Online Learning: How To Get The Most Out of An Online Course
In the past, acquiring a skill meant attending in-person classes, which often came with a ton of challenges for people with tight schedules. However, thanks to advances in technology and the arrival of online learning platforms, it has become easier to find an online course that offers the flexibility you need to master a new skill from the comfort of your home or workplace.
Online courses come with lots of advantages; they allow you to learn wherever, whenever, and however best fits your learning pace and schedule. This makes it easier for you to acquire a new skill while balancing your work and family duties. And without having to attend the physical classroom in person, online learning allows you to access top programs around the world that might have otherwise been inaccessible or too costly.
Online classes also come with loads of unique challenges, especially if you are ill prepared for them. However, with effective online learning skills, these courses can be an excellent alternative to the traditional classroom setting. Here are crucial online learning tips that can help you get the most out of your next online course.
Tips for Taking Online Courses
If you are considering signing up for an online course, or you are already enrolled in one, the tips and advice outlined below can help you manage their unique challenges to get the most out of an online program.
Treat your online course like a “real” course
When it comes to online learning, it is important that you acquire the discipline to sit down and say, “I need to focus on this,” as well as the determination to follow through with the course. While you can be flexible to setting your learning schedule, you need to ensure consistency in it.
One of the easiest ways to follow through with your online learning schedules is to remember that it cost you money and time to take this online course, and so you need to accord it the seriousness it deserves. You have to “show up” if you expect to get value for your money. Be sure to treat your online course the same way you would a face-to-face course, or better still, a job that you have to attend.
Do not overlook the need for accountability
Set goals at the onset of your online course, and check in with it on a regular basis. In the case of a traditional classroom, you will receive email or verbal alerts of due projects and assignments. But, without a professor to actively send you reminders, it is up to you to ensure that you set aside time to complete your assignments and projects in time.
If you are having trouble with accountability, team up with a fellow classmate, or seek the help of a partner or friend to be your accountability partner. Remember, proper organization, proactivity, and self-awareness will get you the most from your online course even when life outside of school becomes unbearable.
Time Management is Key— practice it!
The flexibility of setting your own learning schedules is often one of the major motivations for signing up for online classes. Unfortunately, this flexibility can be detrimental if you do not have prudent time management skills. Without sound time management skills, you might find yourself lagging behind in your assignments or submitting subpar projects.
While how you manage your time entirely depends on your schedule, personality, and learning style, here are some valuable tips that can help you practice and improve your time management skills:
- Take a look at the syllabus at the onset of the course and take note of major assignments. Mark them out on your calendar so you know what workloads are coming in the days or weeks ahead. Keep in mind prior commitments that may affect your regular study schedule, such as vacations and weddings, so you can set enough time to complete your assignments.
- Come up with a weekly learning schedule that you can follow, designating the amount of time you will spend reading your notes, watching study videos, studying on your own, and participating in forums. Commit to making your online learning program part of your daily or weekly routine, and set reminders so you can complete these tasks.
- Try time-blocking when working on your projects and assignments, setting apart a certain amount of time for each assignment or project before moving on to the next. Set a timer to keep yourself accountable.
- Periodically check in throughout the course period, looking at how you spend your time. Know how much time you are going to dedicate to reading course materials, completing assignments, and participating in forums.
Create and maintain an organized study space
It is important that you set up a dedicated learning environment for your study. Establish a routine by complete your studies there repeatedly. Whether your workspace is your library, kitchen table, or corner booth at the local coffee shop, it is important that you identify an environment that best works for you. You may experiment to discover where you are most productive. Wherever you settle for as your study space, ensure that it has high-speed internet access so you are not taking your online class over a sluggish connection.
Setting up a regular learning space can also help you stay organized. Knowing exactly where crucial dates, forms, files, study materials, and projects live will help you keep on course towards realizing your learning goals. Here are a few considerations you should keep in mind when setting up your study space:
- Have a high-speed internet connection
- Have all the resources you need to successfully complete the course
- Have headphones for listening to study videos and discussions (especially if you are learning in a shared space)
Get rid of distractions
From social media to Netflix to spouse and children, you will encounter tons of distractions that can potential frustrate your studies. The most effective online learners understand how to avoid these distractions and set aside time to focus on their studies.
The exact amount of challenge these distractions will pose will depend on your unique situation and personality. Some people can tune out of a noisy home by listening to music while studying. Others might choose to study from a local coffee shop or library. Ultimately, you need to find a strategy that best works for you.
Regardless of where you choose to learn from, consider switching your phone and social media off to avoid losing focus when notifications pop up. And if you are still battling with the temptation to surf the web or check your email, try installing a website blocker.
Understand how you learn best
Once you have identified where you will be learning from, think about how and when you will accomplish your best work. If you are a morning person, set your study time first thing when you wake up. If you are a night person, set aside an hour or so after your dinner to cover up some ground. If the kids require your attention in the morning or evening, try to set up your learning time at mid-day while they are at school.
Remember, not everyone learns the same way, so think about what makes you grasp and retain concepts and employ relevant learning strategies. For instance, if you are a visual learner, print out your study materials for review. If you learn best by listening, be sure to set time in your schedule to play and replay the videos and audios so you can grasp the content.
Actively participate in forums
Active participation in the online course’s forum can help you better understand the course content and interact with fellow learners. This might involve commenting on discussion boards, and posting or answering questions in the forum. Read what other learners and your tutor are discussing, and if you have a question, seek clarification.
Be sure to check into the forum as often as you can. The flexibility of learning online means that you have 30 minutes before dinner plans to squeeze in a question or a reply to a discussion. Constantly email your tutor and proactively ask for help when you have to.
And if you realize you are lagging behind, do not hesitate to speak out. Do not wait until your assignment is almost due to ask questions or report a problem.
Leverage your network
Online learning may sometimes make you feel like you are studying on your own, but this is not true. Most online courses are tailored around the concept of collaboration, with tutors actively encouraging that learners work together to complete projects and assignments and discuss lessons.
Therefore, it is important that you build a relationship with other learners by introducing yourself and actively participating in the platform’s discussion boards. Your peers will be a valuable resource when preparing for exams or seeking feedback on your projects and assignments. Do not be afraid to reach out to them for a virtual study group. Chances are they will benefit from this just as much as you would.
Taking an online course gives you the flexibility to acquire a new skill while learning at your pace and on your schedule. This flexibility, however, means you have to take some extra steps in order to be successful with your studies. It is important that you are proactive about creating a learning structure. With these tips, you will be successful once you have signed up for your online course.