5 Negative Aspects of Online Education

Carolina Jacobs

Apr 1, 2022
negative aspects of online education

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If it weren’t for online education, learning might have ground to a halt during the recent pandemic. Virtual schooling allows students to attend from wherever they live, even if they have health problems — or the entire planet does. 

However, there are drawbacks to this learning modality. Here are five negative aspects of online education that both educators and students should be aware of to avoid potential pitfalls. 

1. Waiting — and Forgetting

Think back to the last time you met with a group, and the leader instructed everyone to think of a response to a question. Did you actively listen to what everyone in the group had to say, or did you focus on formulating your response? Your fear of looking foolish probably made you concentrate on the latter — helping you rehearse but making you miss out on fully engaging with everyone else’s contribution. 


The same dynamic can occur in online learning. If a student doesn’t immediately grasp a concept, they often ask clarifying questions. In a live classroom, it’s relatively simple for the instructor to see hands go up. However, in a Zoom meeting, it’s next to impossible to simultaneously monitor the chat, run the main window and present new information. 

As a result, the teacher might continue with the lecture, unaware that they have students who lack the requisite concepts to move on to the next idea. Individual learners, sitting at home alone behind their computer screens, might tune out, growing frustrated and impatient. They may struggle to follow the rest of the instructions and, in doing so, forget what they want to ask. When the instructor finally says, “any questions,” they freeze. 

Fortunately, students and teachers have a rapid solution to this dilemma — keep a notebook by your computer for jotting down your questions as they arise. Instructors can remind learners to grab a paper and pen as class commences and briefly review this procedure and why it matters. Some people do fine taking notes directly on the screen, but others prefer the tactile sense of writing by hand. Whichever method works best for your students is fine. 

2. Face-to-Face Peer Interaction 

Researchers often focus on older adults when studying the impact of loneliness on mortality. They know that social deficits increase your risk of dying. Furthermore, isolation’s impact is more predictive of death in those under 65. 

Online learning isolates pupils from their peers. One district-wide solution is to introduce a hybrid model. A limited number of students report to class on opposing days, making social distancing easier but allowing for in-person interaction with others in their age group. 

Individual students and parents can ameliorate the loneliness of online education by participating in extracurricular activities with their community. Some 100% online schools partner with public districts so that learners can participate in their programs, too. Investigate your options by calling your local school and community recreation center. 

3. Accessibility Struggles 

Online education can increase accessibility for students with disabilities. It can also throw up roadblocks. Anyone non-neurotypical who has ever been denied access to a needed website or app because they couldn’t complete the onscreen visual test knows this. 

Furthermore, some learners might need adaptive equipment to get the full value of their online education. For example, those with visual impairments may need a text-to-speech reader to follow onscreen instructions. Fortunately, you can find free programs to help with some disabilities, but others require you to shell out cash for specialty items. 

4. Disparities in Technology Access 

The pandemic made it all too stark how disparate technology access is in America. A crashed computer might not be the end of the world for someone with others in the home. If it’s the family’s only one, it could spell absenteeism and missed learning opportunities. 

This disparity threatens to deepen the already vast income inequality in the U.S. As housing prices soar, more families flee to rural areas to avoid ever-rising rents. However, many such locations lack the kind of high-speed connection necessary to run today’s intense educational apps, at least consistently and well. Those remaining in urban areas might find themselves caught between affording a roof and internet access. Triage demands that they put survival first, even as they fall further behind. 

5. The Need for Intrinsic Motivation

Finally, online education requires learners to harness their intrinsic motivation to complete their work. While this independence breeds resilience and time management skills, it risks frustrating those who lack the necessary knowledge of keeping themselves on task without a teacher hanging over their shoulders. 

Online learners benefit from using a planner, perhaps even more so than those in traditional schools. It doesn’t matter if they choose an app or paper, as long as it helps keep them on track with upcoming assignments and critical dates. Teachers should devote class time to showing students how to manage their time, making estimates for tasks and adjusting them as need be. People aren’t born knowing how to stay organized, but a little guidance sets them sailing. 

Negative Aspects of Online Education

Online education offers multiple benefits. It keeps learning going even when outside factors — like a pandemic — disrupt typical routines. It also allows students to attend schools they might not otherwise be able to access due to financial and travel constraints. 

However, online education has its negative aspects for all its charms. Fortunately, building awareness of these potential pitfalls lets students and educators bypass them and enjoy the rich learning experience they desire and deserve. 


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