How to Overcome Challenges in Online Learning

Six challenges of online learning and how to overcome them

The COVID-19 pandemic forced a total shift in the way teachers teach and students study. Lectures and seminars could no longer take place in person, so teachers have had to deal with the challenges of teaching virtually. And students have had to overcome the challenges of online learning too.

More than two years on, and some colleges are continuing to offer students the chance to study remotely from anywhere in the world. But remote, virtual learning doesn't come without its challenges.

In this guide we'll take a look at six challenges of online learning for students and provide useful tips to help you overcome them.

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Challenge 1: Staying motivated

Staying motivated when you're studying at home, rather than on campus, can be tough. Without an academic setting and the buzz of other students hard at work, it can be really hard to get into the studying mindset.


Creating a daily schedule and finding a productive workspace can really help. That space might be a designated desk in the corner of your bedroom, a separate home office, your local library, or even a cafe in town.

To keep you really motivated, it can also help to focus on the bigger picture. Why are you studying for this degree? What do you want it to lead to? Write down your reasons for attending school, and keep them at the front of your mind.

It also helps to stay in touch with classmates and academic staff. The more engaged you are with your course, the more motivated you'll feel.

Challenge 2: Distractions everywhere

Studying at home, there are far more distractions than if you were in a lecture hall or your campus library. There's laundry, there's pets, there's social media. Distractions are absolutely everywhere.


Build a schedule, but be realistic and allow time for some distraction. Setting yourself the task of studying for four hours straight is unrealistic -- studies show you should be taking roughly a 15-minute break every hour for the best productivity. In your breaks, allow yourself to be totally distracted. You can even build your most common distractions into your schedule.

Then sit back down and focus again.

If you get distracted by social media or browsing the internet, use tools to limit your access while you're studying.

Challenge 3: Time management

Time management is one of the most common online learning challenges. Without the usual structure of academic life and support from classmates, it can be a struggle to pace yourself and manage your time effectively.


This is where creating a schedule really comes into its own. Make a list of upcoming tasks and deadlines over the course of the semester, then work out realistically how long you need to allocate for each. Set yourself realistic daily and weekly goals, making to-do lists every day and ticking off your tasks as you go along.

To help you keep up, consider asking your professors to record your lectures, then use Transcribe to get a transcription. This will allow you to focus in class, without the distraction of note-taking, and within minutes of the class ending you'll get detailed notes that you can quickly and easily skim-read, search, edit, and refer back to when studying for your exam or writing your thesis.

Find out more about the benefits of academic transcriptions

Challenge 4: Technical issues

From temperamental WiFi to computers that freeze at the most inconvenient moment, technical issues can be a real challenge when you're studying remotely. This might mean you miss important lectures or end up behind schedule.


Unfortunately, technical issues are practically unavoidable in an online learning environment. But they rarely last long, so try to keep calm and avoid panicking.

If your school has technical support services, reach out to them for help. Stay in touch with your professors and let them know what's happening. They might be able to send you a recording of a lecture you've missed, or even extend a deadline if necessary.

Challenge 5: Fewer opportunities to ask questions

In person, it's much quicker and easier to communicate with your professors. If you have a question or you're confused about something, you can get an immediate answer. But in an e-learning environment, it can take longer to receive feedback, which can stunt your progress and performance.


There are a couple of things you can do to overcome this online learning challenge. Take advantage of any opportunities to engage in online lectures and seminars. Don't be shy to ask questions while dialled in.

You could also ask your professor for a regular 1:1, or to jump on a video call with you so that you can replicate the in-person experience from afar.

Alternatively, you could rely on your peers. See if your classmates can help with your query, and consider peer reviewing one another's work so that you know you're on the right track.

Challenge 6: Fewer social interactions

That leads us nicely on to the last in our list of online learning challenges: fewer social interactions. In a traditional academic environment, there are loads of opportunities for social interaction and building connections. This camaraderie boosts morale and gives students a sense of solidarity and a common goal. But with remote learning, these interactions are fewer, relationships are harder to build, and you can feel isolated in your studies.


Don't suffer in silence! Most degree programs -- even those carried out virtually -- have plenty of opportunity for social interaction. It's important to put yourself out there and create bonds with your peers, even though it can be scary to be the first one to reach out.

Try joining a study group -- or set one up yourself if there isn't one already. Make the most of instant messaging services to stay in touch with your classmates, and use each other for moral support and encouragement, just like you would in person.

Final thoughts

Online learning is an altogether different experience to traditional, in-person study, but don't forget about the benefits of studying through distance learning! The flexibility is far better, you can study from virtually anywhere in the world, you'll be working alongside students from all different walks of life, and the overall cost can be much more affordable too.

If you'd like to see how Transcribe could help you to overcome the challenges in virtual learning, then download the Transcribe app or online editor and get your first 15 minutes of transcription time for free.

Written By Katie Garrett

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