The education industry was one of the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with institutions scrambling to find solutions to keep their doors open. In these times of need, online learning tools emerged as a boon. In the last two years, investments in EdTech tools, especially in the online education segment, have skyrocketed, resulting in significant technological improvements.
Online education has many benefits such as portability, ease of access, reduced need for physical infrastructure, lowered costs and greater flexibility. But that isn’t to say that it doesn’t come with its demerits. In a recent survey, 60% of the students who have recently shifted into an online – learning system thought of the experience as boring and struggled with motivating themselves to pay attention in class.
In another survey, 77% of 800 college students prefer in-person learning in class better than online methods. These statistics point to the fact that there is a need to understand the various shortcomings in the online education field to address them.
Therefore, in the following, we shall explore the biggest challenges facing online education today.
1. Lack of Motivation in Students
It was thought that online learning would be the new interactive and immersive method to teach the new generation of students. Though, the results speak on the contrary. Endless oceans of texts, quizzes, frequent learning assignments and MCQ’s have led to students losing motivation to keep revisiting the learning portal.
Students complain of lacking motivation due to a lack of interpersonal touch between the students and the teacher in the online classes. The need for physical interaction between the students is also a necessity for maintaining engagement which the online learning methodology has no answers for yet. Institutions need to deliver interactive lessons to students.
2. Infrastructural Problems
Though online learning doesn’t require huge buildings, big classrooms, chairs, tables, blackboards, chalk doesn’t mean there are no infrastructural requirements. The need for a computer, adequate software, constant electricity and high-bandwidth internet is quite a big demand.
In most developed nations, this infrastructure is available to the public through public libraries if they cannot personally afford it. But for developing countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and many others, this quality of infrastructure is only available to a select few percent of the population.
3. Digital Literacy and Technical Issues
Though the new generation is proficient in working with computers doesn’t necessarily translate to Digital Literacy. To proficiently learn through an online system requires understanding the workings of multiple software, which presents a huge learning curve. Also, students need to understand online communication etiquette and know student rights and responsibilities in an online learning environment.
A bigger problem is with constant technical issues faced by both teachers and students on these platforms. These problems often require technical support to rectify, causing frequent disruption in the learning flow.
4. Lack of In-person Interaction
Humans are social animals. The growth of the internet hinged on the principle that humans will always be curious to interact and know more about one another. That said, on a psychological level, virtual interaction cannot mimic that of a physical one.
The physical presence inside a classroom with a teacher and fellow peers often leads to an atmosphere that can’t be replicated through virtual means. The physical model also ensures discipline as students cannot switch off webcams and doze off. Physical classrooms also allow for teachers to provide more personal attention to each student’s needs. However, interactive eLearning modules can help improve student engagement.
6. Lack of EdTech and Online Learning Options for Special Needs of Students
The segment of students who have been completely ignored in the evolution of online learning is students with special needs. Special needs students need a more personalized and hands-on method of teaching.
Though technology has improved drastically, it is still heavily dependent on the need for an expert or a teacher to be there full-time to guide the student through the tasks. These problems have caused special needs students to fall behind others in their academic pursuits.
7. Course Structure and Quality
The shift to online learning and other modern teaching tools was thought to bring about a modernization even in the course curriculum and structure. Sadly, that hasn’t been the case. Institutions have retained their obsolete course curriculum and structure even after shifting online. With companies such as Google and Tesla choosing to forego college as a prerequisite for employment, students are reconsidering college as a whole.
Online resources such as YouTube, Goggle, Skillshare, Udemy and others offer better content on these subjects for cheaper or even free. These platforms also let them pick and choose their subjects, making the learning structure highly flexible. This should cause Educational Institutions to rethink their approach to teaching as a whole.
8. Lack of Accredited Degrees From Top Universities
Education has more to do about branding than learning. It matters more from where you studied than what you studied. In such a market where the brand is a huge factor, the online learning sphere is yet to convince prestigious higher learning institutions to offer their courses through online/ distance learning modes.
The online courses for degrees are often not accredited and mostly not recognized by the job market or other institutions. Though schools have embraced the online learning system, the higher educational institutions and the governments have yet to recognize them as legitimate methods of obtaining a professional degree.
9. Abundant Distractions, Lack of Discipline
With recurrent technical issues, bandwidth problems and monotonous lectures, online attendance has seen a drastic dip. Most students find learning online boring and often complain of lacking the motivation to make it through a class. Even teachers often complain of a lack of tools to make the classes engaging, leading to a loss of interest from both parties.
With the lack of any accountability in the online teaching method, education quality often becomes compromised. Coupled with the free use of laptops and mobile phones during classes, distractions have become countless, often coming at the cost of focusing during class.
Where there is a problem, there is always a solution. The current Edu Tech system in the online learning segment has many shortcomings not limited to the list above. That said, the segment is relatively young and even so has improved leaps and bounds. The system is changing and evolving rapidly and is soon to become the norm in the education industry.
The online education world has multiple upsides and will make education cheaper and more widely available. Gone are the days of fixed curriculums and rigid subject choices as the new generation of students demands greater freedom in their education. Yet, the biggest hurdle that EdTech has to overcome is replicating the charm of in-person learning and making the experience more immersive as technical difficulties often get smoothened out over time.