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Disadvantages of Online Learning

Sarah has been teaching English online since September 2020 and this has become her main job.

Since the pandemic started in 2020, it has affected many industries worldwide, from the hospitality industry to the health care industry and especially the education industry. Before the pandemic, some students used online learning but mostly it was to supplement what they were learning in a physical school. Also, a small portion of children worldwide was using online learning because they were being homeschooled rather than learning in a traditional classroom.

However, with the pandemic, online learning became the only way for children to continue learning while physical schools were shut down around the world. While there are definitely pros and cons to online learning, mostly online learning produces many challenges and disadvantages.

1. Lack of Motivation

The most significant disadvantage of online learning is a lack of motivation. While it is convenient for children to learn from the comfort of their own home and have the curriculum, assignments, and lectures on their computers, this makes children less motivated to learn. When sitting in their bedroom or at home learning, it's very easy to get distracted compared to learning in a traditional classroom. There are many other things at home to delight children such as; easier access to social media and games on their computer, a tv in the room that they are learning in, and possibly a much noisier learning environment. With all these things around them, children's minds tend to be anywhere but focused on the classroom. This can cause children to miss important information and make them more likely to struggle when completing homework assignments or exams.

With the entire family at home during periods of quarantine, it can be very noisy at home with siblings screaming and watching tv in the living room and parents also working at home attending meetings. This can make it really hard for children to focus on the online classroom and complete their assignments. Also, since homework assignments can be done at a more convenient time and at the children's leisure, this usually causes children to procrastinate. However, this procrastination just creates even less motivation to want to complete the homework assignments and can cause students to fall behind in class.

2. Harder to Learn

While some subjects like reading and history can be taught relatively well over online learning, other subjects just need more in-person learning. Kids often need a helping hand to guide them step by step and this just isn't possible using online learning. Some kids are naturally gifted and can learn on their own but most kids need a teacher there with them to help them each step of the way until they understand the material well. Even with traditional in-person learning, some kids still struggle but with distance learning, it's even harder.

For example, in university, I was able to complete my political science and marketing classes fully online without an issue because the assignments were simply to read the textbook and answer some quiz questions. However, if I were to take astronomy or calculus fully online, I would feel very lost because I need a teacher to answer my questions while I'm completing the homework assignments and I need a teacher to explain the steps thoroughly to me in order for me to understand the material.

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This is the same issue that kids go through with distance learning. Most kids just do better in school when they have a helping hand each step of the way. For example, when a child is just learning how to write for the first time, he or she needs someone to guide their hands and this can't be taught over a webcam.

3. Lack of Social Interaction

Kids also need to have social interaction to live healthy lives. It's true that their peers can be distracting in class and when all the kids are together, they make each other sick with colds and the flu. However, the friends that kids make while in elementary school and middle school help shape the rest of their lives. Kids are just discovering what they like to do and how they interact with the world beyond their family. Therefore, having social interaction with other kids helps build up their personalities, hobbies, and social skills. Kids that don't get the experience of interacting with other kids will end up struggling a lot in their adult lives because they don't know how to talk with others.

Also, kids need play time to feel productive. Kids can't just sit at home quietly for many hours as adults can so school gives kids a way to have play time scheduled into their day. Playtime is where kids get to be creative and learn new things about the world.

4. Less Creative Curriculum

Another major issue with online learning is as a teacher you are very limited in terms of curriculums that can be taught fully online. With just a webcam, the curriculum has to be tailored to more distant learning so mostly the curriculum just consists of lectures, reading from a textbook, homework assignments, and quizzes or exams. It's very difficult to teach more creative subjects like art or music because these subjects are more hands-on and need more interactive teaching. Also, with subjects like science that revolve around more than theories and textbooks, it's not possible to fully teach the curriculum. For example, science experiments can't be done properly using online learning. A teacher can conduct the science experiment over a webcam but the students don't get the same experience as actually doing the science experiment themselves.

Also, if any of the curricula involved group activities with fellow classmates, this is also something really difficult to do over a webcam. With Zoom, there is now a way to break the students up into groups using the breakout rooms but it's not the same as having the children do group activities in person. With younger learners like kids ages five to nine, they don't have a good attention span so they can't just sit in the class quietly listening to the teacher talk for an hour. They need to be able to interact with the material as well as interact with their peers. Therefore, in a traditional classroom setting, it's normal for teachers to set up games and activities that the children can do to help them retain information. However, this is impossible over online learning aka distance learning.

© 2022 Sarah Wong

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