We are currently in the fourth industrial revolution of high technology and a fast-paced digital era, but there are still challenges of distance learning to resolve. The impact is no longer just on the students, but the instructors at hand as well. Many teachers are faced with challenges and issues which they have not foreseen before. Although students of this century are born digital natives and many skilled instructors are fairly trained in online platforms, the difficulty of the “distance” can still propose multiple challenges.
Many institutions are turning towards distance learning as an alternative teaching method as either a supplement to regular classes or as an emergency backup plan in case of a crisis. And while distance education tools are better than ever, there are still significant challenges to adopting remote learning techniques and technologies.
Luckily, with the correct pedagogy and digital tools like a virtual classroom, it is possible to overcome the challenges of distance learning.
Want to learn more about the importance of distance learning? Visit here: What is Distance Learning?
What Are the Challenges of Distance Learning?
Impact of Physical Distance with Students
Education in the physical classroom versus in the online classroom has disparities in outcome. Teachers may experience a hard time expressing instructional content to their pupils, especially long and complex assignments or assessments. The physical distance also proposed a difficulty in obtaining students’ level of understanding in terms of course content. Since instructional content are not responded to immediately, instructors may have a hard time knowing whether the class is too challenging or too easy for students.
Educator feedback suggests that the “incidental opportunities” for communication that exist in a face to face class setting do not occur in an online class. With the delay in feedback, communication via technology can occur as an obstacle in gauging student learning.
Correct Assessment of Students’ Work
Since communication is asynchronous, expectations in student performance may also differ between student and teacher. Grading online assignments may entirely be based on subjective assessment of effort and artistry. Although such assessment is similar in face-to-face classrooms, the difficulty comes from delivering the required expectations and standards for each task.
Additionally, online assessments are most likely open book and are subject to the possibility of cheating whilst absent of a proctor. While students may celebrate the lack of homework, the lack of examination isn’t as exciting.
As one student commented*, from the coronavirus-related closure at the University of Washington in Seattle, “since the school has closed and changed to online courses, one of my finals was canceled. I was counting on the final to raise my grade of that course, but now I can’t anymore.”
Preventing lag in academic performance during distance learning would be a priority of avoidance, especially for instructors in accordance with concerned parents and students. The number one goal for institutions is to ensure that students are being assessed in their online classes similarly to their face to face classes.
Time Management and Workload
Although the convenience of working from home seems like a joyous idea, the idea may deter teachers from the added workload of preparing for an online class. On top of documentation and various announcements, instructors are responsible for facilitating online discussion boards when promoting participation and collaboration.
Much of the time, moderation includes a copious amount of reading and providing effective feedback to each student. Furthermore, questions from students may appear at various times throughout the day, giving teachers difficulty in delegating time for each student and task.
Solutions to Distance Learning Challenges
Nonetheless, virtual learning still serves as major convenience and efficiency in delivering educational content with no physical constraints, especially in this time of crisis. Along with the added benefits of flexibility and personalized learning, being online means easy access to various media and teaching tools as well as educational content. Education should not be a one-size-fits-all, and technology should be able to reduce teacher workload. Here are some suggestions that would help in your virtual classroom:
Leverage Use of Synchronous Technology
Many challenges teachers face with distance learning are the result of asynchronous communication. Having ways of synchronous communication can lessen the troubles of not being face to face with students. Whether the means is through web conference or audio lessons, the issue of distance can be “closed” by receiving live feedback. Instructors can set aside time beforehand for live Question and Answer, or a scheduled live lecture in which students who attend can give immediate reaction towards the content.
Create Rubrics for Students to Follow
Rubrics are a good way for instructors to fine-tune their objectives and expectations of an assignment. A rubric can be as simple as a scoring checklist, in which students check off whether their assignment contains each expected item. Alternatively, rubrics can also be designed to formulate standards for levels of accomplishment and utilized as a guide to score performance, with standards clear and explicit to the students.
Need more help with using effective assessment tools? Visit here: How to Use Educational Assessment Tools
Peer Review and Delegation of Small Tasks
The workload for teachers in an online classroom may be too much to handle. By increasing peer collaboration and review, it takes the weight of reviewing and feedback off of the instructors in the meantime. A Duke University course allowed all grading to be done by peer review, which resulted in higher satisfaction of student achievement and lessened faculty stress on grading student’s work.
Additionally, long and complex assignments can be divided into phases for students to submit deliverables in intervals. This allows teachers to make sure each student is on track with an assignment and make instructions simpler. At the same time, having smaller pieces of a large instructional task can be easier to construct.
A Tool That Helps Lessen the Challenges of Distance Learning
To overcome the “distant” aspect in distance learning, synchronous communication technology plays a major role in alleviating this potential point of friction. Luckily, myViewBoard offers a solution that can be a useful tool for educators in giving live lectures to remote participants.
The new feature set is called Virtual Classroom (coming soon). It offers a two-way microphone between the teacher and the students, one-way camera from the teacher’s device to the students, and a “push to talk” feature for students to engage with the teacher and peers during the presentation. The feature can also be complemented with the myViewBoard for Windows experience. Virtual Classroom provides a solution for teacher to student communication, as well as leveraging teacher’s workload. Students can interact with the teacher upon approval, making distance learning a close alternative to being in the physical classroom.
What We’ve Learned So Far
Distance learning has been promoted by the EdTech community since the start of the century. Online classrooms provide the flexibility and convenience for both student and teacher, without compromising the quality of content delivered. The goal of myViewBoard is to help educators with an easier time in online whiteboarding and increase interaction with students. By recognizing the impact of the digital revolution and the ever–changing scene of the education landscape, we can continue to keep up with the tools needed to adapt to the prevailing environment.
Above content approved by a certified educator at ViewSonic.
*Interview conducted March 10th, 2020 via personal connection; student wished to remain anonymous
This article was contributed by Tiffany Wu.
Associate Product Manager, myViewBoard
Tiffany Wu is the Associate Product Manager for myViewBoard at ViewSonic. Graduated from the University of Washington, Seattle with a sociology degree, Tiffany has expertise in education and societal behaviors. She is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and English.