What are the Biggest Challenges Facing Online Education Today

Online education is becoming more and more popular, as it offers students the flexibility to learn what they want, when they want. However, there are a few challenges that online education faces today. In this article, we will discuss some of the biggest challenges facing online education today.

Technical Issues

There are technical issues to be considered when it comes to online education. Technical problems such as limited internet access, unreliable internet connection and lack of technology present barriers for students who want to go back to school or even others trying to get a better job with a post secondary degree. Technical Issues are the biggest challenges facing online education today due largely in part to the digital divide.

The Digital Divide is a term used to described the “lack of access, or limited access” (OECD) Internet and other ICTs by certain groups within society. This lack of access disproportionately affects people who are economically or educationally disadvantaged, particularly those from minority communities in countries that provide public services through commercial providers. In this sense it can be defined as a socio-economic disadvantage linked with not possessing or not having regular access to computers and the internet.

There have been many strides taken in order to help students get online access so they may attend school from home but many still lack the resources necessary to do so. Technical issues must be considered when designing an online education system because of all the technical problems that students will face.

Public Perception of Online Education

The perception of online education must also be considered when designing an online education system because there is a stigma about online schools and their legitimacy as a post secondary school. The public, those who might want to attend or those who may have family members wanting to attend seem reluctant about the idea of attending school from home. They still think of it as something “lesser” than going to a brick and mortar institution for school even though some recent studies show more academic success with those people coming from an online degree program versus those graduating from traditional universities . Public Perception  is one of the biggest challenges facing online education today because people do not trust these new learning opportunities and see them as less than traditional degrees even though research shows otherwise.

Lack of face-to-face communication

The biggest challenge facing online education is a lack of personal interaction. While it is possible to communicate with fellow students and the teacher through email, text messages, chats, tweets, comments on forums, etc., these forms of communication are not as effective as face-to-face interactions. When people meet in person there is more to learn than what they can get from written words or recorded lectures. Many aspects of communication cannot be captured by technology like facial expressions and body language.

Lack of Self-discipline

Another big problem with online education is that it requires self-discipline for each student to maintain their motivation to study every day rather than procrastinate or use up all their free time playing video games or watching television.

Another big problem is that some students lack the discipline to manage their time in order to balance studying, working and socializing. This can be especially difficult for students who are parents or work full-time jobs.

Lagging Question Response Time

When the instructor responds slowly when responding to student questions in an online class, it can lead to disengagement with the course material for these students. Thus, when instructors take days or weeks to respond to student questions they lose many potential customers because of this lagging response time.

Virtual Classroom Obstacles

A challenge with distance learning technology is that there are obstacles inherent in virtual classrooms that affect participation, engagement and ultimately performance of participants. One obstacle is that physical appearance matters more online than it does in traditional face-to-face classes because students online don’t have the social cues that come from being in a physical classroom. Social cues are important to maintain engagement, so lack of them can lead to disengagement which will affect performance.



A challenge with distance learning is that students often find themselves less motivated to do the work required because they aren’t around other people who are taking the class. This can cause problems for instructors if they are not able to motivate their students through other means such as weekly discussions/webinars or personal contact between instructor and student outside of class time.

Disparity Between Instructors’ Experience Level and Their Students’ Experience Level

The disparity between instructor experience level and student experience level can be a challenge for online educators. Instructors are used to being the “expert” in their fields, but when teaching online they have to adapt quickly because students aren’t shy about asking questions or challenging material presented.

Online Security Threats

Another challenge for online educators is the ever-growing number of online security threats. Educators have to be very careful about what they post online or what links they provide to their students, because there are many people who are looking to exploit vulnerabilities in order to steal information or disrupt classes.

Fear of Cheating by Students

A number of instructors have expressed their reservations on the possibility of cheating being more pervasive in an online education environment. Although some level of academic dishonesty is to be expected, instructors are concerned that more students would be tempted to cheat when they can go about it undetected or more easily.

High cost of Course Material

Online materials for courses may come at a high price tag which makes them out-of-reach for most students. This has prompted some faculty members to develop free, open source course material while others also encourage using library resources so students can acquire these materials at no extra cost to them. However, despite best efforts, there are still some instances where scarce course material puts barriers between learners and their education.

Feedback Loops

This refers to the ability of instructors to assess students’ level of comprehension and understanding on particular topics or discussion threads. With online learning, there is no physical interaction between instructor and student which takes place during the class so it is difficult for instructors to check if their students are engaged with what they are teaching. This has prompted some faculty members to encourage students to engage in discussions via threaded comments which they can later review as a means of improving learning outcomes.

Faculty Resistance

Some faculty members do not seem comfortable with the idea of conducting an entire course online as opposed to having face-to-face interactions with students. While this may be understandable, faculty members must keep in mind that their main goal is still to impart knowledge to their students.

Teaching Quality

Instructors who teach online courses must meet certain standards of teaching quality which are more stringent than those that apply to instructors of on-campus classes. However, some instructors who teach both on-site and online courses may find it difficult to adapt to the different requirements in order to deliver high-quality education in any medium. They must also be able to resist the urge to shift back into old practices when they are with their face-to-face class especially if this would result in subpar learning conditions for most students.


As many universities have started offering niche or lesser known subjects through distance learning, there is a big demand for being able to scale up these programs in a way that will not compromise quality in both teaching and learning. It can be difficult to satisfy this demand in part because faculty members who are capable of delivering an engaging education may not have the expertise or experience to teach online courses successfully.

Inclusive Education

At present, many online students come from well-educated backgrounds which puts at a disadvantage those who do not have access to higher education because of financial reasons or other factors. In order to promote inclusion in higher education, more efforts must be dedicated toward providing free course material for people with limited resources while also improving content delivery mechanisms so it is more accessible to different kinds of learners regardless of age, social background, ethnicity and level of intellectual ability among others.

Lack Of Digital Literacy

Education has long been a vital part of what makes us human, but what defines our education and what we learn is constantly changing. With the rise of social networks and online concepts like MOOCs (massive open online courses), there is now more opportunity for anyone to get an education than ever before. The internet has also allowed students to access advanced learning tools such as virtual lectures, interactive digital textbooks and other essential information at their fingertips anytime they need it. Thanks to all this, chances are you know several people who have either taken or taught an online course. However, while technology has made receiving an education easier than ever before it also poses some significant challenges to both learners and educators alike: one of these obstacles is digital literacy.

Digital literacy is what you use to understand what you see on the internet. It includes knowing what information is reliable and what isn’t, recognizing what information is being published by whom, understanding what information needs additional verification and how to look for that additional information. For example, while it’s true that anyone can go online and publish videos of themselves giving lectures at their own convenience using websites like YouTube, these videos are often not reviewed or edited which means they may be riddled with errors or simply incomplete.

The issue of digital literacy has become an important issue in education due to the rise in popularity of online courses. According to a new study conducted on students enrolled in MOOCs , only about 15 percent actually finished the course indicating that lack of proper knowledge concerning what constitutes a legitimate online course may be one of the biggest issues facing online education today.

Another problem concerning digital literacy is what information should be trusted and what shouldn’t. For example, if I was taking an online physics class for college credit and another student posted what looks to be their notes from that class on Facebook, I might think it’s ok to use those notes as my own since they are already out there on the internet. However, this would not only hurt me in the long run if I ever wanted to apply for a job using my degree but also hurt the student who originally posted their notes because its wrong to take someone else’s work off the internet without giving them credit.

Educational Outcomes Problems

What are the Biggest Challenges Facing Online Education Today

Many online universities claim that what makes their courses unique is what happens during the course and what students do after they complete it. The truth is, however, many of these institutions don’t actually track what becomes of their graduates. For example, while some colleges require students to fill out a survey about what jobs and/or further education they received after graduation, others don’t so there’s no way to prove if what the school claims actually happens.

Another problem with this lack of required outcome data is that it can be difficult to know what educational value you should expect from your degree in an online program . This isn’t such a big issue with traditional education because what you get out of your degree is what the school requires of you, but for online programs this means what you expect to learn might not be what another student learns requiring a lot of guesswork on what you should do.


While online education does have its fair share of challenges to face, these problems can all be solved with the right tools. Digital literacy is an important skill that everyone should possess and educators need to make sure what they are teaching is reliable. Additionally, universities need to start tracking their graduate’s outcomes in order to better understand what value their degrees hold. With a little bit of effort, online education can become just as successful – if not more so – than traditional learning institutions.

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