Biggest Barriers to Digital Learning: Lack of Time, Lack of Devices

The biggest barrier to digital learning for teachers is gaining student access to technology. That's followed by a lack of time during the school day. For administrators, the top concern is providing relevant and effective professional development to their staff, followed by limitations and problems with the technological infrastructure, such as WiFi and security. Overall, across both roles, the main obstacle to integrating technology into the classroom was lack of time and an insufficient number of devices to do so.

Those findings surfaced in a survey undertaken for the first time by education technology company Schoology.

Schoology produces a web-based learning management system with tools for creating content, designing lessons and assessing student learning, primarily used in K-12 environments, but also adopted by higher ed. A free version is available for classroom use; a subscription version is intended for school, district or institutional adoption.

The survey went beyond getting input from Schoology customers. Responses came from 2,846 education professionals specifically in K-12, a quarter of whom were users of the company's online service. Although the response was worldwide, a high volume came from the United States.

Perhaps unsurprisingly (for a survey undertaken by a tech company), almost everybody said digital learning had a positive impact on student achievement (95 percent) and teaching effectiveness (92 percent). However, most of the time, the resources they said they use tend to be "static" — PDFs and Word documents (cited by 90 percent of respondents) and videos (cited by 70 percent). This suggests, the report noted, that institutions "may be digitizing traditional learning instead of enhancing it." Online games came in third, referenced by 42 percent of participants, and publisher content and open educational resources ranked lower (39 percent and 37 percent, respectively).

Teachers and administrators specify their major obstacles to integrating technology into teaching and learning. Source: "The Global State of Digital Learning in K-12 Education," Schoology

Teachers and administrators specify their major obstacles to integrating technology into teaching and learning. Source: "The Global State of Digital Learning in K-12 Education," Schoology

Among other results:

  • Six in 10 respondents (61 percent) work in institutions that have dedicated instructional technologists.
  • The most common hardware set-up is the shared cart of devices. Those are in place at 33 percent of respondent schools. A quarter of respondents run 1-to-1 programs where students can't take devices home; a similar number have 1-to-1s where they can take them home.
  • Not quite half of participating schools (46 percent) have an LMS in place; 20 percent don't; and a solid third (34 percent) don't know. Among those with LMSes, the larger the institution, the less likely they are to mandate LMS use in the classroom. Whereas 39 percent of education entities with 50,000 or more students required LMS use, the share rose to 54 percent in organizations with fewer than 2,000 students.
  • The survey found that frequency of LMS use also corresponded to level of student engagement. The highest proportion of "very engaged" students were found in schools where the LMS was used daily.

The survey also examined instructional approaches that integrate technology. The ones used most by respondents were differentiated instruction (75 percent), blended learning (54 percent), and individualized learning (45 percent). The report pointed out that three biggies that "command the most press" aren't being "practiced as much as one might think." For example, flipped learning was mentioned by 35 percent of participants; personalized learning by 32 percent and gamification by 16 percent. Schoology's thinking: that "these approaches require more time and resources than many of the others."

The complete results, which also cover professional development and the use and types of educator collaboration, are available with registration on the Schoology website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.