Find your portal

8 Barriers to learning in online courses and what to do about them

As a course creator, you know just how much time and effort it takes to create the perfect learning resource for your learners. After spending countless hours doing research, writing engaging content, and designing visuals, the last thing you want to encounter are barriers that make learning challenging. 

At some point in our lives, we’ve all faced them. Remember that boring class in school? That class you failed because it just seemed impossible? Moreover, as people age, these barriers to learning don’t simply disappear. It’s important to understand them, especially if your learners are adults who don’t respond to the same motivational incentives as a younger person. 

Read on to learn what these barriers are and how you can overcome them in your courses. 

What are barriers to learning? 

A learning barrier is any factor that prevents learners from being fully focused on the online course or other learning programs. When such barriers get in the way of completing a course, people often feel frustrated as they cannot reach their goals. As a result, their interest in the course drops, and they are more likely to drop out. 

Learning barriers can take many forms, but they generally fall into broad categories: external or internal. 

  • External factors include learners’ busy lifestyles, low access to technology or internet to follow the course, a noisy or unproductive environment and other distractions. For example, they could be tempted to checkTikTok instead of finishing a module; 
  • Internal factors are related to their mindset and previous experiences. For example, a learner with low self-efficacy may lack the confidence to finish a course since they abandoned many online courses in the past. 

Although it’s impossible to eliminate all of these distractions, it’s important to ensure that your learners get an enjoyable experience while taking your online courses. 

What you can do about barriers to learning in online courses

It’s fairly easy to predict barriers to learning in the educational world. However, things get trickier when you’re a knowledge entrepreneur who has limited interaction with learners, if at all. 

It might be challenging to guess the barriers to learning, but we’ll go through the most common ones and give you a few pointers on how to overcome them. 

  1. Motivation 

    This is one of the most common barriers to learning, no matter what learning stage they’re at. If learners are not motivated enough, they’ll do the bare minimum and most likely abandon your course after a while. In turn, this might also demotivate you to continue sharing your knowledge online. 

    You might notice that your learners are either not completing their courses or just clicking through them. 

    The top reason why learners might feel unmotivated is a lack of clear learning goals. 

    Solution: When creating the course, try to set clear learning goals to help your learners stay focused and understand why they should prioritize learning. It’s easier to motivate learners to complete their online courses if they see an overall goal, but even a smaller one can have the same effect. Another way of motivating learning is through rewards. You can do this by gamifying your course in your learning management system (LMS). For example, every time your learners complete a section of a course or enroll in another one, they get points and badges, making learning more interesting and fun.

    Read more: Why you should consider gamifying your online course

  2. Lack of previous knowledge 

    To master a certain topic or concept, it’s important to go through all steps. Learning comes in stages, which is what your learners expect from your course. 

    Although you’re already familiar with the basics of your online course, you need to bear in mind that your learners might not know them. It is frustrating to read about concepts you have no clue about, but it can also become a real barrier to learning. 

    Solution: To ensure that your course stays consistent, you need to plan it. Include basic concepts and walk your learners through more complex details. This is easy to achieve with a learning sequence in your LMS. You can string together learning materials that start with the most basic concepts and gradually make them more specific yet easy to understand. 

  3. Lack of technical skills 

    Not every adult learner is tech-savvy or knows their way around a learning platform by default.  This can be frustrating, especially if your learners are not patient enough to explore the platform and take it as a learning opportunity in itself. 

    Instead of assuming that everyone knows or is willing to spend time navigating your website, it’s good to think of solutions. Don’t forget that your courses are accessible to anyone on the internet and they usually buy before they can experience the whole course, so they need to get their money’s worth. 

    Solution: Start by creating a quick and easy-to-follow tutorial on how to go through the course and complete certain actions such as sending messages in the LMS or purchasing another course. Learners who are not so keen on the fully-online experience will appreciate the effort you put in to ensure that they get a comfortable experience. 

  4. Learning challenges 

    People have different preferences for learning and different ways in which they pay attention. Different attention capabilities are caused by brain differences. Based on 2019 statistics, over 26.5 million individuals in the US have attention issues

    Learning differences play a big role in people's lives. You want everyone to feel comfortable and able to navigate your online courses. Therefore, you need to choose a learning platform that is accessible and easy to customize for these types of needs. 

    Solution: When creating your courses, remove all obstacles that might get in the way of learning efficiently. If you know that your learners require accessibility features, make sure to enable them in advance or let them know how to do that. Another idea would be to include subtitles in your videos and steer clear of flashy images. At the same time, you can always get in touch with them and see what would improve their experience even more. 

    Read more: How to design accessible learning content with your LMS

  5. Course format 

    Most online learning happens in a self-paced environment. Your learners purchase your course and start going through the modules one by one. Even though they get the freedom to do so at their own pace, clicking through endless pages of text could be a bit boring for some people. 

    Using an LMS is a great opportunity to include different types of media in your courses and ensure that they are engaging, informative, and easy to understand. Adding a couple of video modules here and there will work just as well. Bonus points if you record them yourself. 

    Solution: PowerPoint presentations might be a thing of the past, but that doesn’t mean you can’t vary formats in your online course. More so, including images helps your learners understand the concepts you’re presenting much quicker. Occasional webinars that you host on Zoom have the same effect, as learners are able to interact with you in real-time and ask questions. 

  6. Negative past experiences 

    As previously mentioned, we all had some bad experiences with learning at some point in our lives. 

    Consequently, many of your learners have had some sort of negative experience, so it’s important to be careful of those and help them overcome them. Although you cannot change the past, there are ways to identify those issues and address them. 

    Solution: Create a comfortable and safe environment where learners can express their concerns before and during taking the course. Only because you’re not physically present with them the moment they enroll in your course, that doesn’t mean they don’t need guidance. Create and maintain a connection and check in with them regularly. You can do so by using the chat or messaging function available in the LMS. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness while you’ll get feedback from where it matters most. 

    Read more: 9 Tips on how to build a learning community using LMS tools

  7. Boredom

    Let’s face it, we all have taken courses that were less engaging than others. Although there are topics that are not so fun, the information that you present can have a positive impact on your learners and keep them interested in your course.  

    Boredom is learning’s biggest enemy. While it’s impossible to control all factors that make people bored while taking online courses, you can still try a few tricks that will increase learner participation

    Solution: Few people like reading countless pages when trying to learn a new topic. Therefore, you could divide that information into different sections. Since not everyone has a lot of time on their hands, it would also be good to include a few smaller modules focused on particular definitions. Also, allow learners to skip some modules if they feel like they know the information already and ensure that the course is the right length

  8. Lack of interaction 

    Another challenge that many learners face when taking online courses is a sense of isolation. No matter how nice it is to be able to learn from the comfort of your own home, there are instances where you’d rather be surrounded by other learners and ask them questions directly. 

    Of course, some people choose this learning method precisely because of this aspect, but it’s good to cover all needs and preferences.

    Solution: Make sure to check up on your learners regularly. Ask them how they are getting on with their learning and let them know that they can message you for further clarifications. You can also create groups in your LMS where learners can chat. Forums are just as effective especially since you can provide a topic for them to discuss.  

Breaking down barriers to learning

There are many barriers to learning that can get in the way of a seamless experience while learners are exploring your online courses. When thinking about the next online course you want to design, take the time to understand your audience and their learning hurdles.  

Additionally, your LMS helps you present the information in a logical flow, has engaging features such as gamification, and enables you to create a sense of community. 

f-image t-image pin-image lin-image