Distance learning can provide excellent opportunities for academic institutions to reach a wider audience, and for students to access courses more easily, but it is necessary to acknowledge some of the remote education challenges too. After all, it is only by understanding the challenges that strategies can be devised to overcome them or reduce any negative impact they may have.
Continue reading to learn more about some of the ways to overcome remote education challenges or read What Is Distance Learning? And Why Is It So Important?
Modern distance learning represents an excellent opportunity for classes and courses to take place, even when people are in different parts of the world, but there are a number of remote education challenges too. After all, the physical separation between members of the learning group prevents some learning activities from even being possible.
On top of this, technology can present issues of its own, although it can also provide solutions too, and ultimately, many of the problems that have historically been linked to remote teaching and remote learning can now be overcome. In this article, we take a more in-depth look at these challenges and precisely how to deal with them.
Engagement and Attendance
Arguably the single biggest challenge associated with distance learning is achieving a high level of student engagement and keeping attrition rates low. According to research carried out by IMAC, many distance learning courses suffer from comparatively high dropout rates – sometimes exceeding 50 percent – and this is often related to engagement.
The study goes on to highlight some of the ways engagement can be boosted, including:
- Achieving fluid communication within the learning group.
- Creating a close environment, with co-responsibility as a feature.
- Making use of virtual classrooms and similar online spaces.
It is crucial to avoid a situation where distance courses become little more than recorded lectures. The basic premise of active learning can still be applied in video conferencing or virtual classroom settings and this technology can also help to facilitate collaboration and whole-group activities, which can help to build collective responsibility.
The aforementioned challenge of achieving fluid and reliable communication is one of the major obstacles with remote learning and this is especially true when many of the learning activities are asynchronous and rely on independent study. However, regular email correspondence, clear instructions and options for one-to-one video chats can help.
With synchronous learning, on the other hand, it is important to be clear about the times when the learning group will come together and what will be required to do so. For instance, if people need to have access to specific channels of communication, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Google Hangouts, they need to know in advance.
The best way to overcome remote education challenges related to communication is to offer as many channels for communication as possible. This will allow students to ask questions and obtain information when they need it, feel connected to other members of the learning group, and minimize misunderstandings and similar communication issues.
Access to Required Technology
As explained in our article, ‘What Is Distance Learning? And Why Is It So Important?‘, most modern distance education takes place over the internet and often, students will be required to use the same applications or even a broader learning system. This does, however, present a challenge when it comes to providing access.
It is important that distance learning is made as accessible as possible and when students are paying course fees and splashing out on the necessary devices, it may be expecting too much for them to invest in a large number of software applications, too. Similarly, it can be important that essential technology is kept as affordable as possible.
With regard to providing access to software, cloud-based platforms, such as Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps, are likely to provide the best solution. Some academic institutions also improve access to technology by offering discounts or funding for students to acquire laptops and similar essential devices.
Finally, the advantages of collaboration within education are numerous. As Cornell University points out, the concept of collaborative learning can help students to develop higher-level thinking, improve understanding of key concepts, and build communication skills. On top of this, it can help to create a social element to the classroom experience.
Of course, with distance education, this does become slightly more tricky. In a physical classroom, it is relatively easy to ask students to work in groups, and collaboration can be much more ‘hands-on’. However, remote collaboration is also possible, especially thanks to cloud hosting, screen-sharing, video conferencing, and other similar technology.
Given the numerous ways that collaboration can help to improve learning experiences, facilitating group or pairwork tasks is often a top priority. Solutions like myViewBoard can assist with this, offering shared whiteboarding, instant huddle groups, live annotations, screen sharing and a number of other useful features.
The modern internet age has already helped to remove many of the traditional remote education challenges or problems, but it is imperative that teachers, schools and students all have an understanding of the obstacles that remain. Specifically, engagement, attendance, communication, access and collaboration all pose challenges that need to be overcome, and technological solutions, including myViewBoard, can play a key role.