Teachers are presented with a host of obstacles these days, like overcrowded classrooms and budget cuts. Thus, it’s imperative for educators to create various methods and tools to bring learning into the classroom while staying within their strained funding and predetermined curriculum. Online programs offer teachers the opportunity to provide resources for all grade levels that were unavailable in years past. But these programs also bring with them another set of challenges that teachers must work to overcome.
Challenge #1: Access to Technology
For an online education program to succeed, students must obviously first have access to the Internet. Often in rural and lower socioeconomic neighborhoods, students may not have Internet access at home. While some students may have the opportunity to use the Internet at a local library or alternative location, not all students will have the means or transportation to do so. Teachers are then obligated to provide students with an opportunity to pursue Internet research during classroom time, if they are to follow the principles of Universal Design. Alternative methods of research and completion of assignments should also be provided. Also, paper handouts and books should be made available to students who need them.
Challenge #2: Understanding of Technology
Students and teachers must also have a minimum level of computer knowledge for an online program to work successfully. A student must know how to conduct research online, navigate search engines, and discriminate the increasingly hazy line of reliable and unreliable sources. Time would be taken away from the lesson at hand, if a teacher or facilitator needed to provide a student with the basic skills necessary to complete the program.
Challenge #3: Utility of Technology
Once the student is provided with Internet access and is able to successfully navigate the World Wide Web, the next challenge would be the reliability of the technology itself. When the programs and equipment are running properly, issues are minimized or non-existent. However, breakdowns in equipment or glitches in software can occur that would hinder or even block the learning experience. Computers fail, networks crash, hosting becomes blocked and the Internet connection drops. Teachers must prepare for these scenarios and provide the necessary materials needed to continue with the curriculum sans the technology.
This post was submitted by Sarah Fudin who currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California’s MAT Degree program, which provides the opportunity to earn a teaching credential online. Outside of work Sarah enjoys running, reading and Pinkberry frozen yogurt.