What are the pitfalls and strengths of online learning? When we venture into the online world of information, it is first and foremost a world of information. While there is obviously lots to learn, how to learn, how to stay focussed, how to be inspired and engaged does not venture off of the page to assist the learner.
I am an advocate of the importance of having a mentor, a teacher or a guide. I have often mused that in learning it is the style, not the facts that matter. So, it is no surprise to me to hear that while the initial response to online learning was so positive - finally anyone could learn anything, we thought. It is now becoming clear that the emotional and the personal skills that you bring to this informational abundance is critical.
We learn, first and foremost, as we always have. That is some people are good at it, and some are not. People have learned how to learn within their environment, their culture, and from within a family. People live up, or down, to the expectations that they have developed throughout their lives. People have tendencies, habits, skills, challenges, hopes, dreams, limits, blind-spots, and an infinite variety of factors that either bouy them along, or hold them back.
All of these factors are present when one ventures online to learn something. Be aware of the habits and history that you, and your students carry along. To the extent possible, design curriculum with these limits in mind, for your students will certainly approach material with these constraints engaged.
Perhaps the notion of a blended classroom is appropriate; use online to organize and hold vast amounts of material. Use your own skills to inspire, lead, and encourage your students. Assuming that students will lead themselves out of the wilderness alone is folley.