forums where students can discuss and resolve their queries. It is essential that students have a teacher they can contact (for example, tutoring via Skype). You could also promote the use of social media during the training, thus providing an additional opportunity for social interaction and humanizing the learning process.
Another solution is to combine online courses with some kind of classroom training. It has been demonstrated that this type of mixed training (known as blended learning) reinforces what students have learned and enhances the educational value of the training. Therefore, whether before, during or after the course, you could organize debates between students or classes with the teacher. This way, you will be blending the online and offline worlds and overcoming one of the most obvious limitations of e-learning.
Students Can’t Practice
Science has shown that the best way to learn something is by practicing it (the famous learning by doing concept). It is only by practicing the things we do and experience (experiential learning) that we are able to internalize and recall the content and skills we learn. However, many online courses overlook this part and focus solely on theoretical content and external lessons. As a result, students cannot practice and the learning process does not reach its full potential.
Use useful and practical courses that have simulators
The students can practice, an essential requirement is that courses are useful and practical. Employees must feel (even if selfishly) that the training will be useful to them in their day-to-day work and will help them to become better professionals (and, indeed, people). If e-learning courses meet this requirement, students will be able to put everything they learn into practice in the real world.
In addition, to ensure they get practice during the online course, you should use simulators. Simulators have been used for decades (for example, by pilots and surgeons) to recreate real-life situations so that students can practice and experiment in safe and controlled environments. If you incorporate simulators into your training course, you will be able to solve this problem and ensure that your students put their new knowledge and skills to practical use.
The Quality of the Courses is Mediocre
The students are motivated, the course content sounds interesting, a communications campaign has been launched so everyone knows about it… but it so happens that the quality of the content is not up to par. With the information overload of today’s world, with thousands of free online courses and powerful platforms such as Wikipedia, YouTube and Google, course content must be excellent and of the highest standard. Nevertheless, many students end up frustrated when they discover that they can learn more on their own than with the simple, mediocre courses offered by their companies or institutions.
Offer nothing but the best
The world has changed dramatically in recent years and so has your job. As the person responsible for training, one of your most important missions is to find, select and prioritize the best courses. Remember: you must be better than Google. So only go for the very best.
The Online Course Has No Impact on Your Organization
Sometimes, e-learning is able to overcome all of the above problems. The students accessed the training platform, they did not encounter any technical problems, they completed the course within the deadline and were able to practice what they learned. However, what impact did the training have on your organization? Did it improve your company’s human capital? Do you have results you can show to your superiors? Many e-learning projects fail for the simple reason that they did not have an impact on the organization overall.
Align online courses with your organization’s objectives (and measure them!)
The best way to solve this problem is to plan before launching the training. You must be clear about your learning goals and why you want your students to take this particular online course. The most important thing is that the training is aligned with the interests of your company or institution. Therefore, you should choose materials that will actually contribute to the organization’s general goals (such as increased company sales, increased staff awareness of a particular matter or improved customer service management).
What’s more, be sure to measure the results of the training. Set indicators before implementing the project and go back and measure them again after completing the course. This way, you will know what impact the training had on your organization. If you don’t measure it, how will you know whether the course was a success or a failure? These figures will allow you to assess what worked and what didn’t, and justify the investment to your superiors.