Negative Effects of Online Courses

by Jo Walmsley-Lockhart

Although online courses offer flexibility for the learner, negative effects can hinder the learning process. To ensure a positive learning experience--essential to success--prospective students must consider the downsides of online learning before making the decision to learn in a virtual classroom.

Poor Communication

The inability to have a face-to-face chat with your tutor is just one negative aspect of online learning. Difficulties seem to arise when students can't ask questions, receive verbal instructions or obtain immediate feedback from their tutors. Research conducted by the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning suggests that online courses can create student/professor misunderstandings, which lead to misinterpretation of tasks. Doug Valentine of the University of Oklahoma says distance-learning tutors sometimes become demoralized from feeling isolated and professionally deprived, having a negative impact on their students' online learning experience.

Feeling Isolated

A research paper by Tim S. Roberts and Joanne M. McInnerney, faculty of Business and Informatics at Central Queensland University in Australia, stresses the importance of interacting with fellow learners, citing learners' feelings of isolation as a definite drawback of online courses. They cite a study of online courses in 2001, which found that feelings of isolation were a huge stress factor and often prompted students to drop out. Jill M. Galusha of the University of Southern Mississippi says research shows that feeling isolated as a student may lead to feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, and a lack of confidence in the student's own abilities.

Demands on Students

Online learning requires increased time-management skills and focus, and less dependence from learners, according to a 1997 study cited by Valentine. Galusha says that 1980s research found that people over age 50 appeared to have more discipline and motivation to complete courses, which suggests that online learning could be a negative experience for some younger students.

Funding Worries

Galusha points out that technology's downsides includes cost, hardware issues, Internet problems and production of course materials. Students, she says, as well as institutions, worry about availability of funds. Galusha also cites research that reveals that educational institutions typically don't anticipate connectivity costs, causing later barriers to online learning.

Quality Questioned

Galusha says that non-online faculty have problems respecting the credibility of online courses. Too often, online instructors don't take their lesson preparations as seriously as they could, and this lack of commitment, Valentine states, surely has a profound and negative effect on the quality of online learning.

About the Author

Jo Walmsley-Lockhart began writing professionally in 2010, with work appearing on eHow. She also teaches English, drama and literature. Jo Walmsley-Lockhart holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Teesside University and a postgraduate certificate in English education from Durham University.

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