3 Problems That Could Diminish Elearning Growth
Elearning has long been touted as the answer to many problems encountered by institutions and students alike. It is a thriving industry that claims to open doors for learners in most corners of the world and with vastly different learning needs. But while its reach and subsequent success has been growing, there are problems lurking that could ultimately lend themselves to the industry’s downfall.
Lack of Actual Learning
There is an online university that boasts of its ability to educate upwards of one thousand students at a time, in one course alone. TAs work furiously behind the scenes to upload automated video feedback and pre-written answers to student discussion posts and essays. Often, there is little to no actual interaction between student and instructor. Thus, with so much automation and lack of personalized feedback, one has to wonder how much student growth is truly occuring.
Of course, not all online courses operate in this way. In fact, many online courses do provide direct, one to one contact with an instructor, as well as functioning with much smaller class sizes. However, even with fewer seats and more forthright communication, instructors often cannot avoid one thing: quotas. Universities want to graduate an increasing number of students, which means more students must successfully pass their courses. For online courses, this means fewer learning objectives and lower expectations for student work.
The faster the elearning industry grows, the more new players want to be involved. Often, these new players present themselves in the form of virtual for-profit institutions, ones that many times target vulnerable populations of students. These institutions may promise big things, such as accelerated degrees and job placement, but the truth can be far from what is promised. With little to no entrance requirements, students are quick to enroll in online for-profit schools, only to discover later on that content relevancy, ease of completion, and career guidance were more smoke and mirrors than reality. As a result, these bad players cause the reputation of elearning in general to take a significant ethical hit.
Money and the Digital Divide
While not stemming from the advent of elearning companies or institutions, student debt is also a key factor that can inhibit the success of digital education. The current amount of U.S. student debt is in the billions, making it increasingly difficult for students to partake in additional learning, including elearning, despite the fact that elearning is generally supposed to save students money. This trickle down financial effect may mean fewer online students in the future.
Avoiding the Downfall
Thus, in order for elearning institutions and edtech companies to continue to build and thrive, it is essential that they pay close attention to these potential problems. Good ones must separate themselves from the bad apples in the group, even completely diminish them if possible, financial burdens of students must be at the forefront of institutional mindsets, and more important than anything, the agenda of any educational system must always be led by true and honest learning.