As students’ appetites for technology continue to grow, online learning is expected to be mainstream by 2025 worldwide. Therefore, it’s vital for academics to have a clear understanding of the benefits and challenges associated with the practice and find ways to overcome any perceived barriers to create high quality online learning environments that can engage students on their own level and at their own convenience.
- Students and academics enjoy flexibility, access and convenience in courses that can be taken and delivered from any location. Students can go at their own pace with content broken into smaller more frequent portions of time with opportunities for reflection and repetition in-between.
- Access to a greater depth and breadth of digital resources and information.
- Enhances the student learning experience by providing opportunities for cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural and/or cross-campus collaborations. This diverse learning experience can occur at a local, national or international level, and can be enriched by increased interaction and engagement, peer feedback, and group work skills.
- Develops digital literacy skills that are increasingly required in contemporary society and workplace environments.
- Streamlines administration aspects of teaching.
- In some instances, students and academics may be limited in their regular access to reliable or appropriate technology. Several people may be sharing a computer or mobile learning tool within one household or may rely on using computers on campus or in a public place (e.g., public library, internet cafe, etc). Students or teachers may also only have limited access to required software.
- Not all students and academics have regular or reliable access to the internet. In many cases internet access may be limited to dial-up speed or there may be a capped monthly usage on their internet which can restrict their ability to access or engage with the materials.
- Tutors are expected to assist students with technology training online.
- When teachers do not find peer support for their online initiatives, it can be a lonely and isolating experience.
- The workload can be heavier upfront when preparing and initially delivering an online course; time management is different in the 24/7 online learning environment so needs to be monitored to avoid burnout.