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The Impact of Technical Problems on Elearning

It happens often: The course is ready and 'packaged' according to the needs and requests of the customer, but as soon as the participants press the start button, the course does not start, does not proceed, or cannot be heard. What a frustration! Today let's talk a little about how technical problems affect elearning.

Our Experience

Once, one of the users of a company course held on our LMS platform contacted us because he couldn't hear the audio. We immediately got to work to understand what had caused the problem. We checked the audio settings but without success. We then turned to the IT manager who, after a few checks, discovered that, for those connecting from the private PC on a remote desktop to their corporate desktop, the audio is not transmitted. At this point there were two options for the user: wait to follow the course on-site or use the browser from another computer other than the remote desktop so that he could also hear the audio. Clearly, it would have been necessary to send a communication to all employees, a waste of time that could have been avoided.

This is just one of many cases that have occurred to us in the course of our business. A few years ago we created a project for a large company. In that case, it was a course to be taken on the company tablet and designed to contain a high degree of interactivity. In the preliminary phase, we immediately discarded the possibility of a simple video, a solution that would have taken away the meaning of the project itself. Only after delivering the course, did we discover that the tablets made available to the company were too old to reproduce the scorm. In that case, we had to quickly fall back on the video, thus giving up the interactive course's great potential.

Technical Problems / Technological Problems

Technology is a queer thing; it brings you great gifts with one hand and it stabs you in the back with the other. (C. P. Snow)

This statement, dating back to 1971, is still valid today, especially in elearning; as our experience shows, the vast majority of problems that arise in an elearning course are, in fact, related to the technology used or, better, to the lack of awareness that companies often have of the link between the course and the tool used. Technological problems vary greatly: From problems related to the internet connection to the use by companies of obsolete and / or unsuitable devices to reproduce the required course. If, on the one hand, some problems are partly physiological and sometimes unpredictable, on the other hand many of these could be avoided with a little preparation and attention. And it is desirable to do so, given that the interruptions caused by technical problems are highly deleterious and contribute to invalidating the effectiveness of the course.
A research carried out years ago at Cornell University revealed how technical problems and technological hitches can almost completely affect the learning experience connected to an online course. The interruptions caused by such inconveniences create in the learner problems of concentration and feelings of frustration that might turn into a partial or total loss of motivation. This results in a negative overall perception of the course and lower levels of learning. In the Cornell University study, two groups of people were compared, undergoing two identical courses except in one aspect: in one, several technical problems with related interruptions had been specifically inserted. Well, at the final evaluation this group achieved significantly lower scores than the other, showing that, in this case, the level of learning had been lower and the course had been less effective.

Economic considerations add up to didactic ones. Asking to redo a course because the checklist has not been compiled carefully and accurately almost always involves additional costs for the company.

Prevention is better than Cure

Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential. (Winston Churchill)

Being able to prevent everything that can get in the way of an elearning course is a great challenge but it is an undertaking that is worth tackling to make sure that everything goes smoothly afterward. Here are some helpful tips:

Check the company's technological development conditions

This does not mean simply asking if everything is okay or settling for "everything is ok". It is always better to check the specific technical requirements in advance, for example by submitting a checklist to the customer in the preliminary phase.

Check the conditions of use of the course

Remote training is, by default, not easy for learners. The preventive check on the conditions in which users will follow the course is therefore very important. Here is an example of aspects you should consider:
  • Will the learners take the course in-house or will they follow it from home?
  • Will they all have the same technology, with the same features?
  • Are there any specific problems that some of them may encounter?
  • What level of computer literacy do they have?

Establish and maintain contact with the IT manager

When you need to develop a company training elearning course, it would be advisable to establish a privileged communication channel with the company's IT manager right from the start. This allows you to ask the most specific questions from the beginning and to prevent, or promptly resolve, any problems that may arise. However, this is not always easy.

With the help of the IT manager, we can ask that the course be tested on the different tools before being open to all employees. The ideal thing would be to have some pilot users directly test the course.


Understanding whether the type of course requested by the client is compatible with the technology available is essential. Anticipating and preventing any technical problems as much as possible can have a huge impact on the learner's experience and therefore on the quality and effectiveness of the course. Furthermore, being precise from the beginning means saving, since retouching or redoing requires additional costs which can be more or less expensive, depending on the situation. Therefore, in summary, it is better to devote time to these aspects at the beginning of development than to have to redo a course from scratch.


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