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Tips for Getting the Most out of Online Learning

Five Tips for Getting the Most out of Online Learning

Staying healthy and protecting your community from the current coronavirus outbreak means your company may encourage you to work from home. While working remotely requires some adjustment if you're used to an office environment, not having to commute twice daily means some professionals have more free time.

We interviewed learners like you, who told us that the coronavirus has made you more likely to learn something new because of this extra free time. While it's natural to not feel very productive during this time, others enjoy the distraction and the positive benefits that come with learning something new. 

A professional online course is a great option for you if you're looking to gain job-related skills, boost your CV, or you're simply curious and want to learn. Online courses provide many benefits: They're often inexpensive or free, they're self-paced, and feedback is given instantaneously. 

We know learning can be fun, but if you also want to get as much out of your online course as possible, we've compiled a list of five tips to help you succeed.

Make a training schedule and stick to it

If you are doing an open online course with no fixed live classes, it might be easy to assume you will learn 'when you have the time.'

However, that kind of approach will most likely mean that you end up always putting you training off, whether to prioritise work-related tasks or personal commitments and never end up finding that time to focus on your study.

What then tends to happen is that you get discouraged and end up feeling like you're never going to manage, which can make you want to give up altogether.

So once you've found an online course that you'd like to take, check how many hours the training provider recommends you spend, and block these out in your calendar.

For example, if you have 60 online learning hours, then you might want to do 2 hours a week for 30 weeks, or 10 hours a week for 6 weeks. The important thing is you schedule these hours into your calendar so you'll be less tempted to pass them up for something else. 

While you don’t want to be so strict that you refuse to address urgent matters that surface at work or at home (no one can predict the future), you need to set out with the mind-set that your training is important and worthy of the time you plan to spend completing it.

top-5-tips-for-online-learning-success

Find a reputable provider that will support you

Do your research, read reviews, ask colleagues or friends for suggestions and contact the training providers to get a clear idea of what is included in the package they offer. Knowing that they will provide you with online training materials and support you remotely will make your training experience all the more rewarding.

Since distance learning courses can vary quite significantly in their delivery method, ask for a sample or demo of the course to understand what it will be like. Distance learning courses can be paper-based, but the large majority are now delivered online via systems often referred to as Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) or e-learning platforms

You'll need to find out how these function. You can start by asking:

  • Will I be following audio-visual lecture or will it be a self-study (reading-based) programme?
  • Will I have access to simulations and exercises?
  • To what extent and how ill I be able to interact wtih the trainer and other students?

Another important issue is that of support. For most people, it will be important to have a tutor to turn to in order to address any problems or particular areas of difficulty. As with anything, you should have a clear idea of what you are buying to ensure you get a satisfactory return on your training investment, as well as your expectations.

Be proactive and interact with peers

Even if you respond well to self-study, you will most likely get to a point every once in a while where you would appreciate a discussion and exchange on a particular topic. But just because you are physically alone doesn’t mean that there aren’t other people out there feeling exactly the same way as you. Most online courses will offer access to some sort of online forum where students can post and answer questions, and it is thus important to make full use of them for useful feedback and interaction.

There are multiple reasons for this. Firstly, if there is a particular topic that you are having difficulty with, it will only hurt your progress and self-confidence to sweep it under the rug. You can of course turn to your course tutor, but talking about it with other students will also help you realise that you are not the only one struggling with a certain subject. On the contrary, others are probably sitting around wondering the same thing. Don’t wait for someone else to bring the matter up: take charge and be the one to get the discussion going.

Aside from clearing up points of confusion, interaction can create a lot of added value on top of the course content itself. Delegates who attend classroom courses often find the opportunity to interact with peers one of the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of attending, so if you have the chance to do the same – albeit in a virtual environment – why hesitate to take it?

Take your assessments seriously

Regardless of whether your course includes a final examination, your progress will often be "monitored" and evaluated via a series of exercises or assessments taken at the end of every completed module. Since you have the Internet at your fingertips, the temptation to look up the answers so that you can easily pass the assessment and move on to the next unit can be a great one.

We’ve all been there, but you know as well as we do that this is a bad move. You may think that you’re being more efficient, but in truth you are wasting a valuable opportunity to see how much you have actually learned. Presumably you are taking the course because you want to tangibly improve your capabilities and achieve certain goals, so why not take the chance to test yourself when you have it? Moving forwards when you haven’t fully grasped the concepts previously introduced will not benefit anyone, least of all you.

Use extra time for revision

Because distance and e-learning course providers know that students will work through the course at their own pace, you will often be given a generous amount of time in terms of your length of access to the course. This means that even once you have completed the programme, you are likely to have ample time to go back and revisit the material.

Take advantage of this opportunity to go back, refresh your knowledge and find new ways of applying the concepts and tools covered to your day-to-day working practices. This will help you draw more value out of the course, enhancing your effectiveness as well as your career prospects.

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Last updated: 09 Apr 2020

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