What are the unique challenges online students face, and how can they work to overcome them?
Online learning in contemporary higher education has become popular for many legitimate, good reasons. But there are also some challenges learners face. The most pressing, in my opinion, is the limited accessibility to lecturers, which causes communication and learning challenges for some students.
In online learning, teachers do not see the faces of their students, and often, vice versa. Not only are the teachers unable to see if students are focusing on learning and course content, but students are also unable to read facial expressions of lecturers, which helps in clarifying otherwise ambiguous statements. Furthermore, students do not have the ability to instantly ask lecturers questions as they would in the traditional classroom; doing so becomes a matter of having to gather confidence to email or Skype your lecturer.
I remember when I started my first semester at Regent University, studying for a master’s in journalism. Writing emails to my professors was a real challenge. Thanks to lecturers, who were able to connect with me by calling, I felt someone truly wanted to help. For the second semester, I gathered courage, knowing I was doing well in my classes and wanted to continue succeeding. I now reach out more easily to my lecturers, via email.
Utilizing modern mediums
If lecturers use Blackboard’s collaborate feature, Skype and phone calls, to teach, give feedback and communicate with students, and vice versa, it would make for a better learning experience overall. Ideally, students would feel that their teachers are more tangibly accessible; they’d have a much needed emotional connection with lecturers, and would be better at communicating more complex questions that text in an email simply cannot convey. All in all, such mediums would assist in opening lines of communication, giving both the students and professors, a more authentic, quality experience.
While learning online has its benefits, unless students decide to overcome their shyness by reaching out to their lecturers with questions that they have, the accessibility challenge may very well hinder their progress. Also, if lecturers are able to use Blackboard Collaborate, Panopto, Skype or phone calls, to teach, communicate and give feedback to students, it will help reduce the accessibility challenge that the structure of online learning presents.
Akosua Asare-Frempong is a contributor to The Daily Runner.