What are some strengths and challenges of online learning environment?

The world is changing rapidly therefore it is essential to keep pace with time and meet the society’s requirements. The development of technologies contributes to launching online learning environment, which gives a bright opportunity for a large number of students to study in any convenient time and place for them. This innovative development cardinally modified the traditional “face-to –face” interaction and teaching style bringing a new form of communication and education. However, this type of learning has not only strengths, but also challenges. I have studied two reputable articles in order to reveal and share these positive and negative sides of online education.
The first article is “Learning to teach online” by Clark-Ibáñez and Scott. In their study Clark-Ibáñez and Scott (2008) discuss several benefits of online education such as «intense participation, increased opportunities for learning, flexibility for instructor and student, and increased access»( p.35). According to them more than 50% of students feel that they participate more in online learning environment than in the traditional classroom as it provides them with a great opportunity to express their ideas. In addition, more modest students claim that they are more confident in sharing their views online as they are not fearful of being misunderstood by their classmates and the teacher. Moreover, some students point out the importance of receiving responses from the peers or the instructor. They feel that their voices are taken into the consideration; they are heard and appreciated. Flexibility is another factor which is highlighted by students. Several students state that online leaning environment is more convenient for those who have full time jobs or who can not leave their homes due to some reasons. Online courses allow students to participate in discussions in any appropriate time and place for them. Despite all strengths and benefits of online education there are several challenges, which authors mention in the article. The first challenge is students’ insufficiency in time management. Students spend a lot of time, completing online tasks and as a result they start to struggle with other subjects due to lack of time. Clark-Ibáñez and Scott (2008) insist that it is essential to provide students with the important information about online learning environment in order to make them familiar with the course and also suggest them some successful strategies in allocating their time. The second is the lack of technology readiness. Almost all students are able to use their computers for surfing the internet or playing computer games, however not all students have academic skills in order to not experience challenges in online learning environment. Consequently, a technical difficulty is the most actual problem at the beginning of the semester as many students face with it.
The second article, which I found useful and worthwhile to share is “Improving online learning: student perceptions of useful and challenging characteristics” by Song, Singleton, Hill and Hwa Koh. Singleton et al. (2004) conduct a mixed research method, using questionnaires and interviews for data collection. The aim of their study was to find out strengths of online learning environment and which challenges prevent the effective process. According to the results participants highlighted some positive components of online education such as flexibility and convenience. Students liked the opportunity to choose the best time and place, which best fit with their plans. However, students also mentioned some challenges such as “lack of community, difficulty understanding instructional goals, and technical problems” (Singleton et al. 2004, p.66). Lack of the community is one drawback of effective online education. Students have a strong sense of isolation; consequently, it is crucial to create an atmosphere in which students will feel that they are the part of the community. Another challenge is unclear instructional goals. A number of students pointed out the importance of setting accurate objectives in order to have a clear understanding which results are expected from them. The last and the main disadvantage of online learning environment is technical problems. As some participants reported in the interviews that they can spend a lot of time dealing with technical problems instead of paying particular attention to the course.
In conclusion, a lot of positive and helpful components of online education were mentioned by authors, however the closed attention should be paid on the solution of the discussed challenges in order to create successful and effective online learning environment.


Clark-Ibáñez, M., & Scott, L. (2008). Learning to Teach Online. Teaching Sociology, 36(1), 34-41.
Song, L., Singleton, E., Hill, J. and Hwa Koh, M.(2004). Improving online learning: Student perceptions of useful and challenging characteristics. Internet and Higher Education, 59-70.

4 thoughts on “What are some strengths and challenges of online learning environment?

  1. Dear Aizhana,

    When I was reading your post, I thought back to my first experience with it three or four years ago. At that time I was just beginning my teaching career and was looking for a way to address the many challenges I had as a fledgling teacher. A colleague of mine recommended that I look into Edmodo, an educational social network. After months of frustration and hopeless organization, this platform seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel. I was able to experience firsthand all of the advantages of online learning that you mentioned in your post as a teacher: better participation,inclusion of shy students, sense of ownership on the learners’ part.
    Fortunately, I cannot say I experienced any of the challenges of online learning that you mentioned. Being teenagers, all of my students were confident in using their computers and mobile phones, so technology readiness was never an issue. Seeing as my students stayed in the dormitory and had the day planned for them by adults, time management was no much of a problem, either.
    Thank you for reminding me of that time when online learning helped me see a brighter future in my career.


  2. Dear Aizhan,
    Thank you for your article analysis commenting on the advantages and challenges of online learning. I have also read the same article written by Song,Singleton and others. I also write about challenges experienced by both teachers and students in my blog.Technical problems are considered as the most common challenges in online learning and seem to be peculiar for all the countries. earlier I thought that only developing countries like Kazakhstan might have difficulties connected with lack of computers and access to the Internet. However reserach papers read by you and me show that almost all the problems are similar everwhere. Another challenge is isolation felt by students. Learners feel difficulties in doing tasks by their own,always confusing and failing the assignments.However teachers are also unhappy sometimes.They claim that improvements in learning are impossible without face to face interaction. Additionaly,there are lots of online teachers who feel themselfes neglected and unnecessary. Even though the advantages of online learning overweigh the disadvantages of this mode of learning,we cannot totally get rid traditional learning.


  3. Dear Aizhan,
    Thank you for detaled analysis of all aspects of online learning. I agree with you about the weaknesses and positive sides of online education. Except the above mentioned challenges, there is one more which was not considered, that is foramtive assessment. As a rule students in online courses get mark and feedback, so it is summative assessment. there is a question why formative assessmnet is missed? Majority of students sending their assignmnet are not confident in the appropriate quality of their writing. This can demotivate students, as being isolated, working on your own it can be quite difficult to be on the right path of understanding because everyone accepts the same things differently. This moment should be taken into account to fulfil the lack of face-to-face interaction as with professors so with peers.


  4. Aizhan, well done. You paraphrase and summarize nicely, with a few good direct quotes “sprinkled” in. I found your introduction and conclusion helpful to frame your articles and to focus your purpose.

    A couple grammar notes:

    Your sentence “As some participants reported in the interviews that they can spend a lot of time dealing with technical problems instead of paying particular attention to the course.” isn’t a complete sentence. Words like “as”, “although”, and “while” need two clauses to be used. Change “as” to “This is because” or connect sentences like these to the main clause nearby,

    “Online learning environment” here is similar to the idea of a classroom, and as such needs an article or to be plural. I think your usage throughout the post would be best if they were all made plural.



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