COVID-19 has led to a surge in online learning, with record numbers of students attending school virtually in order to maintain social distancing. This unprecedented shift toward distance learning has presented a new and unique set of challenges to educators, demanding creativity, problem-solving, and innovation.
If you are planning on becoming an educator, it is imperative to familiarize yourself with these challenges, so that you can formulate solutions and “hit the ground running.” By learning about the pros and cons of cyber school vs. regular school — and how you, as an educator, can overcome them — you’ll become better equipped to teach effectively, even if you’re new to the virtual classroom.
3 Benefits of Cyber School for Remote Educators
If you’re thinking about a career in education, it’s important to be aware of both the possibilities and limitations that remote work might present. For example, some advantages of teaching online include:
- Having increased control over your schedule, giving you more flexibility in your calendar
- Increasing your efficiency by taking advantage of ed-tech, such as automation features or time management apps
- Not having to waste time and money on commuting, parking, or public transportation
Benefit #1: More Convenience
If you’re ready to say goodbye to long morning commutes, expensive gas prices, and rigid school day schedules, then consider working remotely. Teaching from home allows you to focus on what you love about your career — providing your students with a quality education — without facing the hassle (or high cost) of transportation. That can be especially valuable for teachers in rural areas, who might otherwise be forced to travel long distances.
Benefit #2: More Flexibility
Not only can you save money and reduce stress by cutting out your commute — you can also gain greater control of your daily schedule, particularly if you’re able to teach asynchronous classes, or non-live classes that students can take at their own pace. Record lectures, create assignments, and write quizzes at times that work for you, all from the comfort of your cozy living room. Working remotely also enables you to practice social distancing, keeping yourself and your loved ones safer during COVID-19.
Benefit #3: Increased Efficiency
When you first transition to teaching remotely, it will likely take time for you to adjust. During this period, you might feel like you’re falling behind or moving too slowly, but don’t worry: the more experienced you become using video-conferencing and other technology, the more work you will be able to accomplish. In fact, you may be able to increase your efficiency by taking advantage of ed-tech. For example, you can save time by automating grading rather than checking each worksheet by hand, or by recording spoken feedback rather than taking the time to write it out.
3 Cons of Online Teaching (and Creative Solutions to Manage)
Though not without its advantages, there are also some negative aspects of online education, including decreased student engagement, climbing class sizes, and increased dependence on technology that may, at times, be less than reliable. However, there are simple strategies that online educators can leverage to overcome these challenges, with 11 practical examples provided below.
Con #1: Decreased Student Engagement
The problem? When it comes to the pros and cons of virtual schools, one of the greatest drawbacks may be decreased student engagement, which can slip when students are isolated and disconnected from one another and their instructors. This can develop into a major problem with lasting ramifications for students, with high engagement correlated with academic success while low engagement is linked to lower grades, increased risk of dropping out, and even increased risk of crime or drug use.
The solution? Our article on engaging students in distance learning offers plenty of solutions to the problem of decreased engagement. Some suggestions include:
- Communicating clearly and frequently
- Limiting distractions and clutter
- Rewarding students with incentives for learning
Con #2: Technical Difficulties
The problem? Frozen screens, lagging audio, files that won’t download, attachments that won’t open — we’ve all experienced these issues before. And it isn’t just individual teachers: entire schools have been affected, with problems like network outages and slow Blackboard load times impacting students in Texas, Florida, Connecticut, and Virginia, among other states.
If you’re among the countless educators who find themselves battling bugs and glitches, it may be time to overhaul your gear (or ask an expert who can assist you). However, before you toss your computer, test out the simple strategies below.
The solution? Even if you aren’t tech-savvy, there are still steps you can take to keep your online classes running smoothly, ensuring fewer disruptions and better discussions. Here are four ways to minimize technical issues during your online courses:
- Experiment with different browsers to determine which option is best for your course materials.
- Follow these tips from Business Insider on boosting the strength of your wifi signal.
- Make sure to regularly update your phone, computer, and apps.
- Remember to periodically clear your browser’s cache and cookies.
- Teach technological literacy to your students.
Con #3: Increased Class Sizes
The problem? Researchers have calculated that the ideal online class size is 12 students, which was determined to be an appropriate number “for instructors [who are] new to teaching online.” Forbes contributor Derek Newton recently wrote about this topic in depth, noting that certain classes, such as courses at the doctoral level, should be even smaller.
Unfortunately, some online classes are double, triple, or even quadruple the recommended size, with some Colorado teachers reporting classes of 50 — a reduction from the original “class size of 60, featuring students from every elementary school in the district.” Similar accounts have trickled in from states like Arizona and Rhode Island, where “families and teachers complain of online class sizes that routinely creep past 50 students,” EdSurge reports.
The solution? Unfortunately, you might have limited control over your class size. However, Edutopia offers tips on managing a large class size, in addition to Study.com and Western Governors University. Here are three suggestions to try:
- Divide your class into small, fluid groups, which can be adjusted as necessary. For example, you can try grouping students based on their work pace, which allows everyone to work comfortably without feeling rushed or held back. If a student’s pace fluctuates, simply move him or her into the appropriate group.
- Divide your lesson into short, digestible segments. The larger a group of students, the more difficult it is to keep them engaged for long periods. By segmenting each lesson into short, varied components, you can engage your students more effectively — even in overcrowded courses.
- Find ways to make the class feel more personal. In a large and socially distanced class, it becomes critical for educators to foster personal and positive relationships with students — a factor which has been shown to increase student engagement. One of the most effective ways to bring a personal touch to your lessons is to provide students with better feedback, which shows pupils you care about their individual progress and wellbeing.
Become an Online Teacher with an Education Degree or Certificate from National University
Inspire and lead the next generation by becoming an educator. Apply to National University and pursue a degree that will empower you to launch or accelerate your career. For example, the NU Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education (BAECE) program prepares students to work with children under the age of 9, who have a unique set of physical, intellectual, language, emotional, and social learning needs.
At National University, we’ve been challenging students and pioneering growth since 1971. Through the Sanford College of Education, we offer a broad range of accredited education programs that are designed to help graduates, undergraduates, and transfer students become effective leaders. Teach one or multiple subjects at the elementary school, middle school, high school, or college level — and start by building your skills at National University.