The first part of this blog post considered the benefits of online learning from the perspective of the teacher; this part will focus on the challenges they might face. It will also consider the student’s experience.
The bad news
Technology does come with its drawbacks. Devices crashing without warning, the internet connection dropping and platforms freezing can spell disaster for lessons, especially when the teacher is covering important information or when students are at a crucial point in their courses. The same can be said when either the teacher or the student has just started their course and have not set aside adequate time to check how the platform works. Being unfamiliar with the software can create unnecessary delays that impact negatively on the learning experience. This can be combatted by reading up on the user guides and making sure functionality has been tested before lessons begin.
For teachers who are paid by the hour, problems can arise when students cancel at the last minute. Some platforms may withhold all of the money so that the teacher receives nothing, or part of it. Either way, this has a negative impact on the teacher – they will find it hard to plan their finances when they can’t predict what they will make each month. This also impacts on time – teachers may spend all day at home, ready to work, only to find that they can’t actually complete the lessons they planned to do. They are likely to have spent time planning for the lesson as well, which may or may not be factored into the cost of the lesson – the need to be competitive against other teachers can often result in reduced rates.
In a physical classroom, it is often easier to encourage students to focus on the task at hand and not become distracted. When working from their own homes, there are likely to be other things drawing their attention away from the lesson. Of course, in a physical classroom, students can distract each other, and that is something that is easy to avoid in a one-to-one lesson. But messages popping up on the computer screen, pets jumping onto the keyboard and children calling out in the background, can all cause the student’s attention to slip.
Teachers who do not fully embrace technological changes and advancements may find it a struggle to work well in an online environment. The online approach to teaching needs to be something the teacher is feeling confident and positive about if they are to succeed; entering an online environment feeling anxious about, irritated by or steadfastly against technology will only cause more problems. It is best to remember that the use of technology will continue to grow in educational settings and the time to avoid it has truly passed. Learning to use a range of technology can benefit a teacher’s CV and make them more attractive to job roles in the future.
The student’s experience
Many of the benefits and challenges experienced by the teacher are shared by the student – they too can experience issues with connection and cancellations by the teacher; but they can also enjoy many of the same benefits, including freedom regarding their location, accessing their course materials and saved work with ease, and enjoying more of the teacher’s time and attention. They may also gain the added benefit of reduced course rates, as they are not paying for access to a physical location.
Students studying online outside of the teacher’s usual hours may find that they lack the guidance when they need it the most. For example, tackling a particularly difficult task alone might be best avoided, as it could lead to confusion and frustration. All students need to study in their own time as well as in class with the teacher, and this should of course be encouraged, but focusing on reading or the more simple tasks might be best for students that find following the course quite difficult.
A definite benefit is using technology… to use technology. Most further education programmes and certainly the majority of employers require candidates to have anything from basic to advanced IT skills, so exposing students to a range of technology within the online classroom can give them an advantage over others they are competing against. Like the teacher, they can add these skills to other course applications and to their CV.
Online or offline?
Both online and offline teaching environments offer a range of benefits and challenges, so choosing which one is right for you can be hard. Teachers should consider the information in this blog post, as well as their working lives, personal lives and personal preferences, to help them decide which route is best for them. For teachers who prefer to work in a traditional classroom environment, it is still worth considering implementing more technology to enhance the learning journey – technology will continue to become a more essential teaching tool, regardless of whether the teacher feels positive about this or not.
What kind of technology do you use to compliment your lessons? Do you work online or do you work in a physical classroom? Let us know in the comments section below.
You might also be interested in:
- The rise of online learning: the benefits and challenges for teachers - Part One: Benefits (blog) - the first part of this two-part blog post about the growing popularity of online courses and how working online can benefit the teacher
- Skills IT: Digital Skills (blog) - discusses the ERASMUS+ Strategic Partnership Skills Innovation Training course that aims to enhance the participation, access and performance of disadvantaged learners through an innovative approach
- ICT Tree of Learning (resource) - a free resource created by the Education and Training Foundation for tutors of ICT, however may be adapted to use in different areas
- Adult Learning and Tomorrows Technology - The Bett Show (blog) - discusses the BETT Education Show, which showcases a huge range of educational technology designed for both schools and further education institutions