Online learning has come a long way, thanks to the acceleration of technology. While technology made it easier to host virtual classes, most online courses are still taught asynchronously. Today, you can learn just about anything from your dining room table. 

If you’re looking to upskill and expand your professional prospects, you might choose online courses for any of the following benefits:

Despite these benefits, online classes have some unique challenges compared to traditional, in-person courses. Below we’re going to share 3 of the most common challenges online learners face and tips to overcome them.

Table of Contents

What common challenges do online learners face?

What can you do to overcome these 3 common challenges to online learning?

What’s next?

What common challenges do online learners face?

  1. Distractions – When learning online, it’s easy to get distracted by social media, watching TV shows, your family or roommates, and more. You might be more tempted to do other things besides study without an instructor or classmates in the same room as you. 
  2. Self-motivation – Learning online requires a lot of self-motivation. You must create your study schedule, keep to deadlines, set goals, and more. Online classes can invite procrastination. It is easy to let all your work pile up until the end if you don’t have regular class meetings to keep you accountable and engaged. 
  3. Lack of community – Online classes don’t build community in the same way as in-person classes might. You will have classmates, but you likely won’t have the option of going to the library with them after class or doing group projects. However, you can still benefit from studying with others, even in an online class. It just requires some more creativity. 

What can you do to overcome these 3 common challenges to online learning?

We recognize that online learning presents a real set of challenges. That’s why in addition to offering an abundance of resources, our success coaches have come up with strategies for overcoming the 3 most common challenges associated with learning online. Let’s start with how to eliminate distractions. 

How can I  eliminate distractions when learning online? 

Let’s first tackle online distractions. Physically being in a classroom usually gets us in the mindset to learn, but online learners don’t have that luxury. Here are a few tips for setting up your environment to get in a learning mindset! 

Reduce distractions by: 

  1. Wearing headphones. ????
  2. Listening to white noise or study music. ????
  3. Turning off or putting your phone on silent and out of sight. ????
  4. Blocking distracting sites using tools like the StayFocusd Chrome extension.

We recognize that you might not be able to do all of these things, but hopefully, you can draw one or two takeaways here. 

eliminating distractions when studying

What are the best ways to stay motivated while learning online? 

Next, let’s consider tools to motivate yourself, which can be a challenging part of online learning. 

One suggestion that students find helpful is to choose a regular start time for class, like 8 pm Tuesdays -Thursdays. Think of class time as an appointment you need to attend!

Another suggestion is to set a goal for each online learning session. Like in-person classes often have agendas and clear goals, you might aim to complete Section 2 by the end of a session. By setting a goal at the beginning of your session, you spend your time more productively (and know when to call it a day!). 

Another time management technique mimics a class’s focus time/ break time is the Pomodoro technique, which uses a timer to block out 25 minutes of focus time, alternating with 5 minutes of break time. Many free tools, including the Tomato Timer, can help you with this.

For more time management tips, check out: 7 Time management tips for online learners

How can I build an online community with my classmates?

Finally, let’s think about creative ways that you can build community in your online learning experience. 

One of the best parts of in-person classroom learning is connecting with peers, which can be more challenging in an online environment. A couple of ways to recreate that experience are: 

  1. Attend office hours. If your online certificate program sets aside time each week or twice a month for office hours, attend. Why? You can get assistance with your questions and use this as an opportunity to meet your classmates or instructors virtually. 
  2. Use technology to troubleshoot together. Pathstream offers access to an online platform for some of our programs. The platform facilitates interaction among students and instructors to work through coursework problems. Ask about the forums and resources students can access if a sense of community is important to you. 
  3. Start a virtual study group. Our success coaches are happy to connect students over email so that they can encourage and motivate each other. If you’re looking to enroll in an online program or are already registered — ask your success coaches if there is any way to connect with others in your class to start an online study group. If you can’t find study partners from class, use an app like Focusmate. Focusmate lets you find an accountability partner to study/work with over a video call. You may not be studying the same material, but by creating that “classmate in the same room environment,” you’ll keep each other motivated. 
  4. Take the course with a coworker. If you ask around at work, you might find that a coworker is interested in developing new skills. Or your company may introduce new software they expect employees to be well-versed in. Employees want to learn the right skills to use this new software. Either way, enrolling in a program with a coworker makes you no longer feel alone. It’s another way to keep yourself accountable, and it always helps to troubleshoot with people you already know and see in person at work. 

building an online community


Still, searching for the best online certificate program?

Pathstream partners with leading universities such as NYU and Harvard to deliver certificate programs for working professionals. 

Our programs help you upskill to move further on your current career path. 

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