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7 Biggest Challenges with Online Learning (And How to Overcome Them)

Online learning conquered the world of education in the past two years. There are benefits and challenges that we should be grateful for and need to work on. Today, we will talk about the biggest challenges with online learning. Plus tips and tactics on how to overcome them.

Summary: Online learning conquered the world of education in the past two years. There are benefits and challenges that we should be grateful for and need to work on. Today, we will talk about the biggest challenges with online learning. Plus tips and tactics on how to overcome them.

Everyone transitioned into online learning & work during the pandemic. It was a no-exit game for us because literally, the whole world closed down.

We are not ready for it, especially the teachers and students who changed their mode of learning and teaching in a blink of an eye.

From physical classrooms to virtual classrooms, teachers didn't have a choice but to conduct an ‘emergency online teaching' without proper training.

As a result of this two-year lockdown, there are three major challenges that we're trying to solve.

In recent news, more teachers are quitting, K-12 students, experienced major learning loss in math & reading, and college degrees lost their shine.

On the bright side, online learning paved the way for us to democratize education.

50 years ago, we don't have access to billions of resources like what we have now. Students who want to have a better education need to leave their countries to study at an international university.

Degrees are the currency to look for a job. And education is so expensive. In short, online learning makes education affordable and accessible for everyone.

So to speak, there are still challenges with online learning. Let's identify them with recommended solutions for learners and instructors.

7 Biggest Challenges with Online Learning

1. Too Many Distractions

When we are not physically present, distractions are so visible and more tempting. I guess everyone who is learning, teaching, and even working at home was challenged on how they can shut down the distractions in their environment.

What learners can do:
  • Create your learning environment at home. It doesn't mean you need to be extravagant to do this. A small space where you can think, write, and learn clearly, free from noise and visual distractions can make a huge difference. An orderly space can solve this pressing challenge with online learning.
  • What you can also do is use several productivity techniques such as time-blocking, calendar blocking, and website blocking to get you in extreme focus.
  • If you're living with your family, colleagues, or friends, tell them about your class schedule. So they know when to call, talk or disturb you.
  • Another way is to put your mobile or other gadgets in silent mode and away from you. Try productivity apps such as Forest Grow to make it fun.
What instructors can do:
  • Help your learners to avoid distractions by making the class more interactive, interesting, and engaging.
  • Create a discussion forum where everyone can freely talk about productivity hacks, time management apps, and tips & tricks to better create your learning environment at home.
  • If there's an intense interest in this topic, collaborate with productivity apps & tools to get promotions and discounts for your learners. 

2. Lack of Motivation

The feeling of isolation and the lack of face-to-face interaction can be a downturn in one's motivation when it comes to online learning. This could lead to declining grades and unwillingness to learn. How we can solve this challenge with online learning?

What learners can do:
  • Write your SMART goals. What are your learning goals in taking the class? Another way to do that is to create a list of what motivates you to finish the course. Set your motivation list as wallpaper on your phone or print it out and hang it on the wall. Put it somewhere you can easily see it.
  • Organize your learning space. Design it according to your style, your taste, and your personality to increase motivation and productivity.
  • Build your habits and routine. This is one of the hardest! But once you build it, you will be more than motivated. Then track your habits to see your progress.
What instructors can do:
  • Help your students through the buddy system or match them with an accountability partner in the class. This way, there is someone who will watch over their progress, not just you.
  • Help them through a Personal Development Plan (PDP). What are their learning goals? What do they want to achieve after the course? How will they achieve their goals? You can facilitate a mini-workshop on PDP and track it through coaching sessions.
  • Lastly, organize a 1:1 or group mentoring and coaching session. This will track your student's progress and give them a more handy coaching experience.

3. Feeling of Isolation

Almost everyone in the world reflected in their lives during the pandemic. This huge phenomenon strongly affected our mental health.

As a result, the feeling of isolation and loss of human contact can trigger anxiety and panic attacks. Apparently, it also affected our learning process. Learners are having a hard time focusing when they are anxious.

What learners can do:
  • Find or create your support system. It's much better if you connect with them in person, but of course, an online connection will do. This will help you a lot to overcome the challenges with online learning as you will relate to other people who are having the same issues or experiences that you have.
  • Look for networking opportunities in your school or community. Find those like-minded people, go out with them, and openly discuss issues that affect your anxiety. This can solve your challenge with an online learning experience.
What instructors can do:
  • Create a happy hour where they can talk about anything online or on-site. The more they feel they belong, the more they feel motivated to learn and open themselves to possibilities.
  • Create your #supportgroup channel in your learning community. Happy Hour is the live discussion, while the support channel is your asynchronous communication.

4. The Feeling of Being Left Behind

Instructors sometimes forget that their learners have a different levels of comprehension and knowledge about a certain topic. So what happen is some students felt left out from the others.

As a result, this can be a huge challenge with online learning, especially for huge cohorts. 

What learners can do:
  • Speak up. I know this is hard for some students. But it isn't wrong or humiliating if you don't understand the topic quite well and fast.If you don't speak your voice, the chances are you won't achieve your learning goals. You will waste your time learning a topic by yourself over and over again. So go and ask.
What instructors can do:
  • First, create an assessment. Get to know where your students are in terms of the topic. Understand that not everyone has the same comprehension level and not everyone is good at a certain skill.
  • Organize a review or a refresher class for others who want to relearn the topic or dig deeper into it.
  • Create a survey and populate it at the end of the session. Ask them if they have questions before ending the class or how well they understand the topic. In some cases, an anonymous feedback form works well as some students are really shy to express themselves.

5. Course Structure

Sometimes, the most challenging part of online learning isn't technical or psychological. It's the course structure itself. How engaging is your course? How interesting are your course activities? And how digestible are the topics for your students?

Since this is more of an instructional design problem, let's focus on what instructors can do:

  • Gamify your lessons. Gamification can make the lesson fun, interesting, and engaging. Sometimes, this is the only strategy you need.
  • Use the power of micro-learning to avoid information overload. Chunk your course into modules, modules into lessons in a digestible format.
  • More images than text. Information retains us with images than text alone. Insert more images, videos, and storytelling into your course design.
  • Create mini-workshops and group work to avoid boredom and foster teamwork.

In short, redesign your course curriculum if your course structure doesn't work.

6. Digital Literacy

Not everyone is well-versed in technology. And before diving into online learning, a student should know first how to navigate and use technology. This isn't just a learner's problem, it's also an instructor's problem.

What learners can do:
  • Ask for help. Learn the basics of how to use apps and tools, and how you can navigate your laptop. This should be normalized as not everyone who starts learning online is already techy. Encountering an annoying issue and not knowing how to deal with it can be really discouraging.
  • Schedule your learning session with friends, family members, or co-workers before jumping into your online courses.
What instructors can do:
  • Help your students by creating a list of housekeeping items before the course starts. For example, what apps and tools to use? How they can download and install certain apps that you need for learning.
  • Choose a learning platform that is easy to use and navigate. So the learning curve to learn another tool is not so steep you can focus on what matters—your course lessons. Here's an all-in-one intuitive learning platform to start with.

If you're not well-versed in technical stuff, you can also learn by asking for help, and scheduling a learning session with those people who knows more than you do.

7. Lack of Technical Equipment

Because of the unprecedented shift in online learning, not everyone has the equipment to attend an online class. If you don't have any equipment of your own, what you can do is:

  • Borrow from family and friends. Let them know the schedule or time that you need it.
  • Look for computer shops, libraries, or public places where you can borrow or pay-to-use equipment to join an online class. However, it might be difficult in some instances as you can't control the distractions, and the environment you are in.


Online learning may still have its challenges, but keep in mind what it does so far to our education system. It leads us to solve the pressing challenges in education, continuously disrupts the system, and changes the way we think about it.

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