April 2023
Issue Map
A road barrier separates a man from a laptop
TD Magazine

Take Down Learning Barriers

Friday, March 31, 2023

The Situation

Training materials may be inaccessible to some learners for several reasons, such as a slow or no internet connection, a technology issue such as a firewall, or simply not having a software program installed. It may be that the learner has a disability or has a primary language different from the one the course is conducted in, so they need extra time with the material.

Whatever the case may be, how do you ensure your training materials are available to all your learners?


The Trick

Have a backup plan for each barrier you can foresee encountering.

Use common or universal software. For instructor-led synchronous training, you may choose to host training materials on a cloud-based site. Yet, some participants may not be able to access the materials there. Offer a PowerPoint file as an alternative option because it can reside on the desktop, doesn't require an internet connection, and can provide the same information.

Present materials in multiple formats. Another solution is to transcribe materials so that learners can read or listen rather than watch a video. Alternatively, consider a transcription service to provide closed-captioning, or hire a translation vendor to type into the chat what individuals say during the training course.


Conduct a survey and outreach ahead of time. Connect with learners before an instructor-led course to develop realistic examples of the challenges learners encounter in their day-to-day work. You may need to ascertain how much knowledge they already have on the topic by asking how many years of experience they've had in their role. You also can determine any special needs they may have to prepare for ahead of time. Ask, "Are there accommodations such as a sign language interpreter or transcriber that would benefit you?" or "Do you have a firewall that may prevent you from accessing online materials?"

Pro Tip

Remember that employees working from home still have security issues or firewall blockers, including a VPN, which may inhibit their access to certain training materials.

About the Author

Nikki O’Keeffe is an internal ATD Facilitator. She is dedicated training specialist who delivers a positive, memorable, and meaningful service that repeatedly meets or exceeds the expectations of the client. She has experience creating strategies and visions to ensure training requirements and deliveries are in line with quality, probability, and client need. 

Nikki has worked in varied industries, including education, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals. In her role as the global senior training and development specialist at PAREXEL International, her focus was on managing and developing courses for new and existing staff on technical systems, process changes, new products, and soft skills.  Her educational background includes a BA in psychology from Butler University and a master’s degree in exercise science, health, and wellness from Northeastern Illinois University. Her specific areas of interest include virtual training, facilitation techniques, and mentoring new trainers. 

Nikki is skilled at providing face-to-face and online learning programs for global participants of varying experience levels. In addition to delivering training, she has performed training needs analyses to identify gaps and recommend training solutions, worked with SMEs as a consultant to develop courses and curriculums, and evaluated programs for effectiveness. 

As a certified ATD Master Trainer and certified ATD Master Instructional Designer she understands the value of solid training plans and strong facilitation. Nikki looks forward to sharing her experiences and expanding her knowledge base by learning from her participants in the upcoming ATD courses that she leads.

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