3 Ways To Overcome Resistance To Online Learning
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How To Overcome Resistance To Online Learning

"It can’t be done online"

"It’s just not the same"

"It’s so impersonal"

We’ve all heard these phrases, and probably a dozen more. Despite the widespread adoption of technological advances, people still resist online learning. Although we may be quick to point the finger at older generations that did not grow up digitally, the resistance can come from any age group for any number of reasons.

Rather than discuss those reasons, I want to consider how we can overcome the resistance. Three ways I have found effective in practice are: highlighting the benefits, demonstrating the possibilities, and offering training.

1. Highlight The Benefits

When we become comfortable with something, we tend to overlook or downplay the negatives. Onsite learning activists can forget the difficulties with coordinating schedules, learning transfer when students are pulled from their real-life contexts, and big budgets associated with travel and facility rental. They only see benefits such as personal relationships, interactive discussions, and synchronous activities, which on the surface seem impossible to recreate in an online environment.

Highlighting the benefits of online and blended learning, while casting them against the difficulties with onsite learning, can help people understand and experience their reality. Online learning offers flexibility for both facilitators and learners to access training that may otherwise not work with their schedules. Learners remain embedded in their real-life contexts, helping to close the gap between the training and practice environments. Removing the travel requirements and physical classrooms mean a savings of time and money, not to mention enabling training altogether for those located in remote areas. Participants have the option for a better work-life balance when they can control where and when they access the training. These days, as mobile learning or mLearning becomes more popular, training is even more flexible and accessible.

2. Demonstrate The Possibilities

People don’t just need to hear the benefits, they need to see them. If you have ever watched an infomercial, one thing they do consistently is to demonstrate how the new product works and makes your life better. People resisting the move to online learning also need to see you demonstrate its possibilities.

I remember one online student saying to me that the humor present in onsite courses was missing in online courses. I responded to her that it could happen, but we needed to be creative and do things differently. As an example, I included a comic strip with the post. By seeing the possibilities, she became more open to online learning. This is just a small example.

One of the issues we faced in an organization I worked for was training enough people to meet the needs. Although the onsite courses were good, attendance was limited. Funding was also difficult for those coming from less affluent areas. By developing online versions of the onsite courses, we were able to scale up our training in a sustainable way that was affordable for all. Even those who resisted the online approach softened when they saw its potential in meeting our training needs.

3. Offer Training And Support

Hearing the benefits and seeing the possibilities is essential, but people also need to know they will be supported in their learning process when they adopt an online approach.

I run a course on effective online teaching for people in my organization. It is amazing how many join the course, yet consistently voice reasons why online learning is not as effective as onsite. As we journey through the course together, I respond compassionately to their concerns and demonstrate alternative ways of achieving the same goals. By the end of the course, many have changed their minds about online learning.

Several people who have completed the course have also taken on the challenge of building and facilitating their own online courses. I provide varying levels of support, depending on their confidence and skill level. Sometimes it’s advice and encouragement, other times they act as the Subject Matter Expert while I build. I look for opportunities to develop and empower them to do more and more independently. A little training and support can go a long way.

What about you? What ways have you found to overcome resistance to online learning?

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