Open and Distance Learning is a way of learning that focus on releasing learners from constraints of time and place whilst offering flexible learning opportunities. For a lot of married and working adults, Open and Distance Learning (ODL) is a way of combining work and family responsibilities with educational opportunities.
The first challenge faced by online distance learners is in balancing the combination of work and education. Most of the Open and Distance education students are older, have jobs and families. Job responsibility is already intimidating, let alone the family and the learning. The task of balancing all of the above responsibility is truly challenging for most of them.
The second issue is in acquiring go online distance study habits. The students’ everyday environment is very distracting for most of the students. Unlike traditional university students who are always in their learning community which supports them most of the time, online distance students are not. Distractions such as friends asking for night supper and wife demanding to go shopping at the mall every weekend are among other distractions faced by students. Acquiring some time in a day to study is quite a hard task to complete.
Online distance learners also have a hard time in being independent and responsible to their own self. Most of the time, there is no one around to monitor the students learning process. The openness of the online distance program gives students the freedom to do their learning process whenever they like but most of the time, procrastination is the culprit. Unfocused view of their learning goals also will make the students act irresponsibly towards their learning.
Online distance learners also face problems in recognizing and mastering strengths and skills. In online distance learning, technology is the main conduit which information and communication flow. A computer with internet access is usually needed for this process and its application will need the user to master certain level of acquirement. The students will also need to have some basic writing skills and a go online distance command of English language. Unfortunately, not all of the students possess the above-said skills.
The fifth challenge is in motivating themselves as well as maintaining and increasing self-esteem. In online distance education, learners are usually isolated from peers and tutors. The motivational factors are absent due to lack of contact and competition with other students. The lacks of immediate support of a teacher who is able to motivate will also affects the learners. In the long run, students might feel uneasy with their teacher and uncomfortable with their learning situation and environment.
Online distance learners also face some problems in relating and interacting with peers. Most of the time, learners will learn most effectively when they have the opportunity to interact with other students. Sadly, forming of the study group is not easy. This is caused by the difference in the usage of time between students. One particular student may have some free time for meeting with peers at 10am every Saturday, but another student who works in the government sector may still be at work at the exact time.
The next one is in coping with distance learning strategies apart from printed material package the students are familiar with. There might be audio/video tape material, television-aided learning, overhead projectors, computer referencing and computer-assisted instruction using the internet. Some students might feel uncomfortable with these learning strategies due to lack of skills and knowledge in using those strategies.
The second last challenge is in preparing for and taking examinations. In order to excel in examination, learners have to start early in understanding the course content and preparing and revising the content. However, not all students do start early in their learning process. Do not have enough time, lazy, too many works to be done are among other reasons given by this type of students in order to avoid studying for exams.
The final challenge faced by online distance learners is in using library facilities to access information and references. Most of the library only opens during office hour and the learners would not be able to go to the library during office hour due to demanding works at the office. This will definitely cause problems to students who want to gain access to the reference material. Library database program such as the OPAC will also require the students to have proper training and skills in order to maximize the usage.
The Open and Distance Learning courses are very different from a traditional classroom setting. Due to a number of challenges and obstacles, it often requires a high degree of commitment on the part of the learner.
In order to overcome these online distance challenges, learners must first plan and manage themselves effectively in order to balancing work, family and study. They have to apply smart time management. Avoiding procrastinating is a must. They must be more responsible and have a focused view towards learning. They must also learn to improve themselves in areas they are lacking (such as writing skills, note taking skills, computer skills and English language skills) because not all skills will be taught by the tutor. They need to motivate their own self by setting achievable goals and have a positive attitude. Due to lack of meeting time with peers, they have to make an effort to interact with peers and tutors frequently.