5 Challenges of Online Learning — And How To Overcome Them

Whether you’ve recently transitioned to online training, thinking of doing so, or have just introduced a new LMS, one thing is for sure: tech could make or break your training program.

Remote training offers an elegant solution for an effective training strategy. But the challenges of online learning can sometimes create barriers to implementing it effectively. The good news is that when you understand the issues, you can address them.

In this article, we’ll talk about the promises of online training. We’ll also discuss the potential pitfalls and give you tips for how to overcome them. Before we dive into problems and solutions, though, let’s take a look at why online training is both a helpful tool and a potential source of difficulties.

The paradox of online training

Although tech presents a powerful fix for common training problems, it can also create some new obstacles. You need to consider these as you weigh the pros and cons of online training.

Remote training has clear advantages when you’re working with a remote workforce. It’s cost-effective and scalable—you can offer it to every employee, no matter your organization’s size or learners’ locations. It also makes it easy to update and roll out material quickly. When you need to update your workforce on policy changes or new product information, you can do so almost instantly.

But what about employees who don’t have updated technology at their disposal? Or have a hard time engaging in a virtual environment? What if they’re intimidated by technology and hesitant to log on at all?

To successfully implement online learning, you need to plan for and overcome the most prevalent online training challenges.

5 challenges of online learning — and how to overcome them

Here are five stumbling blocks that sometimes come up with online learning. Let’s take a look at the problems, but also the fixes that will help you overcome them.

1. Technical issues

Learners may not have access to the resources they need to log in and complete remote learning. If they’re working from home, they may be on an older operating system than your in-office computers. Or, they may have low-bandwidth internet with a spotty connection.

How to solve it: Build your training with technical capabilities in mind. Don’t use huge media files if you can downsize them. Simplify loading times by keeping content concise.

You can also help people overcome technical hiccups by providing constant, easy-to-access support. Build a troubleshooting guide into your help features, along with a number to call or a chat button to click for more specific questions. Help people have a smooth training experience by planning ways to overcome technical issues.

2. Lack of interaction

Learning from home is convenient, but it can also be isolating. Remote workers often report feeling isolated already, and spending more time alone in front of a screen can get in the way of productive learning.

How to solve it: Engage learners in a social learning environment by providing opportunities to interact with others. For example, require peer reviews of projects and assignments. Set up a project where the participants work together outside the course to apply what they’ve learned.

Or, periodically invite learners to contribute to a forum or question board. Making learners feel like they’re not alone in their learning journey will help them be more motivated to log on.

3. Online distractions

All too often, users’ experience with online learning is sitting passively, reading text on a screen, or listening to a lecture. When employees don’t have to interact with the content, they lose interest. Soon they’re sidetracked with online chats, cleaning out their inbox, or general tab surfing.

How to solve it: Make training engaging for learners through dynamic learning design. You can also draw learners in by giving them opportunities to interact with the screen.

Include tests and quizzes that require a response. When you get people physically and mentally interacting with the training, it will be much easier for them to engage with the content.

4. Disabilities and special needs

Some learners may have trouble with online training due to various disabilities or learning difficulties. For example, those with hearing or sight impairment will need help navigating self-paced learning.

How to solve it: Take a good look at your content to see if it’s accessible to everyone. How could you improve usability for certain needs?

For example, make sure you provide alternate options like keyboard shortcuts for point-and-click exercises. Also, add captions to your video and audio resources. And include voice-over descriptions of text and graphics.

When you make courses accessible, you show employees that learning is for everyone.

5. Poor digital literacy

Some learners aren’t up to speed with the latest technology. This can be frustrating for them at best, and can completely derail their training experience at worst.

How to solve it: The key is to make logging on and navigating the training as seamless as possible. Make sure your training LMS and user interface are intuitive to use. Make it clear on every screen how learners should interact with it and where they should go next.

Don’t leave anything up to chance—including where to turn when questions come up. Make sure employees know how to access your help when questions arise.

How to win over tech-resistant employees

Even when you’ve done everything right in addressing the above challenges of online learning, you may still face the problem of tech-resistant employees. These may be learners who aren’t familiar with the tech you’re using, or who don’t feel highly motivated to use one more tool (aka your training platform).

Whatever the reason, they’re reluctant to engage with online training. Your job is not only to get them to log on but also to provide them with a good learning experience. Here are some tips for motivating these learners to participate without feeling obliged.

Consider going mobile

Most people today are adept at navigating their smartphones. So why not support the technology they already know and love?

You can help meet people where they are by making sure your LMS is mobile-friendly. Employees are much more likely to log in to training when it’s convenient. And what’s more convenient than having portable access in your pocket? Design your training to work on the go and give learners the option to go mobile.

Present just-in-time, “bite-sized” learning

Longer training sessions can be demotivating. They take people away from their jobs. They often contain lots of content, which can feel overwhelming and make it hard to retain everything.

Instead, try breaking lessons into short, digestible chunks. Make each only a few minutes long and focus it on one topic. Learners will be more likely to give it a try when they know it’ll be quick and to the point.

Make it fun

A little bit of friendly competition can sometimes go a long way toward motivating employees to engage—even those who are reluctant at first. With online learning, it’s easy to add gamification to your training. Use existing LMS features to introduce elements of fun that keep people coming back.

For example, put up leaderboards so learners can compare their progress with their colleagues’. Offer awards, points, and badges for completing lessons or finishing projects. Employees report that they’re more willing to spend time using software that’s been gamified. Help people who want to log on by adding a sense of play to your training.

Ask for and implement feedback

There are lots of reasons people may be wary about using tech-heavy online training. The best way to find and address any concerns you’re not aware of is to simply ask.

Reach out to employees during and after their training to gather feedback and discuss challenges. A good LMS makes it easy to modify content or integrate new features quickly. Take advantage of that to make improvements based on the feedback you receive.

When employees feel like they have a hand in improving their own learning experience, they’ll be more motivated to engage.

Engaging learners with online training

Online training is a convenient and effective way to help all your employees experience employee development. But investing in training technology alone is not enough. You need to make sure that people actually use and learn through the tech. And that means addressing any challenges that technology presents.

Building training that is easy to navigate, engaging, and accessible to everyone is crucial to supporting your learning strategy. And a strong learning strategy builds a strong organization.


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