At the turn of the 21st century, most educators would have scoffed at the idea of online education taking over the conventional classroom. Driven by the Ed Tech revolution and other technological advancements in the field of communication, we are rapidly progressing towards an era where online education will be considered at par with, if not superior than, the traditional education system.
While the e-learning trend is on the rise, it is not a cakewalk for online instructors. Being an online ESL tutor, I have to deal with many challenges day in, day out. Here are a few major difficulties that online instructors like me have to face:
Dealing with skepticism towards online education
It is no doubt that the internet is an amazing platform for students as well as teachers to interact with each other from the comforts of their home. Anyone can learn almost anything from even the remotest corner of the world. But, these wonderful attributes of e-learning are not enough to earn the respect and confidence of educators, parents and students all over the world.
There is a lot of skepticism around online education that stems from the fear of trying anything other than the conventional style of teaching. From suspecting the credibility of online universities/degrees to the fear of being duped by e-learning scams, there are plenty of things that make people hesitant towards taking up online courses. Apart from the skepticism stemmed from fear, there is a lot of cynicism towards the effectiveness of e-learning. Challenges like these can make it difficult for online educators to find new students who are willing to explore the world of online education.
Reinventing classroom teaching methods to fit the online audience
The biggest mistake an online ESL instructor can ever make is trying to emulate the traditional style of teaching in the realm of online education. During my initial days of online ESL coaching, I used to conduct video classes with multiple students logging in from different locations. I used to assign topics that they needed to write essays on, only to realize later that I had no way to ensure that my students aren’t resorting to any kind of malpractice during the tests. It made me realize that conventional classroom lesson plans might not work online and I need to find methods to reinvent my way of teaching to suit the needs of online education.
As an online educator, coming up with new, unconventional yet engaging ways of teaching in the e-learning universe is an everyday struggle.
Motivating students to consider online education as serious business
Another common problem an online ESL tutor faces is to make people understand (especially students) that e-learning is not a leisure activity. Online education is serious business as it involves the time and money of both teachers and students. With the teacher not being physically present, it becomes difficult to motivate students to not become complacent about the online classes. Initially, I had to deal with so many excuses from students for skipping classes that I decided to form strict ground rules that would expel students if they skipped classes without any valid reason. The same rules applied if any student failed to turn in assignments on time. Online learning can be fun, but as an online instructor you need to find ways to motivate students to perform their best.
Being supportive of students but knowing when to draw the line
One of the best features of online education is that there is better interaction between students and teachers. As an online ESL instructor, one has to be ready to be supportive of students learning at their own pace. This means that an online tutor might have to attend calls, texts or emails after hours to help students clarify their doubts. While e-learning provides students an easy access to teachers, the online teaching community needs to be wary of being too supportive of their students. At times, I get no work done as I am swarmed by students calling and texting me with their questions. Though I want to be there to help my students, I have made a mental note in my head that I can’t help them all at all times. I request my students to not to call or text during certain hours of a day, so that I can concentrate on other aspects of my life.
Keeping yourself up to date with the latest trends in online education
The online education game is one that is ever changing. Instructors need to be on their toes at all times to stay abreast with the latest trends in the e-learning industry. With new apps and softwares that are being launched every other day to help online educators, it is important for an online tutor to figure out how these apps can make their lives easier. But most importantly, an online instructor needs to understand that e-learning is not about tools and apps. It is about the basic passion to teach and learn something, using the internet to your advantage. So, it is not necessary that you have to use that new app that everyone has been raving about. If you don’t find an app useful, be brave to discard it and stick to what works for you. After all, an important skill instructors need to have is finding the right tools that help them from a plethora of teaching and learning apps.
I am sure there are plenty of other problems that online teachers have to face on an everyday basis. What kind of challenges do you face as an online instructor? Do share it with me.