During the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that there is a digital divide and not all students have the same access to educational technology. Some students may rely on the computers and internet access that is provided in an on-campus setting and may not have the same type of technology available to them at home. This can be due to financial reasons or simply because they live somewhere where internet access is not as strong.
While it can be difficult to overcome these challenges, higher education organizations can support students by checking that the majority of students have access to the technology they need. With the financial savings made through blended learning, providing some students with computers on loan or ensuring they have a means of getting online could be a possibility for universities.
Lack of contact
When it comes to working away from campus rather than in a traditional classroom setting, the issue of isolation can become prominent. Students can become increasingly lonely with a lack of direct contact which can cause an increase in mental health issues and a disconnect from peers and tutors.
This makes it vital for organizations to offer resources for mental health support and to ensure that students can connect in a structured way, such as in an online classroom, as well as encouraging social events where possible.
Quality of education
One complaint about the move to online learning has been about the quality of education. Students feel that they are not getting the same benefits from their classes as they would in person and are concerned that it will have a negative impact on their course. To combat this, organizations should diversify their learning model to help with student engagement.
Help and support
When staff are on-site in a higher education setting, they are accessible to students, with office hours that allow them to provide help and support. However, with an online learning or blended learning approach, this can become more difficult. Students may struggle to get in touch with staff or know how to reach out for support when they’re not on campus or in lectures.
It is vital that faculty members make it clear how students can get in touch with them by providing them with virtual office hours, either for individuals to reach out or for group meetups. This should also be available when it comes to academic support staff.
The main challenge of blended learning for students is that they are required to have a great amount of self-discipline to carry out their education remotely. Students must be given the tools to succeed in this, while staff also check in with them periodically to ensure that they are staying on track and are not becoming bored or complacent about their education.