Distance learning has proven so successful that some school districts and colleges are likely to consider permanently shifting to this form of learning after the pandemic ends. However, for all the good that comes from distance learning, there is also plenty of bad. Until the following challenges of distance learning are ironed out, it will still be considered an inherently flawed method of teaching and learning.
The Lack of Peer Support
Take a moment to think back to your school years. If you were like most students, you strongly desired to interact with your peers as frequently as possible. Though it is still possible to videoconference with friends during the pandemic, it is simply not the same as face-to-face interactions in a classroom setting. It is awfully difficult to bond with classmates through a screen. Furthermore, group work is also challenging when students are forced to interact with one another by way of videoconferencing.
The bottom line is people, especially adolescents, were not meant to interact with one another through computer screens throughout the entirety of the day. The lack of peer support has the potential to significantly stunt social development, spur potentially crippling depression and render youngsters socially isolated during a very fragile time of their life.
Some Students are Uninterested in Distance Learning
It is awfully challenging to motivate a youngster to give his or her all while attempting to learn from a computer screen sitting at home. Plenty of students simply have a bad attitude toward distance learning as they feel as though they are being deprived of their right to learn in a social setting in a traditional classroom environment. This poor attitude will undoubtedly shape the attempt to learn new information and perform well on exams. It is up to the instructor to convince students that virtual learning is realistic, effective, and necessary. If an instructor cannot win over his or her students and convince them to engage with the coursework presented during distance learning, there is a good chance those students will disengage to the point that they do not earn passing grades.
The Sense of Anonymity
Learning from behind a computer screen makes the student feel somewhat anonymous. After all, the teacher cannot keep a watchful eye on every single student while teaching on the web. The lack of oversight combined with the inherent challenge of participating with questions and comments through distance learning makes students feel as though they are an unimportant, anonymous listener in the audience. Students who feel as though they lack positive affirmation and do not have a well-defined identity during virtual learning are likely to withdraw from the learning process or participate as infrequently as possible in an attempt to simply pass the course and move on to the next one.
Minimal Teacher-Student Interaction
Online learning minimizes contact between teachers and students. Though teachers can interface with students every now and then through a webcam, they do not interface as frequently as occurs in traditional classroom settings. The lack of face-to-face contact makes it difficult, if not impossible, for teachers to note students’ nonverbal/behavioral cues. In other words, distance learning makes it challenging for teachers to determine when students are frustrated or disengaged. Furthermore, both teachers and students are more likely to be reserved during online interactions as it is that much more difficult to express enthusiasm over a webcam as compared to traditional classrooms where both communicate freely in a face-to-face manner without hesitation or impediment.
Sadly, some students simply lack access to computers, webcams, and the web itself. Those who live in underprivileged neighborhoods or rural areas are unlikely to have access to high-speed internet or any internet connection. Furthermore, even those who live in the comparably plush suburbs have the potential to experience technical difficulties while attempting to learn on the web. Between computer hardware and software malfunctions, webcam connectivity problems, microphone flaws, buffering issues, and beyond, there are all sorts of technical glitches that can arise as students attempt to learn at home. Such technical difficulties have the potential to arise on both the student’s end as well as the teacher’s end, creating the potential for quite the frustrating and inefficient attempt to distance learn.