Remote learning comes with many benefits. It allows you to have flexible study hours, learn at your own pace, revisit learning materials any time, access quality education at the comfort of your home on any connected device, and more!
However, remote learning also has its own set of challenges—whether you signed up for an online course or needed to switch to online classes due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of these challenges are specific to online learning, such as increased opportunities to procrastinate or not feeling as connected with your peers and instructors. In a study of students’ perspectives on online education, 95% of first-year students and 75% of graduate students felt that online learning decreases interactions with peers.
You may also encounter issues that exist in traditional classroom settings but are amplified in online classes, such as ineffective time management.
Below we’ll quickly explore the biggest challenges of online classes for students and provide some easy strategies that any student can use to overcome them:
1. Technical Issues
Technical issues can be one of the most common, distracting, and frustrating challenges of online learning. What if your internet connection gets spotty, your computer crashes, or you experience technical difficulties with the online learning platform during a virtual classroom session? Even the mere thought of suddenly getting cut off from an online class can cause stress and anxiety!
While there’s always a solution to most of the technical issues you may experience, having a backup plan can help you get back on track as quickly as possible while you fix the problem. It could be having a hotspot device in case of an internet outage, or another device (computer or tablet) that you can use to access your online classes until your computer is fixed.
You can also stay ahead of any technical difficulties you’re likely to experience with your uni’s online learning environment by checking class forums and any resources available to familiarise yourself with the platform early on. It’s also good to know who you should contact for technical support when you have any problems or questions.
2. Too Many Distractions
While taking an online course, you might not be interrupted by your classmates as you would in a face-to-face setting, but you may encounter other types of interruptions or distractions. It could be your pet, siblings, a delivery, unexpected visitors, etc.
It’s also easy to get distracted while browsing the internet or spend a bit too much time on social media when checking a notification.
Here are some tips to help you concentrate on your studies despite opportunities for distractions:
- Get a dedicated and quiet study space where you can have the undivided attention
- Create a study schedule to keep consistent study hours and share it with your family members
- Create a signal that alerts your family members that you are in focus mode in case they forget your study schedule (like putting on the headphones, putting a note on the door, or closing the door to your study area)
- Use productivity and website blocking apps, such as Forest, LeechBlock, and Stayfocusd, when you need to focus on schoolwork
3. Diminished Social Interaction
Traditional classrooms offer great opportunities for students to interact with the instructor and with each other—which are important for improving student engagement and performance.
Most students understand that school is important for both learning and face-to-face social interaction after being forced into taking online courses by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Most remote study programs attempt to give students different opportunities to interact with each other, such as breakout rooms during virtual classes. While such opportunities are great, the interactions may not be as effective as in-person interactions.
It may take you a while to learn how to cultivate connections with your fellow students online, but it’s doable! Be intentional and participate in your course discussion forums, join your class Facebook groups or Discord servers, join online study groups, send questions to your instructor, and engage in group tasks.
It’s also good to include social time in your study schedule and set reminders for social breaks.
4. Difficulty Staying Focused and Motivated To Learn
When you’re not required to attend class at a specific time in a physical setting, finding the motivation to begin your assignment work or remain focused throughout the entire course can be challenging. You may find yourself leaving learning, homework, and assignments until the last minute.
One way to help maintain your focus and motivation is to keep your end goal in mind. What’s your major reason for pursuing the degree program? What do you want to get out of your learning experience? You should also make sure you keep a daily to-do list. Checking off the tasks, you complete each day will increase your motivation and push you closer to your goal.
Another great way to stay motivated when learning remotely is to stay actively involved in the learning process on a regular basis. Write in relevant student forums, check your course updates and class discussions each day, and keep in touch with your instructors and peers.
5. Over-Studying Each Day (Ineffective Time Management)
Attending traditional classes can help to teach you a sense of responsibility and time management. You have to maintain a regular schedule for waking up, going to class, returning home, and going to bed.
With remote learning, it’s easy to disregard a schedule and rely on self-motivation. While relying on self-motivation can make most students slack off, it’s easier for others to fall into unhealthy habits like overstudying and poor sleep patterns.
There are days you’ll have a hard time unplugging from your studies at the end of the day, especially when you have pending tasks. However, overstudying and poor sleep patterns can be detrimental to your health and result in burnout.
You’ll need strategies that help you manage time effectively, for instance:
- Utilise different productivity and time management apps and resources
- Follow a clear study schedule to draw a line when your study day starts and ends
- Use a daily to-do list to limit the number of tasks you plan to do each day
- Set reminders to take breaks, for instance, using the Pomodoro technique
- Aim to study during your peak hours
6. Communication Challenges With Your Teachers
In a physical classroom, communication between students and teachers is almost instantaneous. You can always raise your hand and ask any questions you have during the lecture.
In an online learning environment, the communication levels between students and their teachers can be reduced. Students are usually muted to prevent background noise interruptions in a virtual classroom.
To minimise the communication gap, ask your teachers to inform you of how you can contact them if you need additional help with your academics. Your school may have virtual office hours where you can engage with your teachers via video call to get additional help. Practice good virtual communication skills and always keep the communication with your instructors professional and respectful.
When learning online, you may have to deal with constant distractions, time management challenges, technical issues, trouble staying motivated, and minimal social interaction with your classmates.
Most of the online learning challenges are manageable; for instance, you can find more creative ways to interact with your peers and take advantage of your university’s online interaction opportunities. Change always comes with challenges, so be patient as you find and implement strategies that will work best for you!
If you want extra help with your school work and at your own convenience, check out Zookal Study! We are an online study platform that helps students find online homework solutions, prep for popular exams, get study help from expert tutors 24/7, and access other smart study tools like flashcards.