Several technological issues can undermine the effectiveness of distance learning. For one thing, students report feelings of isolation and alienation. Having a “correspondence course” means being part of a larger school community, whereas a distance student is not necessarily part of a larger school community. Still, students report feeling less isolated than traditional students, who rely on social networks and school-based interaction for their social lives.
Another problem facing open distance learners is the loss of social interaction. The absence of social interaction is a major setback in the learning process. Students who were used to attending physical classrooms may have a difficult time adapting to the virtual environment. Additionally, students may experience difficulties concentrating and adhering to study schedules. Furthermore, distance learning may be difficult for people who are kinesthetic, tactile, and auditory learners. For these reasons, open distance learning may not be the best option.
Teachers’ attitudes towards distance learning are also a major obstacle. Lack of proper training, instructor attitudes, and technological difficulties can prevent the quality of instruction. A 1999 study by Elliot Inman and Michael Kerwin found that instructors’ attitudes toward distance learning were ambivalent, with a majority of instructors expressing a preference for classroom teaching while rated the quality of courses delivered through distance education as lower. While technology may provide students with a convenient and flexible format, teachers must be taught how to use the technology.
The difficulties faced by distance learners include lack of teacher contact, motivation, and feedback. In addition, students have to deal with a lag in communication, which creates a significant barrier to learning. In order to maximize the potential of distance learning, instructors must be available to students in person. In addition to the issues mentioned above, distance learners face financial costs, family life disruption, and personal problems. A lack of support from employers and other institutions is also a major hindrance to effective learning.