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The barriers to effective e-learning and how we can overcome them

Skip Navigation LinksEffat University > Effat University > Research > The barriers to effective e-learning and how we can overcome them

​​​A new study from Effat researcher tells us that students and teachers can both struggle with e-learning, but not for the same reasons.

It is a stereotype that the younger the generations have higher confidence with technology. However, this study has found that the primary cause of frustration for students is a feeling of deficient computer skills. 

When all education is carried out through a screen, as was often the case during lockdowns related to COVID-19 (the period in which this study was performed), a lack of confidence in the e-learning technologies can result in anxiety and boredom. 

For professors, on the other hand, the most important thing for satisfaction in e-learning is the support their university puts towards the e-learning process. 

What this means is practice is provision of clear instructions and obligations, a long-term strategy, and use of specialised software where needed. 

This study did not conclude that e-learning is deficient. More than half of the respondents agreed that integration of technology and learning can be beneficial, especially when active learning strategies are implemented. 

However, e-learning offers unique challenges. Though online education removes barriers to learning for some, it creates it for others. Some students and teachers are experiencing these adverse effects every day. 

Other findings from the study included:

  • The Zoom platform was by far the most popular technology, used by 95% of respondents.
  • About a quarter of respondents reported being unhappy with the e-learning tools. 
  • Overall satisfaction is not equal between students and teachers. It is teachers that report higher overall satisfaction. 
  • A low sense of community was a major factor in students feeling unsatisfied in virtual classrooms. ​​


The basis of this study was a survey of students and professors of the Instituto Politecnico Nacional (IPN), the second-largest university in Mexico. 

About ⅘ of those surveyed were students, and ⅕ were professors. 29 questions were asked, with most answers requested on a five-point scale (from strongly agree to strongly disagree). 

The goal of the study was “improving the quality of educational programs and involving whole communities to remove the technological and pedagogical barriers and contribute as much as possible to achieving equity, flexibility, and more coverage of education toward society."

Where e-learning shows flaws or weaknesses, surveys such as these can find them so they can be addressed. 


Where can educational institutions and policymakers focus to improve the quality of e-learning?

Reducing the skill gap between students for e-learning technologies will be essential to avoid disparity in learning outcomes. 

We need to cultivate digital skills in the community and ensure internet accessibility. We need to improve ICT infrastructure to meet these aims.

The policies of universities when it comes to e-learning also need to be reviewed with an innovative eye. Better digital resources and provision of hybrid learning to ensure educational coverage to all, including marginal groups, should be high on the priority list. 

The researchers also make some suggestions for areas that future studies could investigate. For example, a more sophisticated approach to digital collaborative spaces may improve the sense of community for students. 

Moreover, the researchers ask us to consider what happens to e-learning in times of crisis, when technology access is not guaranteed. Offline recovery systems and response strategies might not be on people's minds today, but we should consider these questions carefully before a time comes that they are needed urgently.