By: Claire Wilson. Last Updated: April 2022


What are the Biggest Challenges of Online Courses?

  1. Motivation – how do you keep motivated.
  2. Accountability – there is nobody looking over your shoulder.
  3. Time Management – you have to plan and stick to your own timetable.
  4. Confidence – it can be easy to fall behind, lose confidence and drop out.
  5. Lacking technical skills – you need some (but not too much) technical ability.
  6. Being proactive – when you get stuck on a problem, you need to take charge of the situation and find a solution.
  7. Loneliness – you have far fewer chances for random chats and encounters with your classmates.
  8. Persistence – you have to keep studying even when you don’t feel like it.

There’s no doubt that studying online is a very different experience to studying in a classroom setting.

There are benefits to be sure such as…

  • You can study at a time that suits you
  • You can vary your study schedule each week to match changing work or family commitments
  • You can work at a pace that suits you
  • You don’t have to waste money or time on travel costs, no parking charges and no books to buy

… but there are also challenges associated with it. Before you enroll in an online course, consider how you’d handle these 8 common challenges.

The Biggest Challenges of Online Courses

  1. Motivation– this is typically the biggest challenge people face. They start off extremely enthusiastic but after a week or two, life starts to get in the way and an online course is usually one of the first things to get sidelined. You are the person in charge of your own success here – you need to keep your own motivations clear in your mind so you can keep prioritizing study when your initial enthusiasm subsides.
  2. Accountability – many people struggle with keeping themselves accountable when there’s no one standing at the front of the room, leading a class and taking a register. It can be a little too easy to let yourself off with missing a planned study session or constantly pushing back your schedule.
  3. Time Management – there’s not a timetable telling you to be in a certain place at a certain time, some people find it difficult to plan it out for themseleves and then stick to it.
  4. Confidence – if you don’t understand something or you’re struggling with any aspect your course, you’re going to have to have the confidence to speak up.
  5. Lacking technical skills – this can be a big one. You don’t need a lot of technical ability to follow an online course but the bits you do need, you REALLY need. If you’re in any doubt, we’ve dedicated a whole post to outlining the technical skills you need to study online.
  6. Being proactive – our online courses are not designed for fresh graduates. They are designed for people with significant work experience. The result of this is that they are not a course that spoon-feeds you every single detail. You will absolutely be given all the information you need but, for example, sometimes there will be acronyms used. If you don’t know one, you’ll have to Google it. You’ll also have to take initiative to do further reading and consolidation if you don’t understand something the first time around.
  7. Loneliness – some people can find studying online quite a lonely experience. If you’d be one of them, you’ll need to find a way to balance that with social time elsewhere. Other people find it an advantage that they can sit in a room all by themselves with no classmates to distract them!
  8. Persistence – we all get bad days. Maybe you didn’t do quite as well as you were hoping in an assignment; maybe you find a detail that you just can’t seem to make sense of, or maybe you’re just fed up. When you’re an online student, YOU are the person responsible for getting yourself out of these slumps. Perhaps all that means is picking up the phone or emailing your course advisor, but that’s still your responsibility to do when things are seeming a little tough.

So what are some immediate steps you could take to overcome these challenges and to help radically improve your learning when taking an online course?

First check out this Google talk video on “Learning How to Learn” by Dr Barbara Oakley where she covers the following.

  • What are the most effective techniques to learn?
  • How can we make the best use of our precious time and not waste our efforts.
  • And what strategies and techniques do I need to avoid to make the best use of my time?
  • What works best?

You could also check out this free course on Coursera on “Learning How to Learn by Dr Oakley and her colleague Dr Terrence Sejnowski. It has over 2M enrollments and is one of the highest rate and most successful online courses of all time.

How We’ll Help You Beat These Challenges

At GetReskilled, we’ve done what we can to reduce the impact these common challenges have on our trainees. Some of the steps we’ve taken include:

  • We give you a designated course coordinator who acts as your sole point of contact for any queries you might have – you’ll come to know them well over the duration of your course.
  • They are also who you can contact if you feel like you’re struggling – you are never alone in this process.
  • Our course content is released one week at a time so you will have regular ongoing contact with your course advisor and you shouldn’t ever feel overwhelmed at the tasks in front of you.
  • We can see when you log in and when you complete assignments. We check this every week, for every trainee. If you fall behind, we notice. Your course coordinator will reach out via email (or sometimes by phone) to discuss your progress and any difficulties you might be having.
  • There is a discussion forum for every class. You can chat with other trainees who are at exactly the same point as you in the course, sharing ideas and best practice. This forum is monitored by a lecturer so if there are any technical points of difficulty, they can jump in and help to explain. But other than that, the forum is all yours.
  • Depending on the course you take, there may also be a one-off, one-day lab practical element. This is also a great opportunity for you to meet other trainees and discuss the course.
  • Most importantly, we’ll always treat you like an individual. We genuinely care about the progress of each and every trainee in our programmes. We want to see them all succeed. This is why, whatever your query or difficulty, we’re there to help you on your way.

Even with the challenges of online study, our courses have a 92% completion rate and 85% of learners would recommend us to a friend.

So yes, it can be tricky and it’s not for everyone. But we’re confident that if you’re aware of the challenges of online study when you sign up, we can help you beat every single one of them.

About the Author

Image with Claire Wilison from GetReskilled Team

Claire Wilson

Content Marketing and Career Coaching

Claire runs GetReskilled’s Advanced Career Coaching Programme – our specially devised job hunting course that helps our trainees take that final step into employment by leading them through the job hunting process. She is extremely enthusiastic about helping people reach their final goal of employment in their new career path.

Claire has a BSc (Hons) in Medical Biology from Edinburgh University and spent 7 years working in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.