[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on January 22nd of this year, was our #1 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2019 countdown!]
Karen Watts has been teaching adult education classes since 1999. A faculty member at Bellingham Technical College in Washington state, she has taught in both face-to-face and online environments throughout her career. In her online classes, Watts says, she often hears from students who are surprised that the class is “so hard.”
Perhaps they weren’t expecting an online course to be demanding. Or, maybe they lacked the self-discipline required to succeed in an online learning environment. Whatever the reason, Watts encounters many more students who struggle to learn online than she sees laboring in a traditional course.
Online learning can be more difficult for instructors as well as students. Not seeing students face to face makes it harder to gauge how they’re responding to the material, and there’s the additional hurdle of mastering the technology. But there are many strategies that instructors can use to help students succeed online, as well as approaches that institutions can employ to support faculty more effectively.
In interviews, faculty and administrators who have extensive experience with online learning revealed these five key challenges that often stand in the way of success—and tips for overcoming them.