February 6, 2019

Online learning challenges and how to overcome them

We have seen rapid growth in online learning, with more and more e-learning courses and webinars available. Free learning has also been given a big boost from countless YouTube video tutorials that are readily available. Learning is becoming more accessible for everyone, and we can no longer make excuses not to learn.

Online learning offers other advantages in terms of accessibility. It allows you to learn at your own time and pace, and to revisit the content whenever you need to review certain things.

While self-pacing and the ability to return for review are enough to get me into online learning, it has its downsides. Today, we’re going to look at some of those problems based on my personal observations, and discuss how we can overcome them.

The first problem is that making the adjustment to online learning can be difficult for many people. Most of us are used to learning in physical space such as a classroom, library or even co-working space. Online learning may be accessed anywhere but you may find some difficulty in getting used to this.

One of the biggest challenges is that most online learning is one-way communication. There’s no interaction between learner and teacher. The experience will be very different and that transition can be difficult for many learners.

The second problem with online learning is motivation. In my own experience, some online learning courses can get boring, while some can be difficult to get started with. The most difficult thing is that there are no peers or teachers who can motivate you to keep going.

Without motivation from peers or teachers, we come to the third problem: the risk of isolation. While online learning is great at an individual level for its self-paced approach, it physically isolates you from other learners.

The problem with physical isolation is that there is no direct knowledge sharing. There may be forums and online communities related to the topic you are pursuing, but sometimes these are not as active as you’d like them to be.

The fourth problem is that the huge array of choices. There are so many websites nowadays offering a vast amount of online courses with the same topics and similar content. How are you able to figure out which one is right for you?

Figuring out what would be right for you involves many different factors. For one, the type of teaching style should be considered. Your level of knowledge on the topic is another factor. We should always strive to be beginners when learning, but there are some subjects you may be better versed in than others. This is where you have to consider whether the content is right for you or not.

With the clutter of content and online courses, we come to the fifth and final problem — the chance of running into outdated content is high. You may look at a course on a website and start to wonder when was the last time anyone updated it.

To overcome these issues with online learning, the best approach is to mix and match your approaches. This means that rather than relying on online learning for your transformation, instead mix online learning, classroom settings, reading, and even events and networking. This is where blended learning comes in.

Blended learning or personalised learning is not only a great approach to overcome the problems we may face with online learning, but it also helps in your transition to online learning with the support of teachers and the learning community.

Furthermore, with the help of teachers or facilitators and the learning community, you can gain the right support and advice to reduce content clutter. You’ll also be able to keep up to date on the content.

Online learning has been an amazing advancement. I find it extremely useful because of the time constraints I face with business on a daily basis. Not all of the above observations may relate to you, or there might be other problems you have faced with online learning that I have not listed. The point is, even though it isn’t perfect, it is an amazing addition to our learning and towards our transformation for tomorrow.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@new.seasiacenter.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa