The time, schedule, and pace flexibility of online schooling attracts more and more students every year. It’s a different experience than studying in a classroom, and for many students, the benefits of online schooling far outweigh any potential challenges. However, as families begin looking into this method of learning, they may come across a few concerns or obstacles.
Here are the top ten most common challenges students and parents may face when they begin online learning along with suggestions to overcome them.
1. Challenge: Working online leads to less social interaction outside of class.
Some parents and students fear that online classes are a lonely experience. Truthfully, the majority of students find it to be an advantage since there are less distractions. Nevertheless, it can still be a challenge for those seeking socialization and constant community.
Solution: Join clubs and sign up for extracurricular activities. Many students who choose to take online classes are involved with outside activities such as sports teams or dance groups. Use the flexible hours of online schooling to fill your child’s calendar with organizations that will keep them social.
2. Challenge: Online schooling requires constant self-motivation. Without an in-person instructor to provide constant supervision, students can find ways to distract themselves—especially with the endless possibilities of the Internet at their fingertips.
Solution: Incorporate studying methods like the Pomodoro Technique, which breaks down work into timed intervals. Students only need to stay focused for a short amount of time—typically 20-25 minutes—before they get a break.
3. Challenge: Students need to be strict with their time management. For some families, it’s easy to let online classes slide when events or trips come up on the schedule. Students who are dedicated to a specific passion like piano or baseball can prioritize recitals or tournaments over their school work. While this happens occasionally, it’s important to get back to a schedule that makes room for online course work.
Solution: Help your student keep a consistent schedule. Of course, one of the benefits of online schooling is that classes and work can typically be completed at any time, but maintaining a schedule whenever possible—with work starting at a specific time every day—will help them manage their time, since they know what is expected of them during those hours.
4. Challenge: Technology can complicate things, not make schooling easier. The internet can sometimes be finicky—especially for students studying or taking trips abroad. Some people fear that when students are totally reliant on technology to complete their work, they’re susceptible to network connections, browser compatibility issues, and other issues.
Solution: There are several ways to make sure the Wi-Fi is strong no matter where your student is doing their schooling. Pocket, or portable, Wi-Fi gives you a network connection wherever you are. Plus, plenty of cafes and libraries have free Internet, and can provide a change of scenery if things at home power down.
5. Challenge: With online schooling, you’re left to navigate classes and learning requirements on your own. This type of learning offers tons of flexibility with courses and subjects. That can be daunting to parents or students trying to make sure they’re learning everything necessary to meet state expectations and pursue their future college or career plans.
Solution: Many online charter schools, such as CalPac, provide students with a dedicated homeroom teacher to keep them on track throughout the school year. As you’re working with these schools, you should also have access to a comprehensive list of NCCA-approved and A-G courses (that meet UC and CSU requirements).
6. Challenge: Because students don’t meet face-to-face with their teacher, getting specific help or answers to questions could be difficult. This is more of a myth than a challenge. There are less distractions in the online world, and because people are so connected to their technology these days, teachers are typically just an email—or sometimes even text—away.
Solution: If not being able to connect with a teacher immediately is still a fear, come up with a game plan. Find out each teacher’s office hours and ask them how they can best be reached. There are also plenty of online resources—like blogs, forums, and even YouTube—that can provide solutions to your student’s needs.
7. Challenge: Because learning is all online, students will be glued to their screens. The majority of course work and instruction comes from screens, yes, but there are many other ways for students to supplement their education.
Solution: Encourage students to read books or sign up for extracurricular classes like dance, sports, music, or science labs to give them time away from the screens and diversify their learning.
8. Challenge: Online learning doesn’t give room for many learning styles. The idea of learning through a computer screen may not seem very dynamic at first, but many online schools actually provide several mediums for students to use. Course work can sometimes come through online lectures, but there are also virtual laboratories, one-on-one teacher support, and interactive games or quizzes.
Solution: Find out how your child learns best—their learning style—and then look for schools who tailor their program, or provide instruction, in a similar style. Having the freedom to choose from multiple courses should give your student the opportunity to reach their full learning potential.
9. Challenge: There will be a learning curve using an online platform. New technology can be frustrating at first, especially for students with limited computer skills.
Solution: Find an online school that provides technical assistance so if your student has any questions, they have someone to reach out to. Many popular platforms have extensive FAQs and forums to help users work through their confusion as well.
10. Challenge: The online schooling format is extremely different from traditional classrooms. It’s true, while traditional schools are turning to technology more and more, the high dependence on computers is a little different with online school. There might be a learning curve here as well, since students will have to adjust to this specific instructional format.
Solution: Keep in mind that online classrooms are very common in colleges and universities. So even though your student may feel a little uncomfortable at first, they should catch on within a few months. Support your student and don’t put too much pressure on them to adjust immediately.