The Problems Faced By Beginning Online Learner

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Introduction

When we talk abou online learner, the first one we think is online learner is a way of learning that focus on releasing learners from constraints of time and place whilst offering flexible learning opportunities. For a lot of married and working adults, online learner is a way of combining work and family responsibilities with educational opportunities. The problem faced by beginning online learners is in balancing the combination of work and education. Most of the beginning online learners have jobs and families. Job responsibility is already intimidating, let alone the family and the learning. The task of balancing all of the above responsibility is truly challenging for most of them. As introduction i want to highlight about background information of the problem face by beginning online learners. Amongst the blessings of technology in the modern age is the ability to receive an education hundreds or thousands of miles away from a classroom in a convenient and efficient manner. A vast majority of universities offer open online learning for students all around the world which, on the surface, seems like a great opportunity to receive an education without the hassle of dealing with overflowing parking lots, rushing to classes, or fitting classes into the current work schedule. However, beginning online learners classes might not be an ideal scenario for every interested person. What are the problems faced by beginning online learners? They're numerous enough to mull over before enrolling in an on-line program. Based on 4 relevant articles from the OUM Digital Library and some information i read at search engines like google and yahoo discuss about the problem face by beginning online learners. So, that why i want to answer and highlight the three main problem face by beginning online learners and three possible solutions to the stated problems.

2.0 Three main problem face by beginning online learners

2.1 Juggling Life

The first one of three main problem face by beginning online learners is juggling life. Actually when asked what are the problems face by beginning online learners, life and its ensuing complications seems to be the number one response. Most enrolled students in beginning online learners are committed to their life in some other fashion apart from school such as a family to care for, a necessary full-time job to pay the bills, or some aspect which occupies the majority of their time. Unless the students make a personal commitment to complete the course of study, odds are life will find a way to distract and tear them away from accomplishing their goal of continuing their education. The issue is in acquiring go online learnew study habits. The students' everyday environment is very distracting for most of the students. Unlike traditional university students who are always in their learning community which supports them most of the time, online leraners students are not. Distractions such as friends asking for night supper and wife demanding to go shopping at the mall every weekend are among other distractions faced by students. Acquiring some time in a day to study is quite a hard task to complete.

Online learners Student also have a hard time in being independent and responsible to their own self. Most of the time, there is no one around to monitor the students learning process. The openness of the online distance program gives students the freedom to do their learning process whenever they like but most of the time, procrastination is the culprit. Unfocused view of their learning goals also will make the students act irresponsibly towards their learning. Beside that, they also face problems in recognizing and mastering strengths and skills. In online learning, technology is the main conduit which information and communication flow. A computer with internet access is usually needed for this process and its application will need the user to master certain level of acquirement. The students will also need to have some basic writing skills and a go online command of English language. Unfortunately, not all of the students possess the above-said skills.

Begining online learners are usually isolated from peers and tutors. The motivational factors are absent due to lack of contact and competition with other students. The lacks of immediate support of a teacher who is able to motivate will also affects the learners. In the long run, students might feel uneasy with their teacher and uncomfortable with their learning situation and environment. They also face some problems in relating and interacting with peers. Most of the time, learners will learn most effectively when they have the opportunity to interact with other students. Sadly, forming of the study group is not easy. This is caused by the difference in the usage of time between students. One particular student may have some free time for meeting with peers at 10am every Saturday, but another student who works in the government sector may still be at work at the exact time.

Dissemination of knowledge and education through the Web has democratized opportunities for learning. Millions of students, career professionals and lifelong learners can now acquire diplomas, degrees and other certifications through online learning. However, certain problems continue to affect the dissemination of online courses and their fast-paced adoption. Issues related to technology and downloading of applications, real-world interaction with fellow students and professors and standardization of instructional methodologies can limit the online learning and education experience.

One of the biggest problems of online learning is ad hoc occurrence of technical glitches and other problems that crop up with access technologies. The most well-developed, robust and fool-proof technologies and tools are also susceptible to vulnerabilities such as power failure and sudden malfunctioning. Streaming and buffering of online classroom sessions and even downloading of session modules and tutorials can get be hindered by slow Internet download speeds.

Educators, universities, colleges and other providers of online learning have attempted to stabilize the learning environment with standard technology and systems requirements. However, synchronizing systems and PC requirements with course-defined technology standards or practices can be difficult for many user segments. Elderly citizens, non-tech savvy lifelong learners and online learners in rural areas grapple with issues such as choice of player for downloads, bandwidth and browser limitations, outdated PC technologies incapable of facilitating digital-heavy and media-rich Webcasts or lectures.

While advanced technologies and online networking tools have greatly enhanced lecturer/tutor and student interaction, lack of real-world classroom interaction is an oft-recounted problem. When lectures are Webcast or streamed without the presence of live lecturers or instructors, queries and doubts cannot be addressed in real time. Mentoring by professors and coaches tend to be restricted to online sessions, emails and limited phone calls. Engagement and collaboration for projects with fellow classmates in the real world is limited.

Mid-career professionals, workers, working mothers or stay-at-home mothers and students tend to pursue online degrees and courses mostly from the comforts of home. Generally, self-paced learning schedules can get distracted due to home-based situations, scenarios and related activities. Lack of discipline and lethargy in a home-based or non-campus environment is quite common, leading to a backlog of classroom sessions and lectures to catch up on. Other distractions include children playing around and disturbing important online classroom sessions.Those seeking to enhance their skill sets and capabilities through online learning need to grapple with issues such as time management, self-motivation, work life, family commitments and other professional activities. Balancing these issues with regular online classes, assignments, tests and exams can be quite challenging. Feedback and assessments by instructors on assignments and projects can be limited and of a nontimely nature. Developing relationships with real-world classmates and networking with other peers is also restricted.

2.2 No Established Routines

The second one of three main problem face by beginning online learners is no established routine. For example, just like students in a traditional school environment, beginning online learners must create a dedicated place for studying and learning to take place. At least with a traditional school environment, you had to report to a certain room at a certain time, and usually you could train your brain that this time in the classroom was for learning. Successful students commit to a time to study and a place to study. It's part of establishing a routine that keeps students plugging ahead when times get tough. Yet life has demands and students of open distance learning tend to gain a false sense of freedom. Yes, you're free to learn at home, but the other commitments of life are going on around you. Students who stop, drop, and learn don't tend to retain as much information. Be honest with yourself. If considering an open distance education, consider your work habits before sitting down to tackle a new facet in life. Self-monitoring is not always effective, especially when procrastination sets in, and, once the work starts piling up, there is less inclination to recover from that procrastination. Just like setting up the work environment, establishing the habit of working is essential and must continue on a regular basis.

The next in coping with online learner strategies apart from printed material package the students are familiar with. There might be audio or video tape material, television-aided learning, overhead projectors, computer referencing and computer-assisted instruction using the internet. Some students might feel uncomfortable with these learning strategies due to lack of skills and knowledge in using those strategies. In order to excel in examination, learners have to start early in understanding the course content and preparing and revising the content. However, not all students do start early in their learning process. Do not have enough time, lazy, too many works to be done are among other reasons given by this type of students in order to avoid studying for exams. Beginning online learners is in using library facilities to access information and references. Most of the library only opens during office hour and the learners would not be able to go to the library during office hour due to demanding works at the office. This will definitely cause problems to students who want to gain access to the reference material. Library database program such as the OPAC will also require the students to have proper training and skills in order to maximize the usage.

Beginning online learner also possible inequalities of student abilities. Many researchers have expressed the hope that the online environment would, of itself, produce more equal levels of group participation than might be expected in a face-to-face environment (Harasim, 1993; Harasim et al, 1995;Sproull & Kiesler, 1991). This hope has not always been well-founded, however, with certain individuals or groups often dominating discussion (eg Herring, 1993). Winkworth and Maloney (2002) state that a fundamental dilemma in groups can be the need to temper the individual students' needs with those of all the students in the group. In successful groups, individual students may need to sacrifice some aspects of their individuality for the benefits of learning in a group (Roschelle & Teasley, 1995). One of the supervisor's tasks is to monitor the groups to try to ensure that the strengths (and not the weaknesses) of individual students' abilities are activated, while trying to ensure the success of the group as a whole.

There is always the possibility that the most able student(s) within a group may fall victim to what has become known as the sucker effect (Kerr, 1983), which in many ways may be the reverse of the free-rider effect. The sucker in the group is the student who is perceived by other members of the group to be the most capable, and is therefore left to carry the bulk of the workload. It should be noted at the outset that the sucker effect is not all bad. It can result in weaker students learning more effectively, and perhaps going on to be suckers themselves in later groups. The situation that must be guarded against is one where the sucker does all the work, and is not rewarded appropriately for it. Also, of course, it is possible that the other students within the group rely so much on the sucker to do the work that they fail to learn anything at all. In certain circumstances, the free-rider and sucker effects can feed on each other. Ruël et.al. (2003: p.3) aptly stated that '…due to a feeling of being exploited by free-riders, one also reduces one's own effort, because he or she doesnot want to be seen as a sucker who does all the work for his or her co-students', and noted that there are several conditions which will create the sucker effect, including the type of task to be performed, the number of students within a team (group size), the type of performance and reward (on an individual or a group basis), the identifiability of the individual contribution and certain group characteristics.'

2.3 Lack of Socializing with Peers and Working with Your Learning Style

Amongst other issues to consider when asked what are the problems faced by beginning online learners is the loss of social interactions in a learning environment. Lack of socializing interferes with gaining peer interactions as well as limits the type of instruction a student can receive. For instance, the collaborative learning, or group work, a student might receive in a traditional classroom setting is not possible in most instances with beginning online learners. If a social interaction were possible with beginning online learners, students might hesitate to meet with someone whom they only know from the Internet. This type of interaction is an important workforce tool because if you can't communicate and learn to work well with other personalities, you'll soon limit yourself and your job performance. Also, not everyone learns the same way.

This problem with online learning would definitely hinder a kinesthetic or tactile learner, and if the program doesn't provide video interaction then an auditory learner would also not fare as well. So, if you learn new concepts best by listening and discussion or by building something or working with manipulatives, then beginning online learners i think is not your best option. Finally, the loss of teaching spontaneity or modifying instruction to ensure student comprehension might not initially seem like an issue, but it really does matter.

As an instructor, monitoring student comprehension is crucial; otherwise, students don't understand a concept, the lesson moves on, and one or more students are left behind to try and figure out what they didn't grasp. Feeling lost while all others continue with the lesson will quickly deflate a confidence level. What are the odds of continuing with a program when you feel like a failure? Not very high at all.While thousands of people do benefit from beginning online learners every year, it's not the best type of learning environment for everyone. Weigh all of your options and consider what type of student you were in the past as well as what are the problems faced by open distance learners in the last few years. In the long run, you could discover an educational program that fits your needs, whether that is with a traditional style of formal education or an beginning online learners education.

The other problem is a lack of essential group-work skills. 'Simply placing students in groups and telling them to work together does not in and of itself result in cooperative efforts. There are many ways in which group efforts can go wrong.' So say Johnson and Johnson (1994: p57), andof course they are quite right. Educators need 'to foster students' group skills over time, building more complex group activities as students become more familiar with the group context.' (Teaching & Assessment Network, 1999:p5). Burdett (2003: p179) stresses the point that: 'group work can be hard work emotionally and intellectually; and that this fact is sometimes overlooked by group work advocates and practitioners'. In situations where students who have not previously been introduced to group work, and lack the necessary skills, any instructor who uses group work as a major component, and does not prepare the students appropriately, is almost inevitably condemning the students to a traumatic and probably unproductive experience. This is certainly one of the major reasons why some instructors choose to revert to more traditional methods.

3.0 Three possible solutions to the stated problems beginning online learners

3.1 Introduce new courses

The first one of three possible solutions to the stated problems beginning online learners is introduce new courses. Potentially the most powerful way to ensure that students are both enthusiastic and appropriately prepared for beginning online learners is the introduction of a core course to cover the requisite skills. This has the dual effect of instilling in students the idea that the university regards such skills as of significant importance, and of providing a sound preparation for future courses. Of all of the solutions presented in this paper, this is the only one that may lie outside the purview of the instructor, since it requires a change to the overall program, rather than to the individual course. 

As such, it may only be possible to implement this solution with the agreement of program administrators and other educators. The beginning online learners need to ease the introduction of group work into an otherwise "traditional" degree framework, fit group work into the semester system and to train academic staff in their understanding of group skills and theory'. The importance of these three aspects cannot be overstated - in particular, the need to provide not only the students, but also the instructors, with the necessary group work skills. Ideally, a short course for staff should be run on a regular basis, and an introductory core course for students, in the first year of the program, should be introduced.

Both staff and student courses should cover key generic skills, of which group work, team-building, and effective communication would form an integral part (other parts of the course could cover topics such as computer literacy, presentation skills, email etiquette and proper referencing. This solution enables any courses within the program to utilise group learning, confident that the key requirements and skills will already be familiar to the students prior to the commencement of the course. Similarly, beginning online learners will be aware that group work may form part of the standard learning process, and are likely to approach such courses with far less trepidation than might otherwise be the case.

3.2 Cover the skills required at the beginning of the course. 

In cases where beginning online learners participate in group work without any prior formal training in group skills, a minimum of two weeks at the start of the course should be devoted entirely to the core advantages and benefits of group learning, and the skills required. This may seem difficult, perhaps impossible to many educators convinced that they have to "cover the content", and that they "cannot afford to waste two weeks". However, preparation of beginning online learners in this way is an essential prerequisite for successful group work, and "covering the content" somehow assumes less importance when one steps out of the more usual lecture, seminar and tutorial mode.  Amongst the skills that should be stressed in these sessions are group facilitation, effective online communication,'netiquette', and responsibilities to other group members.

If you have ever spent any amount of time online, you know that time seems to go much faster.  Before you know it, it's been three hours.  One important skill to learning online is learning to manage your time first.It's important that you also don't make too rigid a schedule too far in advance. Making a weekly study schedule is one of the most effective ways to keep on top of your studying.  Look at your commitments for the week and plan your study time in the natural breaks. In addition to completing your weekly assignments, you also have a requirement to respond to your classmates. Learning doesn't occur in a vacuum and everyone needs to participate if excellent, collaborative learning is to take place. Also in the spirit of collaborative learning, you should adhere to the weekly schedule and follow the pace of the course. Make time for offline activities.  Some online courses require you to complete assignments outside of the virtual classroom.  Make note of these at the beginning of the course and plan accordingly for them.

3.3 Time Management for beginning online learners

As beginning online learners, while being able to complete your studies via a flexible schedule in an online format can be very advantageous, it also poses unique challenges from an effective time management perspective. The fact that you have an opportunity to complete your work any time that you can find time in your schedule doesn't mean that it's going to be easy to complete everything you need to accomplish for school. Many people who enroll in an online degree program assume that it's going to be easy to finish their coursework without a set class schedule to follow. However, the reality is that online courses are just as time consuming as classes that are delivered in a traditional classroom format. Time management skills are necessary for anyone who wants to succeed in an online degree program.

As an online student, it's essential that you are prepared for the unique effective time management challenges you will face. Without a structured class schedule to guide you, it's up to you to be disciplined when it comes to managing your time effectively. Setting up a study schedule for yourself -- and sticking to it is essential for success in online education. To make sure you devote a sufficient amount of time to your studies, set aside specific times each week that you will devote to coursework.

Think about the times of day that you are most likely to be able to devote your time and energy to your studies and plan time to take care of your coursework then. Record your scheduled study times in your calendar and honor the appointments you have made with yourself with the same level of commitment you'd need to use if they were job interviews or client appointments. It's also important to prepare your friends and family members for the fact that you will be setting aside certain times for school work. If you don't discuss your plans with the people in your life ahead of time, they'll naturally think that you're available to them because you are at home. Make it clear that your home is serving as your classroom during certain times and that you will not be available for non-emergency situations while you are taking care of your online coursework. By taking these steps, you'll be on your way to laying the groundwork for success in your online degree program. Effective time management isn't the only challenge faced by students in online education programs, but getting your schedule under control is one of the first things that every online learner needs to do to prepare to excel in his or her classes.

4.0 Conclusion

As conclusion if problems are not resolved, here i give some tips as a beginning online learner, you will be confronting many choices toward earning your degree. Which college, which courses, how do i know if i can do this, and can I afford it, are just some of the questions you may have. Taking a course, or earning a degree via online learning can be a rewarding experience, but requires some discipline on your part. Proper preparation can lead to a direct focus on your courses. Instead of focusing on the details of how to take your class, you can focus on the subject matter at hand in the course. So you can use these tips to begin like organizing yourself. Being organized is top priority in this kind of format. Manage your time well by using organizational tools such as planners to assist in keeping classwork straight. However, you also need to gathering your materials. There may be things that you need for class besides your book. If your coursework is funded through financial aid, then rest assured you can use your financial aid to purchase materials at the college's bookstore in addition to books. Many online learning instructors provide a period of time after the class begins to purchase last minute items such as scientific calculators, video equipment and any software needed. Find out when the last day to use financial aid is before going to the school's bookstore. Also keep in mind that the school probably has a bookstore of some type online to order materials right from your own home. There are also usually various shipping options. Paying more will ensure that you can get the materials faster. Also, purchase some type of record-able media, such as a flash drive or record-able CD's. You don't want to experience the nightmare of losing all your work when your computer crashes.

So, when you sign up for online learning, don't just excited at the beginning but as the weeks progress, motivation can diminish.  When this occurs, remind yourself of the reason you enrolled in the first place.  Realize that you are doing this to improve your teaching skills and to provide better services for your students.  Remind yourself that you can do this.  We ask our students to juggle the stress of learning and working; experiencing this for yourself will also make you more empathetic towards what your students are going through. This paper has attempted to help those considering the introduction of online learning into their courses, by listing seven of the most common problems, and describing solutions for each. It may of course be argued that this is far from an exhaustive list, and that there are other potential problems of online group learning that have not been dealt with here. While the authors agree that is undoubtedly true, they are also of the belief that the benefits of online group learning are compelling, and they hope the solutions presented here will be sufficient to encourage other educators to take the risks, discover the benefits for themselves, and report the results, so that others may be likewise enthused.

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