14 Disadvantages of Online Classes (E-Learning Drawbacks)

Last Updated on February, 2024

Once regarded as a novel alternative, E-learning or online learning has become an integral part of education, especially in the wake of global events like the COVID-19 pandemic when students could not physically attend classes. 

While online learning advantages are evident, allowing students to learn at their own pace, it is crucial to acknowledge the disadvantages of online learning for both students and educators.

In this article, we present the disadvantages of online education—focusing on physical and health challenges, technology-related concerns, student-centered challenges, and issues with the curriculum and accreditations.

Quick Summary

The disadvantages of online learning include physical and health challenges from excessive screen time and isolation from peers, difficulty accessing technical equipment, and extra workload for teachers.

Technology-related concerns for online learning include equity and accessibility to technology, computer literacy, and limitations of technology.

Challenges for students in online learning include self-motivation and time management skills, limited feedback, communication skill development, and cheating prevention.

Disadvantages of Online Learning

Just like there are many advantages to Online Learning, there are disadvantages too. Below, you can find all of them.

Physical and Health Challenges

There are multiple physical and health challenges that you may experience due to prolonged online learning.

Excessive Screen Time

a boy stressed during online classes

Excessive screen exposure presents a multitude of adverse consequences for both adults and children. 

These repercussions include eye strain, disturbances to the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, headaches, and discomfort in the neck and back.

Any online student should proactively try to reduce symptoms due to prolonged screen time. 

Strategies to counteract these adverse effects include:

  • Use blue-light glasses.
  • Use artificial tears to combat overly dry eyes.
  • Position your device at least 50-100 cm away. 
  • Take a break every 20 minutes to shift focus to an object 20ft away for 20 seconds.
  • Avoid excessively bright screen settings.
  • Adjust the contrast settings on the screen.

Isolation From Peers

online and onsite learning

While online courses may possess a social aspect, the reality is that a significant portion of the coursework is completed independently. This is detrimental, particularly for students who already spend considerable time in solitary environments at home. 

Recognizing that both young and adult learners enroll in educational courses to interact with other students and make friends is crucial.

Proximity often plays a role in forming friendships, and the absence of this natural closeness in online classes can hinder the development of connections with peers. 

While forming real-life friendships with online classmates requires more effort, selecting classes with substantial group project components can replicate a similar level of social interaction.

E-learning practices among today’s students tend to encourage individual studying, contributing to social isolation. This often leads to various mental health issues, including heightened stress, anxiety, and negative thoughts.

Addressing this challenge involves:

  • Promoting increased interaction among online students.
  • Implementing blended learning environments.
  • Monitoring students for signs of social isolation.

Learners can complete online classes in vibrant settings such as coffee shops or libraries to combat feelings of isolation. Another strategy is to enroll in courses with thriving online communities, fostering virtual connections with fellow students.

Difficulty Accessing Technical Equipment

lack of technology

Accessing technical equipment poses another challenge for online learners. 

The basic requirement is a device with an internet connection, but realistically, students need a device suitable for typing assignments, such as a laptop or tablet with a keyboard.

The upfront cost of purchasing these devices can be too high, especially for families with multiple children in online classes. 

Unlike in-person classes, where institutions often provide the necessary equipment, online learning environments may need more support.

While some school districts supply laptops or tablets to address this issue, the global scope of this solution is limited due to budget constraints. This challenge is amplified for students with learning disabilities who may require specialized accessibility hardware.

Extra Workload for Teachers

a teacher stressed due to overload of work

Transitioning entire courses and curricula to an online format can be challenging and requires prior planning.

For many teachers, additional efforts are required to record lectures, transfer tests, and assignments to online learning educational platforms, and coordinate live lessons and homework submissions through video calls. 

However, once the online courses are established, the time commitment to maintain content with updated study materials is minimal.

Challenges arise for teachers because fewer students might participate, and there are limited opportunities for collaboration in online settings. While there are online solutions for these issues, adapting to online teaching poses a learning curve for educators. 

Teachers require additional time to collect feedback from students during these early stages.

Technology-Related Concerns

Given below are all the technology-related concerns that may arise when implementing online learning.

Equity and Accessibility to Technology 

For any online program to thrive, it must cater to students who can effectively access the online learning environment. 

Limited access to the Internet can prevent eligible students from participating, particularly in rural and lower socioeconomic areas.

Internet accessibility is not universal, posing a significant challenge in some regions of the United States and other countries.

The cost of Internet access can be a challenge for some users, with variations in payment structures – some pay a fixed monthly rate, while others are charged based on the duration of their online usage. 

a picture of a computer lab

In cases where students’ online time is affected by the affordability of Internet access, the instruction and participation in the online program may only be equitable for some students in the course.

Computer Literacy

Computer literacy is crucial for students and facilitators to navigate successfully in an online environment. 

Proficiency in using search engines, navigating the Internet, and familiarity with several tools is essential.

These technological skills are necessary for each student to succeed in an online program, and the lack of competence from a student or faculty member can negatively affect the entire program.

Despite high ownership of mobile devices (96% of Americans) and personal computers (73% of Americans), the accessibility of online education is not universally assured.

a student working with a laptop

While these statistics suggest widespread technology ownership, they don’t capture the full complexity of the situation. 

However, 37% of the world’s population (almost 2.9 billion people) have never used the Internet. This challenges the assumption that online education is easily accessible to the majority.

In many parts of the world, such as India, a significant gap in computer literacy persists despite the country’s substantial presence in online learning.

The global reality is that as long as gaps in IT literacy persist, online education cannot reach all parts of the population. 

Therefore, viewing online learning as an additional tool rather than a replacement for traditional in-person classes is imperative, acknowledging the existing technological gaps in society.

Limitations of Technology

An online program’s effectiveness depends on user-friendly and dependable technology. However, even the most advanced technology is not foolproof. The issue is not whether the equipment in an online program will encounter problems but when it will. 

While technology is designed to operate discreetly and act as a learning tool when functioning correctly, breakdowns can occur at any point in the system.

Various potential failure points include:

  • A server hosting the program can crash, disconnecting all participants.
  • A participant accessing online classes through a networked computer can go down.
  • Individual students may encounter multiple problems, limiting student access.
  • Potential failures in the Internet connection.
  • Hosting institutions’ servers can become overwhelmed with users, leading to slowdowns or complete failure.

In such situations, technology isn’t reliable, reducing the quality of the overall learning experience.

Student-Centered Challenges in Online Learning

There are numerous challenges that arise from a student’s perspective with regard to online 

learning, as explained below.

Self-motivation and Time Management Skills

Staying for long periods in an online learning environment is challenging, as students are no longer in a dedicated learning space and face various distractions. 

Students must develop a strong sense of self-discipline because there is no structured environment.

Additionally, the lack of understanding or challenges with the material can lead to frustration if effective communication with instructors is not established.

While online education caters well to mature, self-motivated students, it may not be suitable for dependent learners.

a student doing classes online

The nature of learning online requires good organizational skills, self-motivation, and effective time management to meet regular deadlines. Younger students find it challenging to maintain such discipline amidst busy schedules.

Limited Feedback

The learning process in physical classrooms offers immediate face-to-face feedback, enabling quick solving of issues during lectures or dedicated hours. 

In contrast, online discussions don’t provide the same level of personalized feedback, leading to dissatisfaction and confusion. 

Peer feedback systems, group discussion boards, and video chats with professors during online classes are potential solutions to the limited feedback issue. These learning styles aim to offer the personalized feedback and engagement present in traditional classrooms.

Communication Skill Development

While online classes are excellent for enhancing academic knowledge, they often neglect the development of students’ communication skills.

The lack of face-to-face interaction in this learning style can affect teamwork and collaborative skills in students. 

Failing to address this may result in graduates with strong theoretical knowledge but insufficient communication skills.

Incorporating peer-to-peer learning activities and online lectures that necessitate communication is vital to counteract this issue.

These measures ensure that even an online class equips students with the communication skills necessary for real-world working environments.

a student taking notes while listening to the lecturer via online class

Cheating Prevention

A widely existing concern in online programs is that students can cheat during assessments. 

The absence of direct observation during virtual assessments, coupled with personal computers, makes it easier for students to do so compared to traditional testing procedures. Identity verification issues during exams are another factor that adds to it.

Implementing anti-cheating measures is essential to safeguard the integrity of online education. 

Popular tools like virtual proctoring systems, including Examity, employ anti-cheating strategies, such as automated ID verification and machine learning, to detect and deter such practices.

Curriculum and Accreditation Challenges in Online Learning

Special care has to be taken to ensure the quality and credibility of online education. A few of the concerns that may arise are discussed below.

Curriculum and Accreditation Challenges in Online Learning

Focus on Theory Over Practice

Certain subjects, like math and biology, suit online learning well and appeal to visual learners due to visual or auditory explanations. However, hands-on subjects like medical examination or pottery are challenging online. 

Many E-Learning platforms prioritize theoretical knowledge and course materials over practical skills, as implementing practical projects online requires more planning. 

Solutions include incorporating hands-on projects and mentorship in each online course, as used by successful practice-based courses on distance learning platforms like Udacity and Springboard.

Limited Disciplines for Online Learning

Not all subjects can effectively be taught online due to the lack of hands-on experience. Medical science and engineering fields require practical exposure and are less suitable for E-Learning. 

While blended learning can be an alternative, online programs may not meet all educational needs. 

Lack of Accreditation and Quality Assurance

To match traditional learning, all online schools must be accredited. 

Numerous unaccredited online platforms need more quality assurance, with instructors being the sole evaluators. Accreditation and quality assurance are necessary to maintain the credibility of online education.

Relevant guides you might want to read:

FAQs

Yes, online studies can impact mental health by causing feelings of isolation, increasing stress from excessive screen time, and creating challenges in maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Some of the negative effects of e-learning on students include increased isolation, health issues like eye strain and fatigue, and challenges in maintaining engagement and motivation due to the lack of face-to-face interaction and structured learning environments.

Online learning can impact teachers by increasing their workload, requiring them to adapt to technology, and addressing potential decreases in student engagement.

Some methods for reducing negative effects of too much screen time are taking breaks every 20 minutes, wearing blue-light glasses, adjusting screen brightness and contrast, and varying their working surroundings regularly.

Conclusion

Online learning, now an integral part of education, has both advantages and disadvantages and presents multifaceted challenges.

From health concerns to technological barriers, student-specific issues, and curriculum limitations, each problem requires thoughtful solutions.

In navigating these challenges, E-Learning should be considered a supplementary tool, complementing traditional education for a comprehensive and inclusive educational experience for all students.

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Carlos Eduardo
Author
Carlos Eduardo
Hey there, I’m Carlos Eduardo, the Founder and Author of Scorebeyond. Delving deep into 20+ years of education transformation through innovative e-learning, I’ve poured my expertise into this platform. My enduring legacy continues to drive the path towards a future empowered by knowledge!

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