Given the number of teachers who have gone digital with their teaching during this quarantine, it is apparent that online learning is quickly becoming the next big thing. And while digitised classes have a tremendously long list of advantages they offer, as all things must, they have some disadvantages too. These disadvantages, if not tackled properly, can get the better of unsuspecting educators.
If you’re someone who is struggling with teaching online, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a list of the most common barriers to online learning - along with ways to overcome them:
- Limited technical knowledge - Technical problems are one of the main stumbling blocks of online teaching. Before taking a class online, you’ll need a certain degree of technological proficiency, which includes the ability to successfully log in, conduct classes, put up assignments, and communicate with your classmates efficiently. Insufficient computer skills together with poor infrastructure, like a slow or lagging internet connection, can inhibit your ability to engage your students and get them involved in your class. In such a situation, it can be very useful to spend some time beforehand to learn this new skill and gain familiarity with the platform on which you will be conducting your classes.
- Lack of physical elements - When all is said and done, the fact remains that students are too accustomed to sitting in a classroom and learning, to be able to bridge the gap between offline and online classes immediately. The online world, no matter how enriching, 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. To resolve this issue, try and combine online courses with some kind of classroom training. Organise debates between the students, arrange weekly or bi-weekly group activities to humanize the learning process and get your students to be more comfortable with online classes.
- Poor time management - Online classes provide students with the ability to choose their preferred time of study. As opposed to regular classes with fixed schedules, online learning gives them some flexibility and this flexibility often results in inaction. The first thing to do is ensure that your course follows a schedule so it is easier for students to adhere to it. Secondly, ensure that the classes are divided into parts and consist of brief lessons that can be completed in a short amount of time because let’s face it, it is tough for them to not get distracted during online lectures. Establish a clear and simple calendar indicating when the student should have completed each part of the online course.
- Lack of motivation in students - Given that there is no authority figure present to ensure that they are diligent about their online classes, there can be a severe lack of motivation in students. Some online learners may start out fully engaged and then discover that their motivation wanes. We live in an age where attention is at a premium and learners have access to more information than they can consume. You have to show them the value in taking your course if you want them to actively participate. You must provide them with an interactive and immersive e-learning experience that includes their interests.
There are a few ways you can boost learner engagement:
I. Micro-learning: It is a more engaging and less time-consuming method of learning. It could include short-term learning activities or smaller units of learning altogether. Content in micro-learning can take any form from text to video to games or quizzes, but it must always be less in quantity.
II. Gamification: Gamification, simply put, is using elements that are typical to gameplay in another field like education. This can include the sense of competition, scoreboards, rules of the game, etc. This brings out a more fun side to your syllabus and keeps your students engaged.
- Monotonous study material - Students are habituated to learn with both theoretical and practical resources. In the shift to online classes, the practical aspect of learning is lost and students have to rely more heavily on theory. Dry subject matter is the bane of every teacher’s existence. You have to use a healthy dose of innovation, creativity, and every resource you can get your hands on to transform it into something engaging and exciting. Try and come up with ways in which students can make use of what they learn in daily life. Handing some control over to your students and encouraging them to get involved in creating their own content can also produce valuable results.
- Use of a uniform teaching approach - When we shift to an online learning environment, assuming that one teaching approach will work for all, given that the platform and type of learning will be uniform, can be detrimental to learning. Creating generic assignments and course structures works fine if you have a one-on-one class, but for a larger number of students, a personalised teaching experience is almost a necessity. Instead of giving only one assignment or activity to your students, offer them a choice between two or three varied topics, so they can choose what is best suited for them. It also helps to establish in the very beginning, that students are encouraged to raise doubts or questions they may have or share their insights and opinions on the subject matter, at any given point.
- Lack of one-on-one attention - The biggest drawback on online classes is that as an educator, it becomes difficult to provide each student with personal attention. 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. One popular method of making sure that your students don't feel isolated is introducing the concept of Happy Hour. It's a digital replacement to water cooler conversation that students would otherwise engage in, during breaks. Facilitate conversation between you and your students as well as among the students themselves. Stress on the importance of feedback and show the students that their individual voice matters.
If you are new to the field of online teaching or are looking for ways to promote existing classes, you can go through our Guide to Teaching Online Effortlessly.
Do spare a minute and check out Reportcard - it helps you keep track your students’ attendance, schedules and manage classes, and collaborate seamlessly with staff and students, alike.