The Top 5 Challenges Posed by Online Courses (And How to Overcome Them)

By Gemma Creagh - Last update


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Working, learning and maintaining social interactions from home can pose a number of problems for even the most disciplined among us. Add the responsibilities of parenting, homeschooling caring for an elderly relative or financial difficulties on top of this, and it becomes near impossible to keep all those plates spinning. Online, distance, or remote learning courses can pose a very specific set of challenges, and before booking on to any course, it’s important to check that the programme is being delivered in a format that works for you. Here at OnlineCampus.ie, we’ve compiled a list of the most common pitfalls that people starting out on their online training journey face, and how you, the learner, can best overcome them. 

Top 5 Challenges Posed by Online Courses

1. Those Dreaded Technical Issues

In these unprecedented times, people across the globe are finding themselves getting to grips with new ways of doing things and new types of technology – and it’s not always easy! The first thing you need to do before booking on to an online course – is check the requirements. Do you have a decent internet connection that can support the videos? Does your iPad / Laptop / Smart Phone have what’s needed to connect? Does your camera work? Can you get the sound on your device up and running? Are you able to download and run any software that’s required? Only once you are sure you can meet the criteria, do you even think about booking on a course. Then it’s time to arrange a ‘tech check’ with the training provider. This is something you really want to do ahead of the first class, as it can be time consuming, and frankly, embarrassing, struggling to get up and running on a call of 10+ people. If you are still nervous, make sure you have your go-to tech person on standby, be they a neighbour, your child or helpful customer support technician. 

2. Not Enough Time 

Many people when booking on an online course, underestimate the level of commitment it takes. You’re not just signing up for 2 hours on a Thursday, or one Saturday a month, but also a wealth of reading, work, assignments and prep. The misconception with working and studying from home, is that you’re on hand all day, every day to complete any necessary tasks or coursework. However, for those of us struggling to manage full-time hours, parenting, homeschooling, keeping the house tidy, doing those chores for our elderly, cocooned relatives/neighbours, and finding time to catch up on friends further afield on Zoom, we know that this can be a perilous juggling act. And our advice? Schedule, schedule, schedule. We cannot stress this enough, but carve out the times in each day to get your assignments and coursework completed.

3. Procrastination

This is a scourge that effects us all from time to time. And if you’re at home, without the social pressures of being physically in that classroom, it can make it more difficult to push through and get the work done. There are many tips and tricks for managing it, but ultimately, the most important thing you have to do is understand is why your procrastination is rearing its ugly head now with this course – and address it face on.  One of the main reasons can often be fear. It’s very difficult to concentrate on a task if you’re worried about not getting it right, or even about how you’re going to pay the bills. Don’t start berating yourself if you find yourself putting off tasks – that genuinely makes it worse. If you feel your anxiety levels start to rise when you sit down to do that assignment, stop. Breathe. Practice mindfulness. Be kind to yourself and ask for help if you need it. 

4. Hard to Find the Motivation

If motivation and self discipline is something you struggle with in your day-to-day life, then pick the type of course you want to take carefully. A fully self-directed course might not be for you – and that’s perfectly fine. There are many viable, interactive options where you’ll be assigned regular work and must check in weekly with your tutor and/or classmates. Just make sure you do your research ahead of time, and choose something that suits the way you work. When it comes to coursework, if you find yourself lagging behind, accountability is absolutely key. Arranging frequent smaller deadlines or remote ‘study groups’ with the other students on the course is great in combating those times where you’re struggling to get your head in the game.

5. No Guidance or Support

When it comes to online courses, people often have the mistaken impression that every curriculum is made up of webinars or videos, and you are more-or-less left to fend for yourself. This is most certainly not the case with the vast majority of training providers out there. Many courses nowadays are made up of small online group chats scheduled for a time, where a tutor or lecturer presents the course just in the same manner they would if they were in a physical classroom. You can see your classmates on screen via their cameras and you can ask questions at any step of the way. Of those courses that do rely on videos or coursework that you watch remotely on your own time, the vast majority have excellent support, fielded by real people who can answer any questions you have or address any problems you’re facing. Most online training providers foster a community where you can chat to your peers about the course content and what you’re learning; this could be in a breakout session in a zoom chat, or on a forum or slack channel. You are not alone!

When it comes to online training, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the choices available. However, don’t be afraid to dig down and ask questions if you’re unsure about what something will look like.


Gemma Creagh

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