The 10 biggest disadvantages of eLearning

The new way of online education and schooling does come with its own problems. 

Enthusiasm behind this entire new and money making industry is so intense that the drawbacks always get pushed aside.

With eLearning, an enthusiastic student form any third world country who would usually be unable to afford tuition and a flight ticket to California, USA can now take a course on Artificial intelligence and/or Machine Learning from the comfort of their own home with an institution such as Stanford University.

There are so many benefits, the main one being that premium education becomes affordable but its not all sun and roses. 

While many of these advantages are obvious to us all, the question here is do we know about the disadvantages?

The 10 biggest disadvantages of eLearning

1.     Limited student feedback: Since neither the teacher not the student has to show up at a certain time… they don’t communicate in real time. Problems get solved later. If you do not understand a topic and cannot continue without clarification then have to wait until the instructor shows up. Depending on how good they are at explaining it you might take a couple of days what used to take minutes in a normal setting.  It usually comes down to mass communication and lacks the personal feedback system. 

2.     Social isolation: You don’t get to interact with your peers. Some of the best time I remember about college was the time spent between classes. This is when we all set around chatting and enjoying each other’s company. eLearning usually comes with a lack of personal interaction, remoteness, and lots of isolation. The absence of human interaction can make learning less fun.

3.     Requires discipline: It is not a system designed for lazy students. For it to work, it requires students with self-discipline and an eagerness to learn. Time management and discipline are key strengths here. Nobody will call you out and push you to keep up. Most online instructors that run cohorts and online courses do mention the low rate of those who complete the classes. 

4.     Cheating prevention is difficult: Cheating during assessments is one of the biggest drawbacks of eLearning. Online students despite being under surveillance have more tendency to cheat. As they work from their environments, they are more likely to get clues from pre-arranged sources. Some of the institutions make testing extremely hard. They will track your eyes via a camera, your mouse, give you a certain time limit to complete assignment and more. If even one of these things seems of or did not register you will fail automatically and be forced to retake test. 

5.     Excess focus on theory: Due to the limitation of the technology most classes focus on passing on theoretical knowledge. As training providers focus on theory, it means that it is almost impossible to gain practical knowledge of certain subjects. You tend to miss a lot of the nuance, anecdotes and stories that might come out naturally through interacting in person. 

6.     Absence of interpersonal communication: Ther’s a lack of face-to-face communication with other students and the instructor. This can be very isolating. Some introverts do enjoy this but for the mainstream population it’s a definite downside. Virtual reality is hoping to pick up some of the slack but we are yet to see how this will work in real life. Can’t imagine being alone and in front of screens all of the time healthy. Especially for the younger generation. Without the in-person pressure to keep up it can also make the student not take their courses seriously.

7.     Limited to particular courses and careers: This is improving as tech gets better but online education is still somwhat limited to particular course fields. Subjects that are more clear cut and have step by step instructions are easier. Something like marketing which requires creativity and a ton of nuance becomes hard to teach. I know that a ton of educators do it to make money but it’s not that great for students. Also imagine a field such as muay thai, which is thai kickboxing and normally is taught at a gym. I have a client that made it work but it was one of the most difficult project I took on. Any field that requires practical work and on hand practice will suffer. 

8.     Not accessible to computer illiterates: Younger generations do better while the older ones are at a disadvantage. You have to be used to computers and have the ability to learn new software. This doesn’t even include those that do not have access to good internet, computers and the tech. Countries all of the world (US included) are having a very hard time bridging the gap when it comes to computer literacy.

9.     Lack of quality assurance and accreditation of courses: How do you know that what you learned is correct and matters? Normally certificates and degrees are what we get to show that this is true. How do you show that what you’ve learned from courses and institutions that are not accredited or have unknown qualification. For some topics its easy. You learn programming and then can show this by creating software or passing a test. There are a lot of players in the game who are in it for the money and not education. This poor quality assurance and oversight in the industry weakens the credibility of eLearning.

10.   Inability to develop communication skills: Social skills and communication skills take a backseat. Just look at how much they suffered during the pandemic which forced students to learn online.  eLearning makes it impossible for students to develop and brush up on their communication skills. The absence of group communication among teachers and fellow students makes it difficult to foster team communication skills.

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