Challenges of Going from In-Person to Online and then to Mixed Mode Teaching Learning Process

August 17, 2022

By. Dr. Harjot Dhatt
Educational Psychologist, Radius Global

The pandemic has necessitated online teaching which has been imposed upon many for whom it is not just unfamiliar but also undesirable. As social distancing and lockdown became chosen public policies to arrest the spread of this COVID-19, traditional modes of education were swapped for the more technology-intensive and nuanced online platforms. According to a UNESCO report, 11.38 billion learners worldwide were affected by national school closures initiated in the aftermath of COVID-19. Several experienced for the first time, the new online mode of education, while others with previous exposure to this field were faced with full-fledged online exams and lectures for the first time.

The main protagonists who are affected by the sudden shift: students enrolled in higher education courses; teachers, who need to impart such education; and the institutional managements who are the primary audience as well as backstage organizers for this transition. The strategy to get institutions up and running must be based on a perception of online teaching and the changing landscape of education. The pandemic has forced education systems to adapt to it by converting traditional courses to online courses. However, such adaptation has been sudden and with limited planning due to the delicate nature of the situation and overall paucity of time, necessitating a need to act quickly.

Challenges of going to an Online Mode of Teaching Learning Process:

There are a number of technologies available for online education but sometimes they create a lot of difficulties. These difficulties and problems associated with modern technology range from downloading errors, issues with installation, login problems, problems with audio and video, internet connectivity and so on. Sometimes student finds online teaching to be boring and unengaging. Online learning has so much of time and flexibility that students often procrastinate. Personal attention is also a huge issue facing online learning. Students want two-way interaction which sometimes gets difficult to implement. The learning process cannot reach its full potential until students practice what they learn. Sometimes, online content is all theoretical and does not let students practice and learn effectively. Mediocre course content is also a major issue. Students feel that lack of community, technical problems, and difficulties in understanding instructional goals are the major barriers for online learning In a study, students were found to be not sufficiently prepared for balancing their work, family, and social lives with their study lives in an online learning environment. Students were also found to be poorly prepared for several e-learning competencies and academic-type competencies.

Following are some Challenges observed in fully online mode of Teaching Learning Process:

  1. Boredom
    In this highly-digitized era, online learning is meant to provide a solution to the boredom of classroom-based learning. However, this is not always the case. Several e-learning courses consist of never-ending texts or have multiple-choice questions that fail to engage students. With courses like these, students often get bored, and this lack of engagement and motivation is one of the main reasons for e-learning courses failure. Students often stop accessing the platform and do not complete their course; even if they do, they do not follow it whole-heartedly.
    To keep learners interested and engaged, an online course should be interactive, dynamic and fun. Teachers can use from interactive e-learning resources as there are currently multiple providers offering all types of interactive study materials, with challenges and ventures, videos, gamified solutions and more.
  2. Technical Issues
    Not every student is tech-savvy or has access to high bandwidth or the strong internet connection that online courses require. There are also compatibility issues (with operating systems, browsers or smartphones) that add a layer of difficulty. All this may lead to their frustration, reduces engagement and interest, the learning experience gets disrupted, and they probably abandon the course. Also, quite a few live off-campus and find it difficult to keep in tune with the chosen course’s technical requirements.
    The only solution to this problem is designing content of courses that do not require advance technology, high-speed internet connectivity or much internal memory, and comes with a solid and simple script. Online learning should not include heavy files to download and online platforms should run smoothly on different smartphones, browsers, and operating systems.
  3. Digital Literacy
    Though children of this era are fast learners and can manage the computer well; however, a certain degree of technical proficiency is required; which includes the ability to log in, participate successfully in classes, submit assignment work, and communicate with teachers and classmates. Learners also need to understand online communication etiquette and know student rights and responsibilities in an online learning environment.

    Also, younger age students do not know how to operate basic programs such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint or cannot fix basic computer problems, as they have any knowledge in this area. Thus, technological proficiency is a must, as it enables students to manage their assignments and courseware in an organized manner without facing any challenge.
    To overcome this issue, schools and post-secondary institutions must provide a full range of support services, including technical support by phone, email, and live chat, which student you can access when they have any tech-based questions or provides basic courses in digital literacy to enhance students’ knowledge in the field.

  4. Virtual Classroom Engagement
    Although online courses are enriching, students are provided with various kinds of study materials, help get their assignments done, and a forum or chat room for class discussions, but some students do not find a virtual classroom as engaging as a traditional one. Lack of human contact, absence of a teacher and inability to discuss problems are the probable reasons.
    Learners look for a physical place where they can get their queries solved and practice with real tools, but that is missing in online learning.
    The way out is to foster personal interaction in online classes through webinars, group work, forums or questions and sessions where students can discuss and resolve their queries. Teachers can also practice blended learning, i.e. combine online courses with some classroom training. This kind of mixed training would reinforce what students have learned and enhance the training’s educational value. Thus, whether before, during or after the course, blending the online and offline worlds would help overcome one of the most obvious limitations of e-learning.
  5. Security Issues
    From the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, online platforms have been a fertile ground of cyber-crime. Many institutions, teachers and students have fallen prey to these crimes. For instance, in recent past, it was reported that Zoom, a remote conference services company stores all video conference recordings on storage space without a password; also institutions had been a victim of zoom bombing during a class. This proves we have to be careful while choosing the digital tools for online learning delivery and safeguarding our sensitive data should be one priority.
    Though companies make generous partnership offers to the teachers & students, we cannot be 100% sure about our data security. So, we should pick online platforms carefully and read all the explanation and privacy policy provided. Besides all, be careful about the data you disclose on the Internet. Also, refrain from visiting suspicious websites and applications, be attentive when opening emails from unknown senders, avoid clicking on the suspicious links, update your software often, etc.
  6. Lack of Practical “Hands-on” Experience
    In online learning, there are some limitations; not every subject can be mastered. For instance, subjects like science (Biology, chemistry, physics, fine arts, nursing) has shown that the best way to learn something is by practicing it. The more you practice, the better you learn. It is the experiential learning through which we can internalize and recall the content and skills we learn. However, several online courses neglect this part and focus solely on theoretical content and external lessons. Students do not get to practice, and the learning process does not give the desired outcome.
    One solution to this problem is to use useful and practical courses with simulators to practice. Simulators have been used for decades (mostly, by pilots and surgeons) to recreate real-life situations. This should be brought into use so that students can practice and experiment in safe and controlled environments. With its incorporation in learning courses, learners will solve this problem and put their new knowledge and skills to practical use.
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