Many different studies have documented the various difficulties associated with online learning. Both students and teachers have shown that online learning may be inferior to face-to-face learning in many aspects.
Instructors also share frustrations and difficulties with online learning. Jaggars (2011) explained that "none of the colleges offered faculty the degree of expert support they needed to redesign curricula and pedagogical strategies for the online context” (p. 36). The author went on to point out that online courses are sometimes not counted as part of a teachers course load, or that enrollment numbers may be significantly higher in online courses. These factors make it extremely difficult for teachers to effectively teach these courses. Having too many students to manage, combined with an extremely heavy course load, would be challenging for any teacher to manage. Language and communication are other factors that may be obstacles to learning in an online classroom. Lack of communication may cause confusion or incorrect information being exchanged between student and teacher or student and fellow classmates.
This can lead to students struggling with their coursework and teachers struggling to sort out any problems in student learning. "In a traditional classroom, professors can read body language, pick out sarcasm, and reflect on tone while a student expresses their issues, confusion, or excitement" (Nagel, Maniam, and Leavell , 2011, p. 138). Non-verbal language is a large part of communication and it is lost in online learning. A face-to-face classroom fosters an environment where students and instructors can share ideas, ask questions, and argue points. In an online environment, all communication is written. It may be easier for messages to be misread or taken out of context in an online classroom, leading to frustrations for students and teachers.
As a result, communication must be handled differently by instructors on online courses. Shu-Fang and Aust (2008) suggest that “teachers should develop communication behaviors that reduce social and psychological distance in the online learning environment (p.477). This may prove challenging to some teachers, especially if they are used to the dynamics of a face-to-face learning environment. However communication is handled by instructors of online courses, it is essential for them to be mindful of the loss of tone and body language in written communication. As Nagel, Maniam, and Leavell point out, “E-mail is written word that can be stored and forwarded; it has the possibility to haunt the professors and affect a teacher's position, tenure or reputation." (p. 138). Any problems that may arise as a result of communication problems should be addressed as soon as possible to avoid a larger problem.
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Ward, M. E., Peters, G., & Shelley, K. (2010). Student and faculty perceptions of the quality of online learning experiences. International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 11(3), 57-77.