Higher Education Online: Challenges and Solutions

Higher Education Online: Challenges and Solutions

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Receiving a higher education degree online is a rewarding experience, and online education makes those degrees accessible to more students. Many online programs allow students to complete their coursework asynchronously, eliminating the need to gather with others in-person at a particular time. This type of schedule is especially beneficial to work adults and parents. However, like with any higher education program, online programs have drawbacks and advantages. Here are some of the challenges to online higher education and some solutions to help mitigate these challenges.

Higher Education Online

Social Isolation

The traditional, in-person college experience involves meeting other people in classes, residence halls, student organizations, and other on-campus activities. Online learning cuts down on or eliminates most of these opportunities to meet people. Building social skills and making new friends is an important learning activity for many students while in college, acquiring academic skills. A robust social network is correlated with better mental health and educational outcomes. However, schools can help mitigate this drawback by hosting in-person activities for online students to attend and meet each other if they choose. Professors of online classes can take some time to ask students how their personal lives are going and reach out to struggling students.

Time Management

Managing their time can become an issue for those attending online programs that allow students to watch lectures, review materials, and study during hours that work with their schedule. This flexible schedule is great for self-motivated students, but those who are not used to managing their own time may find themselves struggling. One way professors can help students overcome this obstacle is by providing detailed syllabi with suggested goals and timeframes for knowing specific course material. Assigning projects where students collaborate can also help serve as motivation.


It is easy to observe whether a student is peering over someone’s shoulder to see answers in a traditional classroom or is using their phone during an exam. Being aware of cheating is more complicated for online classes and exams. Unless students are required to have their cameras on during exams, it is difficult, if not impossible, to tell whether or not a student is cheating while completing a test from their own home. However, institutions can purchase anti-cheat software to help reduce cheating. Professors can also utilize essay questions and other methods that evaluate critical thinking, making it more difficult to simply look up answers online.

Lack of Access to Technology

While online education can make learning more accessible to many people, some people cannot afford a computer or lack wi-fi at home. Lacking these technologies can make online classes difficult. Schools can help by providing laptops to rent and ensuring that online students have the same access to on-campus libraries as traditional students.

These are some of the challenges encountered with online higher education, with some solutions that can help eliminate those challenges. Hopefully, anyone who wants an online education can receive one with as few obstacles as possible.

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