Challenges of Distance Learning for Teachers

The popularity of virtual education has soared in response to the coronavirus crisis, leaving some to wonder whether the e-learning industry will continue to retain its relevance as the pandemic comes under control. However, if recent data is any indication, the answer is a clear and confident yes. 

According to a report from PR Newswire, the value of the digital education industry is projected to grow nearly 11% by 2025, climbing an anticipated 10.85% from its pre-COVID value of $171 billion in 2019. Other sources place those figures even higher, projecting growth of 14.6% from 2019 to 2026, when the industry’s value is anticipated to reach an impressive $374.3 billion. Even as more Americans receive vaccinations and the restrictions on public gatherings relax, the demand for digital education will likely remain high, driven in part by factors such as “rising government support,” high corporate demand for “advanced learning techniques,” and — unsurprisingly — “increasing smartphone and internet” use.

All of this data is great news for remote educators. However, while the e-learning industry has a bright economic outlook, online instructors can still find themselves facing unique challenges with distance learning in the virtual classroom. We’ll explore a few of them in this article — along with some helpful tips and strategies you can use to turn your distance learning challenges into teaching opportunities.

What Are the Challenges of Online Learning for Teachers?

What are the challenges of distance education for teachers, and more importantly, how can you overcome them? Let’s start by answering the first half of that question. Then, we’ll explore some possible solutions. 

Time Management  

Statistics show that nearly half of college students surveyed — over 48% — say they don’t have enough time for their coursework. However, time management isn’t just difficult for students — it’s also one of the major challenges of online distance learning for teachers. While teaching from home eliminates your commute and provides you with greater flexibility, online teachers may also find themselves needing to take on additional tasks, such as moderating discussion boards, checking notifications, updating class websites, sharing and uploading resources for students, and responding to an increased number of emails. 

Unclear, Delayed Communication 

In a conventional classroom setting, teachers and students can communicate instantly, fluidly, and continuously. This makes it easier for instructors to determine when, why, and with what concepts or materials students are struggling. 

In a virtual classroom setting, communication is often asynchronous and structured instead of being instantaneous and organic, much of it taking place via email or on message boards. Additionally, digital instructors do not have the benefit of being able to observe body language, non-verbal cues, or even snippets of classroom conversation — all of which provide a wealth of information about how students are feeling and progressing. Technical issues, such as unreliable wi-fi or poor audio quality, can greatly amplify these challenges of online learning by making it harder for teachers to understand and respond to their students’ questions and concerns. 

Slow or Vague Instructor Feedback  

Providing efficient yet meaningful feedback is another one of the challenges of online education for teachers, largely due to the lack of non-verbal cues and synchronous communication that occurs in a traditional classroom. Without receiving clear and timely feedback, students can become uncertain about their performance or the criteria for a course or project, leading to lower confidence, worse student-teacher communication, and poorer academic performance. 

The quality of instructor feedback is especially likely to suffer if time management is at the root of the issue. Fortunately, we’ve got a solution for that. Read on to learn how you can provide better feedback to your e-students, manage your own time more effectively, and improve how well you communicate as a digital instructor.  

3 Practical Solutions to Distance Learning Problems for Teachers

Don’t be intimidated by potential virtual learning disadvantages. By following the tips below, you can overcome any challenge that distance education throws your way as an instructor. 

Time Management Apps for Teachers and Educators  

Teachers often have heavy workloads, which can grow unmanageable without an organized schedule. If you find yourself struggling with time management, we recommend exploring the numerous apps and websites that are designed to help you with workflow, task delegation, and productivity. Some great examples you might want to try include Slack, Trello, Todoist, Google Drive, Focus Keeper, and Evernote. National University also offers a suite of time management resources, which you can explore here

Another way you can save time is by utilizing automation and/or peer review as part of your grading process. While one approach is more high-tech than the other, both strategies can help you increase your efficiency while simultaneously ensuring your students receive feedback more quickly.  

In addition to trying these types of approaches, experts also recommend avoiding procrastination and building free time into your schedule — which you might need in case an emergency pops up. By ensuring there’s extra or open time in your schedule, you’re less likely to fall behind and get overwhelmed. 

Video Conferencing and Instant Messaging EdTech 

Live, real-time communication is fundamental to your students’ success. Without it, students can’t raise concerns when they’re confused, gain clarity about grading criteria, or accurately gauge their own mastery of the material. 

Fortunately, educational technology or “edtech” offers countless solutions to the problem of asynchronous communication, as we’ve written about in more detail here. Online instructors can close the communication gap by using edtech like video conferencing software and instant messaging apps or platforms. For example, you could have audience Q&A sessions following your lectures, or schedule short weekly chats with each student.

Providing Quality Feedback to Online Students  

If you don’t think you’re delivering adequate feedback to your virtual students, don’t despair. There are several ways you can approach this problem, which is among the most important distance education issues and challenges for teachers. We covered this subject in depth in our article on providing effective feedback to students in online courses; but in case you’re pressed for time, here’s a quick overview of our favorite tips: 

  • Use an audio or video format to share feedback. Recording or streaming your comments can be much faster than typing them, without losing detail or quality. 
  • Make sure your feedback incorporates actionable comments. Actionable comments are comments that, like the name suggests, can be acted on. Actionable feedback provides a clearer sense of direction and encourages students to think critically. 
  • Incorporate more peer feedback and review into your coursework. This provides students with different perspectives and encourages more engagement, while lightening some of your own workload. 

Earn Your Teaching Credential, Certificate, or Degree from an Accredited Education Program at National University

The teacher shortage in California has reached unprecedented, crisis levels. Whether you choose to teach in person or online, your skills are urgently needed in California’s schools. Your journey begins here, at National University. 

Through the Sanford College of Education, National University offers dozens of fast-paced, accredited programs in some of the most exciting fields in education today, including special education, teacher education, educational leadership, and educational counseling. Whether your mission is to become a teacher in California, gain new teaching skills to become more competitive, or transition from a career in teaching toward a career in school administration or leadership, NU has an accredited program tailored to your goals. 

Take the first step toward earning your certificate, credential, or degree. With 30-day courses, 100% online programs, financial aid and scholarships, options to transfer your college credits, and a supportive community for military students, NU offers everything you need to accomplish your mission in education. Contact our admissions office to learn more about our NCATE-accredited education programs, or apply to National University online today. 

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