When historically established methods in any industry are challenged, reimagined, developed and redistributed, a period of acclimatisation for everyone involved is inevitable.
Even the first Industrial Revolution initially fell flat due to the opposition of sceptics, those who were fearful of change, and the machine-smashing luddites. However, there do exist irrepressible waves of change, and if the modernisation of traditional education is a requirement moving into the current fourth Industrial Revolution, prevalent distance education is something we should very much start getting used to.
Here are five problems new students enrolling on online courses might run into, but don’t worry, we’ve also included ways to overcome these concerns so you can make the very best of your online learning opportunities.
Struggles to adapt
Problem: The prospect of having an entire university experience compacted into a personal electronic device is unusual to say the least. It can be unnerving for students who have only ever known traditional classroom settings. Traditionally, a degree of passivity is expected during lectures, particularly when note-taking and listening, while discussion with tutors is allotted a limited time. Online learning demands springing into action, accepting course material in a variety of multimedia formats, and taking part in online discussions which can continue indefinitely.
Solution: First and foremost, an open heart and mind is necessary to be able to accept change and reap the many benefits of e-learning. Secondly, an understanding of the advantages of online education is essential. You can then utilise all of the benefits e-learning can afford you – empowering flexibility, personal tutor guidance, worldwide contact network, 24/7 access to course materials and student support. Once you get started on your online course, you may wonder how you ever learned any other way.
Problem: Often, the worth of online learning is not fully trusted, nor given the respect it deserves. Though qualifications are accredited by esteemed university institutions, validity and credibility is met with scepticism because the format is relatively new, and the progress of students is not overseen in the flesh. The perceived value in attending a campus institution, the social education, is also viewed as something not to miss, which can lead to cynicism when considering enrolling in online degree programmes.
Solution: As far as the worth of online education is concerned, employers tend to see the benefit of hiring those who have succeeded online because of the implicit job skills e-learning requires – discipline, initiative, and time-management, as well as technological familiarity. Plus, accreditation from institutions like The University of Law, the UK’s oldest specialised legal training provider, or DeBroc School of Business, is gold-standard in terms of quality of materials and tuition, no matter if you’re on campus or studying online. In relation to the sociability of online learning, remember, you have the flexibility to study anywhere, anytime. Manage your time well, and you might end up with even more time to socialise than your on-campus counterparts. Plus, more money to socialise with.
Outdated hardware and software
Problem: Online learning makes standardised education accessible to students all around the globe. This is a spectacular advantage for online education providers, students in remote locations, and those without the funds to commence traditional campus study programmes where fees and student debt frequently eclipse the joy of learning. However, e-learning does require the necessary computer equipment to run online learning platforms. This can potentially pose problems for students and schools with old, outdated hardware and software.
Solution: While a host of obvious solutions may spring to mind – getting a newer computer, for example – for some that simply may not be possible. However, there are solutions offered by e-learning providers that tackle a wide range of problems faced by students. Course materials are downloadable, which means given time and a little organisation an entire course can be downloaded and the materials studied offline. Learning platforms may also employ a nifty video feature called “Dynamic Stream Switching”, which allows for varying strength of connection and bandwidth in real-time. That means your content always streams, no matter what speed of internet connection is available to you.
Managing time well
Problem: While learning online offers the ultimate freedom to organise your studies around your private and professional commitments, it can lead to complacency and a false sense of security if the appropriate dedication and time is not set aside for serious study. Online courses are every bit as detailed and demanding as their offline counterparts, though this realisation may not be fully formed yet in the Zeitgeist of our time. The intangible, digital nature of e-learning means that bad time-management could lead to failure.
Solution: Time management is something that can be practiced, and with a little discipline, can eventually become a vital asset in the overall skillset of a professional. Keeping prioritised to-do lists, making a study calendar, keeping a diary, using phone apps, are all good habits to nurture. Moreover, the learning platforms themselves are nearly always designed to help you do just this. With platform notifications on upcoming deadlines, email reminders, progress tracking on assignments, and handy tutor feedback direct to your inbox, you need only ever consult your mobile to find out exactly where you are in your course. Getting down to serious study is, as it has always been, down to you.
Discipline and motivation
Problem: Working towards any goal requires dedication and motivation and, on the face of it, studying online can seem fraught with opportunities to lose these qualities. For one, there is the unlimited distraction of already being on the internet; social media, YouTube and news websites are as present as your next assignment. A lot of valuable study time can pass if you don’t monitor your internet usage closely. Given the abstract nature of online learning, motivation in particular can take a hit, especially if you have already spent the day at work in front of a computer screen.
Solution: While advice for staying motivated and disciplined when working towards a goal can be extremely general, when it comes to online education, you can benefit from some specialised tips to keep your eyes on the prize. Firstly, whether you are already employed or not, while undertaking an online qualification it is prudent to treat your studies as if they were an extra part-time job; complete with working hours and repercussions for arriving late and underperformance. Secondly, because of the flexibility of online learning, you can choose a location that you love; a café, a park, a museum, or your favourite library, the choices are endless. Thirdly, keep in mind the very first pay check you’re going to receive. This is part of the real reward for your hard work now.