Challenges of Distance Learning for Students | National University (2023)

Distance learning enables students to access and engage with quality educational content, all from the comfort and convenience of home. Though COVID-related restrictions will likely begin to relax as the pandemic wanes and vaccination rates rise, it seems unlikely that the e-learning industry, which experienced explosive growth in 2020, will become obsolete in 2021. On the contrary, the virtual education industry had a value of $171 billion in 2019 — that is, prior to the coronavirus pandemic — “and is expected to grow [by] 10.85% by 2025,” according to PR Newswire.

While it’s easy to see both the benefits and relevance of distance education, such as increased flexibility, mobility, and affordability, it’s equally important to acknowledge the potential challenges with distance learning for students. From grade-schoolers to graduate students, e-learners at all age levels must overcome obstacles that are unique to virtual education, such as asynchronous communication and ever-present opportunities for time-wasting distractions. E-learners also face challenges that, while often present in the traditional classroom, can be amplified in a virtual setting, such as delayed or unclear instructor feedback.

As an educator or aspiring teacher, it’s important for you not only to understand and empathize with the challenges of online education for students — but even more critically, to help implement effective solutions. While e-learning may pose certain difficulties for students, it also creates exciting educational opportunities, opening doors for young and adult learners alike. To help your students seize these opportunities, learn about the challenges of online distance learning they face — and what steps you can take as a digital instructor to help your e-learners succeed.

What Are the Challenges of Online Learning for Students?

What are the challenges of distance education for students who attend class online? Here are four virtual learning disadvantages that educators need to be aware of.

Ineffective Time Management

Research has proven that successful “time management is associated with greater academic performance and lower levels of anxiety in students.” Unfortunately, the same research also uncovered that “many students find it hard to find a balance between their studies and their day-to-day lives” — and worse, that ineffective time management was associated with outcomes like “poor sleep patterns” and “increased levels of stress.” Effective time management can be especially difficult in a distance learning environment, where students are challenged to pace themselves — without the support from friends and peers that would help them stay focused in class.

Lack of Instant Communication

In an in-person setting, communication happens instantaneously, making it easy for students to get answers and clarify points of confusion. In an e-learning setting, communication is often asynchronous, which means there’s a gap between teacher and student. It’s easy for misunderstandings to develop in these gaps — sometimes, allowing a problem to snowball before it can be corrected.

(Video) How university students can overcome challenges of pandemic learning

Not Receiving Timely Feedback

Providing feedback is one of the most important and meaningful ways that a teacher engages with a student. When feedback is delayed by additional days or weeks because of an online format, students can become confused or uncertain about your expectations, their progress, and their performance in your class.

Not Receiving Clear Instructions or Expectations

It’s always crucial to set clear expectations for students. Otherwise, they can only guess at whether they’re performing tasks and projects correctly. While setting clear standards is a challenge in any classroom, asynchronous communication can make it a greater obstacle.

Now that we’ve explored the challenges of online learning for students, let’s focus on something even more important: how to overcome them.

4 Practical Solutions to Distance Learning Problems for Students

Fortunately, it’s possible for educators to mitigate distance education issues and challenges for students. Here are four steps that teachers can take to help position e-learners for greater success in the virtual classroom.

Effective time management is a fundamental skill for distance learners. Encourage your students to take advantage of the numerous time management apps and resources that are available to e-learners — many of them for free. For example, National University offers a comprehensive suite of time management resources for students, including daily planner worksheets, infographics, links to apps, helpful time management tips, and even a time management calculator.

Education experts also recommend periodically surveying your students, which provides you with actionable insights into how your students allocate their time toward various tasks. Once you identify the trouble spots that are slowing your students down, you can offer them tailored guidance — especially if you notice patterns emerging in your survey data.


Utilize Educational Technology (“EdTech”)

Just because communication occurs over the internet doesn’t mean it has to be lagged or asynchronous. In fact, there are countless tools — many of them free to use — to help students and teachers communicate in real-time. For example, you can use video conferencing software to have live conversations with your students, either one-on-one or in group settings. This gives your students a chance to ask you questions, raise concerns, and work through complex course material more successfully. In addition to video conferencing software, you can also use instant messaging apps for students who prefer to communicate via text. Examples include Skype, Google Meet, FaceTime, Zoom, and Google Hangouts.

Increase Peer Review

Students need timely, meaningful feedback in order to gauge and improve their performance. There are several ways you can improve the feedback your students receive.

One method is to schedule one-on-one or group sessions with your students — for instance, on a weekly or bi-weekly basis — that are dedicated to providing feedback on recent assignments. Providing verbal feedback lets you save time on writing and editing documents, without sacrificing the detail or quality of your evaluation. As a result, your students receive better feedback, sooner.

Another method is to let your students engage in more peer review, or the process of providing feedback on each other’s work. In one fascinating experiment, a Duke University instructor permitted 100% of grading to be handled by a peer review process, with unsurprising results: increased satisfaction for students, and decreased stress on instructors.

Want to take a deeper dive into this subject? Here are even more tips on providing effective feedback to online students.

Provide Clear Grading Rubrics

Rubrics and syllabi are important tools in the traditional classroom. Make use of them in the virtual classroom, too! Be sure to provide your online students with a clear and detailed overview of the course, including information about:

(Video) Students face challenges with online learning

  • What type of material you’ll be covering
  • What items each student will need
  • How each type of assignment will be graded
  • How to share or upload documents
  • What to do if they experience technical issues
  • Deadlines, exam dates, days off, and other special calendar events
  • How to contact you

While there are many distance education issues and challenges for students to overcome, there are also countless opportunities for them to seize — and the approach you take as an educator can make all the difference. We hope that, by sharing some of these solutions and strategies, we’ve made it a little easier for you to help your e-students turn their challenges into success stories.

Become a Teacher and Advance Your Career with a Degree or Certificate in Education from NU

The state of California is facing an unprecedented teacher shortage and needs passionate, talented educators like you to fill the unmet need for qualified instructors. As an online or in-person educator, you’ll empower your learners, inspire young minds, and help shape the world of tomorrow. It all starts here, at National University.

Through the Sanford College of Education, NU offers dozens of NCATE-accredited programs in exciting areas like special education, teacher education, educational counseling, and educational leadership. Whether your goal is to become a teacher in California, earn an advanced degree, or improve your teaching skills so that you can take your career to the next level, you’ll find a program to suit your needs at National University. Whether you prefer to take classes on campus or 100% online, NU gives you the flexibility to learn in the way that works for you. And with credit transfer options, financial aid and scholarships, and a military-friendly student community, reaching your goals has never been more achievable.

Find out what just 30 days can do for your career in education. To learn more about our accredited teaching programs and how you can apply, contact the National University admissions office today.

Additional Sources

(Video) Students skip enrolment over distance learning challenges—valuates-reports-301109087.html


What are the challenges of distance learning to the students? ›

What Are the Challenges of Online Learning for Students?
  • Ineffective Time Management.
  • Lack of Instant Communication.
  • Not Receiving Timely Feedback.
  • Not Receiving Clear Instructions or Expectations.
  • Share Time Management Apps and Resources for Students.
  • Utilize Educational Technology (“EdTech”)
  • Increase Peer Review.

What is the factors or reasons in experiencing challenges in struggling to adjust in distance learning? ›

Here are five possible barriers to student engagement during distance learning—and ways you can help.
  • Students' life circumstances have changed. ...
  • Students are dealing with stress and trauma. ...
  • The content isn't accessible. ...
  • Students need more structure and support. ...
  • Your expectations for engagement haven't changed.
Sep 9, 2021

How did you cope up with the challenges of distance learning? ›

Set a routine to keep you focused and stick with it. Make a weekly schedule the day before the start of the new week and break it up during the week so that you know what to finish regularly. Review materials in small, divided portions; cramming or getting everything done at the last minute never did any good.

What are the challenges faced by students? ›

Some of the most common areas where students face challenges include:
  • Academics.
  • Accessibility.
  • Finances.
  • Living environments.
  • Mental health and wellness.
Feb 19, 2023

What are the challenges encountered in distance education in Nigeria? ›

In spite of the potentials and glaring advantages of open and distance learning in Nigeria, there are challenges that need to be fixed. These challenges include the student attitudes, facilitator attitude, costs, technology infrastructure, attitudes of facilitator, and inadequate academic staff.

What is the biggest challenge for students with online learning? ›

Here are some of the biggest challenges of online education today.
  • Lack of Motivation in Students.
  • Infrastructural Problems.
  • Digital Literacy and Technical Issues.
  • Lack of In-person Interaction.
  • Lack of EdTech and Online Learning Options for Special Needs of Students.
  • Course Structure and Quality.
Apr 10, 2023

What is the greatest problem with distance learning? ›

Lack of Motivation

Most students start online classes pumped and ready to go, but as the courses progress, they find that they're no longer motivated to even attend classes. Due to the lack of face-to-face interaction, some students find it hard to focus during online classes.

What are the factors affecting distance education? ›

The role of faculty, support available from the university, study environment at home, and motivational factors are all important factors that can affect the quality of online learning.

What are the factors that create anxiety among students of distance learning? ›

Anxiety in distance learners stems mainly from their life experiences, and expectations/ assumptions they make as a result. The distance learners tend to fear failure, yet conversely can have high, even unrealistic expectations of themselves.

What are the factors affecting difficulties in learning? ›

1) Interest, study habits, and mastery of information together contribute directly to learning difficulties by 63.3%. 2) Individual analysis shows that information mastery has a more dominant effect on student interest and study habits.

How do you overcome stress in distance learning? ›

These nine simple, effective stress management techniques can help not only in your online degree program, but in life:
  1. Stay social. ...
  2. Get enough sleep. ...
  3. Exercise. ...
  4. Eat well. ...
  5. Get organized. ...
  6. Manage your time wisely. ...
  7. Get help if you need it. ...
  8. Take breaks.

How can I improve my distance learning? ›

5 Ways to Make Distance Learning Effective for Students
  1. Make Sure Students Understand the Tools Given Them. ...
  2. Create Equity for Distance Learners. ...
  3. Connect Students with Independent Learning Tools. ...
  4. Maintain Live Connections During Distance Learning. ...
  5. Be Sensitive and Flexible.
Sep 16, 2020

What are your experiences in distance learning education? ›

For some people, distance learning can be stressful and boring, but overall my experience with distance learning has been really good. Just like before when we went to school, I haven't missed any classes or assignments. I also have good grades.

How do you answer what challenges have you faced? ›

How to answer "What is the biggest challenge you've faced in work?"
  • Consider previous challenges you've faced. ...
  • Tailor your answer to the job description. ...
  • Be specific about why they were challenges. ...
  • Be honest in your answer. ...
  • Present your challenge in a positive light. ...
  • Use nonprofessional examples if necessary.
Feb 15, 2023

What is the greatest challenge with students in school today? ›

Problems you might have at school
  • finding schoolwork difficult, or having problems concentrating in class if others are noisy and disruptive.
  • exam stress.
  • tricky relationships with friends and friendship groups.
  • finding lunchtime difficult, particularly if you have eating problems, anorexia or bulimia.

What are the barriers in learning? ›

Barriers to learning can be intrinsic barriers such as mental health disorder, dyslexia, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, or extrinsic barriers as cultural barriers, emotional factors as an example; feeling neglect or poverty.

What are the challenges of online teaching and learning in Nigeria universities? ›

However, regardless of its rewards, there are a few disadvantages or limitations of online learning such as a lack of student-teacher interaction, interaction with other students, and technical connectivity problems (Abbasia et al., 2020).

What is student attitudes? ›

A student's attitude is their tendency to respond a certain way towards something. Naturally, the student's response can be on a continuum of positive to negative or good to bad.

What are the disadvantages of online learning for students? ›

Disadvantages of Online Learning
  • Online Learning May Create a Sense of Isolation. Everyone learns in their own manner. ...
  • Online Learning Requires Self-Discipline. ...
  • Online Learning Requires Additional Training for Instructors. ...
  • Online Classes Are Prone to Technical Issues. ...
  • Online Learning means more screen-time.
Apr 1, 2023

What are two stressful aspects surrounding online learning? ›

Increased workload. Online learning comes with the expectation that a student will understand and properly navigate new technologies such as Zoom or WebEx. Physical strains. Staring at a screen all day, perhaps lacking a proper chair, squinting through glare — these can take a physical toll.

How do you overcome academic challenges? ›

Follow this advice to help you overcome the challenges.
  1. Manage your time. Invest in a daily planner and keep one calendar for assignments, exams and family events. ...
  2. Learn study skills. Ask questions and participate in class discussions. ...
  3. Seek academic advising. ...
  4. Manage your finances.

Why students lack of motivation in online learning? ›

This lack of motivation stems directly from the many other challenges that online students face, including: A lack of interaction with peers. Difficulty learning in a virtual format. Distracting home environments.

Which of the following is among the disadvantages of distance learning? ›

Causes Isolation. In an online learning environment, students lack human connection, which can lead to mental issues such as negative thoughts, anxiety, and heightened stress.

What are the flaws of distance learning compared to classroom learning? ›

Less Social Interaction

The classroom environment is usually more dynamic and allows active debates and participation, whereas online learning may not have this much engagement. Online classes usually have one-way communication, in which the teacher provides required materials and instructions to the students.

What factors affect distance education? ›

The findings suggest that in order to enhance distance learning systems, distance learning institutions need to address the following issues: computer self-competency, technological factors, the social environment, and instructor characteristics.

What is the biggest problem for most students with learning disabilities? ›

These include: Lack of appropriate instruction or being taught in a way that doesn't enable a student to learn. School climate such as bullying or inadequate resources for instruction and support. Low expectations for student success.

What are the experiences of students in modular distance learning? ›

These experiences include the lack or limited access to information, concerns about the accessibility of the learning opportunities, lack of economic resources, time management concerns, communication with professors and classmates, and self-motivation and coping mechanisms.

What are the challenges encountered by students in online and modular distance learning modalities? ›

The main challenges that the students have encountered are self-studying, poor internet connection, lack of sleep and time to answer all the modules due to the great number of activities, distractions, and lack of focus.

What is a major disadvantage of distance learning? ›

The disadvantages of distance learning are:

Lack of physical social interaction that is found in a typical, traditional classroom. Students can only engage and share opinions through virtual means in chatrooms or broadcasts, but are not able to physically interact with each other. It does not fit all types of learners.

What are three disadvantages of distance learning? ›

Disadvantages of Online Learning
  • Online Learning May Create a Sense of Isolation. Everyone learns in their own manner. ...
  • Online Learning Requires Self-Discipline. ...
  • Online Learning Requires Additional Training for Instructors. ...
  • Online Classes Are Prone to Technical Issues. ...
  • Online Learning means more screen-time.
Apr 1, 2023

What are the five factors affecting learning? ›

Factors Affecting Learning
  • Aptitude. This is one of the most important factors affecting learning across ages. ...
  • Goals and Aspirations. Now, just because a person is good at something does not mean that it should be their goal in life. ...
  • Motivation. ...
  • Locus of Control. ...
  • Learning Style.
Apr 8, 2022

How do you address learning challenges? ›

Tips for dealing with your child's learning disability
  1. Keep things in perspective. A learning disability isn't insurmountable. ...
  2. Become your own expert. ...
  3. Be an advocate for your child. ...
  4. Remember that your influence outweighs all others. ...
  5. Clarify your goals. ...
  6. Be a good listener. ...
  7. Offer new solutions. ...
  8. Keep the focus.
Feb 23, 2023

What is social barriers to learning? ›

Common barriers to learning
Social and cultural barrierspeer pressure and family background
Practical and personal barrierstransport; time; disability; caring responsibilities; childcare; finance; cost; age; language; and lack of access to information
2 more rows

How does learning difficulties affect everyday life? ›

Learning disabilities can make routine tasks more difficult, forcing individuals to adapt their approaches and techniques based on their unique abilities and needs. Because learning disabilities include a wide range of conditions and potential symptoms, no two people will share the same experiences.


1. Problems Faced by Distance Learners
2. Challenges of Distance Learning For International Students
(Riddhima Dave)
3. New Report Shows Negative Impact Of Remote Learning On Students
4. Helping students face distance learning challenges
(ABC 10 News)
5. High Schoolers Reveal Challenges Of Adjusting From Remote Learning
(NBC News)
6. What Will Schools Look Like in the Future?


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