Barriers to learning online experienced by students with a mental health disability

Dean McManus, Rachel Dryer, Marcus Henning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Online education is widely regarded as increasing accessibility to higher education to individuals with disadvantage and disability, including those with a mental health disability. However, the learning challenges these students experience within the online learning environment are not well understood. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to better understand the barriers to learning that these students face in this environment. A qualitative content analysis of semi-structured interviews conducted with 12 students revealed three major learning barriers: (a) impact of impairment, (b) personal and situational circumstances, and (c) learning environment. These barriers were found to have wide-ranging consequences for the students’ ability to fully engage in study and their overall wellbeing. The findings lend insight into the low retention rates for this cohort of students and the learning barriers that need to be addressed by online education providers to better enhance the educational experience of these students.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-352
Number of pages17
JournalDistance Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 02 Sept 2017


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