Online learning is growing in popularity as students and parents alike are experiencing the many benefits it has to offer. Students are able to complete work on their own schedules and with their own timelines, allowing for additional assistance when needed, the flexibility of completion and work hours, and an improvement in self-motivation and self-discipline. Students grow in independence and personal responsibility when they complete online courses since they are solely responsible for their academic successes and failures. Computer literacy is a skill that is on the rise, and students absolutely must learn their way around using a computer, overcoming technical issues, and problem-solving when a technological struggle arises. The more comfortable work environment and more positive learning environment often contribute to a lot of students’ success in online classrooms, allowing students to spend more time with family, participate in more extracurricular activities, and make the most of their time. For students who are advanced and wish to get ahead, they are often encouraged to complete online courses as quickly as they wish in order to earn college credits during high school or even graduate early.
All of these advantages (and more) are just a few of the reasons students and parents love online learning. Without a traditional schooling environment, students can get more done in a shorter period of time, gain valuable skills needed for college and beyond, and get an excellent education in the process. However, as with every great thing, online learning has its fair share of challenges. Some students may thrive instantly in a virtual school environment, while other students may struggle for a bit to adjust to the new learning environment. We’ve outlined the most common problems with online learning and their solutions so that students can be prepared to take on this experience with confidence and set themselves up for success.
Common Problems & Their Solutions
This is probably the number one struggle of online learners. Since you don’t have a set class schedule, it can be hard to manage your time successfully in order to get everything done. While some students will find that they work best in the morning, others may find that they get more done when they sit down to work after lunch. Other students may need to split up their work time into blocks to ensure they remain focused and can get everything completed thoroughly throughout the course of the day. Once students have proven themselves capable of managing their time, they can have more freedom in completing assignments and scheduling their days. But when they begin online learning, we recommend that parents sit down with their students to make a general schedule. It doesn’t have to be strict or incredibly specific, but it should outline some blocks of time to work to ensure they allocate enough time for each task. We recommend starting out first thing in the morning so that if certain assignments take longer than expected, students still have the majority of the day ahead.
When students are in a traditional classroom, they have a teacher and classmates to encourage them and push them to get their assignments done. They also have strict deadlines and set time to work on assignments, so they simply follow their teachers’ instructions and they’re all set. In an online learning environment, students absolutely must have independence. They are their own teacher in some ways, and they are also their own cheerleader and coach in a sense. Students must be able to hold themselves accountable and take responsibility for their successes and failures. Being independent is a benefit to online learning, but it often takes time for students to develop that independence. If you suspect your student may struggle in this area, you can help them by holding them accountable and checking in with them frequently when they begin online schooling. As they prove themselves reliable and independent, you can hand off much of the responsibility to them.
Change can be hard for anyone, but students especially can struggle with being adaptable in new environments. When students are excited to make the switch to online learning, they often adapt much faster and embrace the newness with ease. For students who are more uncertain or worried about the change, they may struggle with the differences for a bit longer. Adaptability is a key skill in life, so it’s essential that students learn it while they are still in school, and an online learning environment is a great way to help them develop it. Online learning often presents positive environments, and students should feel safe expressing themselves to their teachers, peers, and family members, particularly about the changes they’re dealing with in their new educational experiences. The more students learn independence and experience personal successes in their online learning, the more they will be comfortable with adapting to this new change.
Technical issues are an inevitable part of online learning. No matter where you live or how great your computer or internet is, at some point, students are going to face technical problems. It may be something as simple as a lecture won’t play or an assignment won’t load, but it could be as serious as a computer not turning on or the internet constantly disconnecting. While students cannot be prepared for every possible technical problem they may face, allowing them to problem solve and troubleshoot will only benefit them in the long run. Getting on the phone with technical support or learning to Google answers to their questions will serve them both during their online learning years and well into the future.
This challenge goes along with independence and time-management, but it can be a completely different beast for some students. Knowing you need to do work at a certain time and having the ability to do so without prompting are completely different things. Self-motivation is a challenge that many adults today face, and it can cause huge problems in personal and professional lives. Just as with many other skills, the sooner students learn how to self-motivate, the better off they will be both now and into the future. Maybe they need to set small goals for themselves throughout the day or give themselves rewards for completing certain tasks. Time-management can help curb some self-motivation problems as students learn to just sit down and work when the clock hits a certain time or when they’re finished with something else they have to do during the day.
Engagement & Being Bored
Just about every student in the history of the world has complained at one time or another that school is boring. Schools are constantly striving to create more engaging curriculum and to get students more physically and mentally involved in their own learning. Since students can’t physically participate in online learning environments, students can often struggle with feeling bored or like the curriculum is engaging enough. Sometimes, students just have to force themselves to sit through a lecture and do their best to engage their minds and absorb as much information as possible. Other times, students may be able to read along or do a small activity during a lecture to further their learning and comprehension.
Everyone needs to know basic computer skills nowadays, but students with online learning experience often have a leg up on their peers when it comes to computer literacy. Not only due to the technical issues they are likely to face, but also due to the fact that online learners spend the majority of their schooling time in front of a computer, their computer skills are above and beyond those in their age group. If students struggle with computer literacy, it can be challenging and overwhelming to think about taking online classes. However, students should know that teachers will assist them as much as possible, as will the technical support for the virtual school, and they are certain to learn better computer skills. It may take time and it may feel slow-going, but computer literacy challenges are short-lived in the world of online learning.
One of the biggest challenges on online learning, without a doubt, is the lack of social interaction. Students don’t have time before classes, during breaks, and while eating lunch to interact with peers and get some quality social communication. This may be welcomed by some students, but others can struggle greatly with the isolation and loneliness of online learning. No matter where your student falls in their desire for social interaction, it’s important for all students to learn social skills and have appropriate friendships with peers their own age. Students can get involved in homeschool groups, extracurricular clubs or activities, or recreational sports to get their share of social interaction.