Learning Forward: The Challenges of eLearning

By Shneay Kazan, Learning Specialist, CHA Learning

My last post talked about the benefits of eLearning. eLearning’s “just-in-time” (learning when there’s a need to learn) flexibility makes it a great choice for continuing your education. However, learning online is not without its challenges. Let’s take a look at some of the most common problems faced by learners in eLearning and some suggestions on how to overcome them.

It requires motivation

Motivation is a major driving force of success. Take a moment to think about why you’ve enrolled (or are thinking about enrolling) in one of CHA Learning’s courses. Do you….

  • want to learn more about a certain field or topic because you are interested in it?
  • want a certification that will allow you to move forward in your career?
  • …or maybe a bit of both?

The above describes two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. “Intrinsic” motivation is internal, meaning a person is engaging in an activity because they find it personally rewarding. “Extrinsic” motivation is external, meaning a person is motivated to perform to earn a reward that would come from outside (e.g. money, title, praise). Due to its relatively isolated nature (more on that later) and its emphasis on self-direction, eLearning requires a great deal of personal and intrinsic motivation in order to succeed.

So, how do you stay motivated? Remember, motivation means different things to different people, so it’s important to first take a moment to establish the type of motivation that is driving you and set out clear goals. Don’t just ask yourself “Why am I doing this?” but, importantly, ask yourself: What do I want to get out of this course or program? What do I need to do to get there? Who can I lean on for support? Remember your answers as you work through your studies.

Here are some other tips to help you stay motivated:

  1. Connect with your classmates: Accountability is a powerful tool. Connecting with other learners will help keep both of you on track.
  2. Build your community: Call upon friends, family, colleagues, and mentors to support you in your learning and help to keep you on track.
  3. Limit your distractions: Without the benefit of a dedicated classroom, your work goes where you go. If you find it hard to focus in a coffee shop or at your kitchen table, try to go somewhere quieter where you can better focus on your studies.
  4. Know your obstacles: Recognizing internal (“I don’t work well past 8 pm.”) and external (“I have three assignments due on the same day!”) hurdles to learning will help to alleviate the stress when the time comes.
  5. Set goals: Know what your deadlines are and when you need to achieve them. Consider creating a study plan to keep yourself on track. This is a basic document that outlines when you aim to complete certain course elements. This still gives you the flexibility to complete your work when you want, but also provides some structure to help guide you towards your goals.
  6. Set milestones: Celebrate all achievements (both great and small) along with the way with your community.
  7. Treat yourself: It seems simple, but something as small rewarding yourself to a new shirt or your favourite meal after completing a course can be all the motivation you need to move forward.

It makes us feel less tech-savvy

By definition, eLearning requires the use of technology to assist in acquiring knowledge. With the rise of technology, most of us feel like we have some degree of competency online. But how many of us spend our time learning online? Turns out, only 12% of Canadians reported online courses/training/education as one of their online activities. When they do get online, 20% report becoming frustrated by the technology and 18% get frustrated when they can’t take courses on their device of choice. What these statistics tell me as a learning specialist is that when Canadians do get online to take a course, there might be some technological hurdles to overcome or another element to learn.

The solution, therefore, isn’t something that can come from you as a learner, but from us as learning providers. A good online course developer will have considered that not everyone has the same level of experience or comfort with technology. At CHA Learning, we do our best to set expectations about the technology used, provide clear instructions on how to use it where required, offer demonstrations and instructional videos, and make ourselves available for any questions you might have.

It’s lonely

One of the benefits of eLearning is the flexibility of anytime, anywhere learning. However, that benefit can lead to a major drawback: Isolation. Working across time zones can make learners feel like they are alone in their studies, instead of being part of a community. This is especially true in asynchronous learning environments, where learners and faculty are not required to be online at the same time.

In order to foster a sense of community, CHA Learning has worked to provide you with different opportunities to engage with your peers and faculty members, including:

  • Forums: All of our courses include discussion forums so you can discuss course content, ask your faculty questions, or just to get to know others in your program.
  • Webinars: Many of our programs also include a webinar component. Engage with the experts, chat with other participants, participate in quizzes and much more.
  • Social media: You might not think “Facebook” when you think education, but social media can be a powerful tool for learning. For example, our Twitter feed is embedded in the landing page of the Gateway. Take a moment to scroll through the articles and resources we post there and tweet us your thoughts – you might learn something new!


Like any other form of education, you get out what you put into it. Learning developers, program directors, and faculty do their best to create an effective and engaging learning experience, but you must come online ready, willing, and eager to learn.

What comes next?

Next month’s topic is “What’s Next in eLearning”. Now that we’re familiar with the benefits and challenges of eLearning, let’s turn our eyes forward to what it might look like in the future.

Tell us…

What are your tips to overcoming the challenges of eLearning? Send us an email, connect with us on Facebook, or tell us about it on Twitter @CHA_Learning. You might see your idea in a future post!


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Martin, J. (2009). Developing Course Material for Online Adult Instruction. Merlot Journal of Online Learning, 5(2). Retrieved November 03,2017, http://jolt.merlot.org/vol5no2/martin_0609.htm

Rice, D. W. (2016, September 07). Understanding Motivation as a Driving Force, Tampa Psychology | Rice Psychology Group. Retrieved November 03, 2017, from https://ricepsychology.com/behavior/understanding-motivation-as-a-driving-force/

What People Love & Hate about E‑Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved November 03, 2017, from https://articulate.com/what-people-love-and-hate-about-elearning

Walker, Elsie. “Conquering the Isolation Of The Online Classroom.” ELearning Industry, 3 Nov. 2017, http://elearningindustry.com/conquering-isolation-online-classroom