Issues and Challenges in Open and Distance Learning

Open and distance learning is a learning method that focuses on freeing learners from time and space constraints while providing flexible learning opportunities. For many married and working adults, Open and Distance Learning (ODL) is a way to combine work and family life with educational opportunities.

The first challenge for online distance learners is to balance the combination of work and education. Most distance and distance learning students are older, have jobs, and families. Job responsibilities are already intimidating, let alone family and study. The task of balancing all the above responsibilities is a real challenge for most of them.

The second problem is forming habits for online distance learning. The everyday environment of the students is very distracting for most students. Unlike traditional university students who are always within their learning community that supports them most of the time, online distance learning students are not. Distractions like friends asking about dinner and wives demanding to go shopping at the mall every weekend are among the other distractions students face. Finding some time in the day to study is quite a difficult task.

Online distance learners also find it difficult to be independent and self-reliant. Most of the time there is no one to monitor the students’ learning process. The openness of the online distance learning program gives students the freedom to pursue their learning process whenever they choose, but more often than not, procrastination is the culprit. An unfocused view of their learning goals will also lead students to act irresponsibly about their learning.

Online distance learners also have trouble recognizing and mastering strengths and skills. In online distance learning, technology is the main channel for the flow of information and communication. This process usually requires a computer with Internet access, and its application requires the user to have a certain level of proficiency. Students are also required to have some basic writing skills and online distance learning of the English language. Unfortunately, not all students have the above skills.

The fifth challenge is to motivate yourself and maintain and increase self-esteem. With online distance learning, learners are typically isolated from classmates and tutors. The motivating factors are missing due to a lack of contact and competition with other students. The lack of immediate support from a motivating teacher also affects learners. In the long run, students could become uncomfortable with their teacher and uncomfortable with their learning situation and environment.

Online distance learners also have some problems in relating and interacting with their peers. Most of the time, learners learn most effectively when they have the opportunity to interact with other students. Unfortunately, the formation of the study group is not easy. This is due to the different use of time by the students. A particular student might have some free time every Saturday at 10:00 am to meet up with fellow students, but another student working in the government sector can still work at the exact time.

Next is tackling distance learning strategies aside from printed packs of materials that students are familiar with. There could be audio/video tape material, television based learning, overhead projectors, computer references and computer based teaching using the internet. Some students may feel uncomfortable using these learning strategies because they lack the skills and knowledge to use them.

The second to last challenge is preparing and conducting exams. To excel on the exam, learners need to start understanding, preparing and revising the course content early on. However, not all students start their learning process early. Not enough time, laziness, too many tasks to do are some of the reasons given by this type of student to avoid studying for exams.

The final challenge for online distance learners is using library facilities to access information and references. Most of the library only opens during office hours and students could not go to the library during office hours due to the busy work in the office. This will certainly cause problems for students who want to get access to the reference material. Library database programs like the OPAC also require that students have adequate training and skills to maximize usage.

The open and distance learning courses are very different from a traditional classroom setting. Due to a range of challenges and obstacles, it often requires a high level of engagement on the part of the learner.

To overcome these online distance challenges, learners must first effectively plan and manage themselves to balance work, family and studies. You must use intelligent time management. Avoiding hesitation is a must. You need to be more responsible and have a focused view of learning. They also need to learn to improve in areas they lack (such as writing skills, note-taking, computer skills and English skills) as not all skills are taught by the tutor. You need to motivate yourself by setting achievable goals and having a positive attitude. Due to the lack of time for peer meetings, they must make an effort to interact frequently with peers and tutors.

Thanks to Mathew Simond

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