Barriers to learning and how to overcome them


Building a robust training program from scratch is a difficult task.  After doing all the hard work, the last thing we need is some obstacles creating hurdles in our way.  Yes, we are referring to barriers to learning.   When we started our online course development, we did a short research on the market, particularly students.  Knowing who they are, their background, qualification, what they need in order to excel, impediments to the learning process, etc can help us break down the common learning barrier.

The learner may be struggling with one or more types of barriers to learning. The relationship that we form with our parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, etc., all feed into our ability to learn. On a personal level, students often tend to have health issues that affect their learning. For instance, students with learning disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or learning impairments like dyslexia affect their learning in general.

A barrier to learning is anything that prevents a learner from being fully engaged with the learning process.  Learning barriers can be caused due to many factors viz., fear of failure, resistance to change, distraction, lack of focus, boredom, etc.  For better learner engagement and participation, course creators should eliminate learning barriers as much as possible, and help learners overcome them. These are barriers to learning which could end up being the ultimate barriers to success.

In this article, we will understand why students find it difficult to access the curriculum.  The barriers to learning can be classified into three types:

  1. Personal Barrier
  2. Emotional (Behavioral) Barriers
  3. Motivational Barriers


Personal Barrier to learning

These barriers to learning are closely related to a person’s traits or characteristics.   The barriers are:

 1)  Different Learning Styles: Learners in general have different learning styles.  Some are good in mathematics, others in languages, a few others in law, etc., A barrier to learning is a fear that one is not smart enough to do what others do.

How to overcome the barrier: Bring diversity to the way you communicate the information and interact with the learners. The learning experience can be designed to be more inclusive for everybody.   Eg provides courses in multiple languages so that it caters to the need of every student.

2)  Overall Presentation:  Boring Presentations spanning to more than an hour, Sloppy lectures, congested curriculum, and Inadequate teaching/learning resources, create an Attention Deficit in the minds of learners.

How to overcome the barrier: Be short and to the point.   It has been proved that we retain only 10% of what we have listened to or read..  Lecturers can strive to create an environment where learners can voice their concerns freely, make the lectures more interactive and informative, include quizzes, etc Also figure out ways to improve your presentation skills.

3)   Learning Challenges: Learners may find it difficult to understand the language of the course, due to high-flown English and grammar.  Also, Barriers include physical and cognitive disabilities (vision loss, health issues, etc.,) and conditions like dysgraphia, dyscalculia, dyslexia, and ADHD, and socio-economic barriers like poverty, poor housing, malnutrition, etc.,

How to overcome the barrier: Efforts should be made to ensure that everybody can understand the course, including students with impairments and disabilities where learners can apply the Accessibility mode on the LMS  with just a click for accessing the course.


Motivational Barriers

A lack of motivation to succeed is a major barrier to learning.  A lack of motivation results in learners mindlessly going through the classes without retaining anything.  Eg, previous bad learning experiences,  poor teaching methods, sloppy courses, etc.  The most cited motivation to learn was associated with future career aspirations, professional support, qualification, the need to get employed, etc.,  Many learners are currently struggling with a lack of motivation and direction.

1)  Ignorance: A child crawls, then walks, then runs.  The same is true for adults before they start training for new skills, otherwise, they will lose interest.  One of the most common barriers is the attention span of learners, ineffective faculties, learners bunking classes, etc.,  If the level of challenge Is high, learners will become paralyzed and under-perform.

How to overcome the barrier: Ensure that they work through the material from the basic to more specified advanced details, and make the course material easier to understand.

2)  Procrastination: the habit of delaying priority tasks, and usually focusing on low priority and interesting tasks.

How to overcome the barrier: Recognize what you are doing and take proactive steps to manage and overcome it.

3)  Lack of focus and concentration:  There are times when your mind wanders and becomes scattered.

How to overcome the barrier: To improve focus and concentration, you need to minimize all distractions.

4)  Boredom: Boredom is the main foe of learner engagement and can be a barrier even to avid learners.

How to overcome the barrier: Take short breaks to recharge your brain and involve interactivity viz., interactive quizzes, game-like activity, etc.


Emotional (Behavioral)  Barriers to Learning

The emotional stability of the learners affects their ability to learn and perform.  They are often caused by self-doubt and difficulty adapting to the change.

  • Disruptive Ideas: We blatantly ignore ideas that do not align with our current belief system and tone down our understanding of them by making assumptions like “that would not work”, “I haven’t heard it before” etc.,

How to overcome the barrier: We need to be open to change. We need to come out of our comfort zone and take risks if we need to succeed.

  • Lack of proper revision: This is one of the barriers of learning. Learners read the book once, put them into cold storage and slog during the exams. Also, we have heard people saying the reason for not attending this year’s seminar is that they attended the seminar last year and they know everything.

How to overcome the barrier:  Do your revision regularly and don’t leave anything to chance.

  • Fear of Failure: This stops many people from learning valuable skills and taking advantage of opportunities. It could be fear of criticism and judgment, fear of rejection, etc.,

How to overcome the barrier: Change your perception and see failure as a stepping stone to success.


The first step towards learning is to understand the barriers that were proving to be a hindrance to our learning process. For instance, Some of the common barriers could be live cricket matches, movies; TV shows, etc., which hinder our learning process.   Learning is an individual pursuit that requires immense dedication and concentration.  Spend some time reflecting on the above barriers, ascertain whether it implies to you and make course corrections wherever required. These barriers could be overcome through an effort that requires extraordinary patience, perseverance, and character.

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