In 2020, we saw a growing number of MOOCs offering online learning opportunities. While this trend existed before the pandemic, there is an even stronger appetite to ‘come out stronger’ post-Covid that’s resulting in doubling down on these opportunities. If you’ve sought out, or been the recipient of one of these opportunities, you likely felt excited to learn something new, but potentially daunted by the task of getting started and maintaining momentum in an online course. The reality is, learning itself is a skill to practice and hone. But there are some steps based on established learning science principles of practice, application, and reflection that you can leverage to make the knowledge more ‘sticky.’
Having taken ten online courses in areas within my interests in the last two years and still learning three languages online, I have found that there are some key points to take into account before you enroll in a course.
Partner: create communities and find a study buddy
Many people find it hard to stay motivated if they feel they are doing everything on their own. In this case, you can create text or video collaboration channels (like on Slack, Zoom, or Whatsapp) to discuss the content and topics you are learning about in your online course with friends who are also taking it. People learn better in communities where they motivate, discuss, debate, or even teach each other the learning materials.
Practice: make learning stick by practicing problems as you go
To ensure your newly learned knowledge and skills stick with you, it’s important to repeatedly practice skills, apply knowledge in different contexts, and reflect on what you have learned.
Pace: learn at the speed that works for you
Learning online means that you can learn at your own pace and on your own time. This flexibility allows you to pause and rewind course content, devote small or large chunks of time, and learn at the time of day that works for you. For example, some people work better in the early morning while others prefer evenings or nights.
Pencil: take notes even though everything is available online
While online course content is always available to reference, taking good old-fashioned notes helps retain information. When watching pre-recorded videos, pause every few minutes and write a brief summary of what you have heard. For live videos, take notes as you watch. Pay attention to what you are hearing and participate in the discussion to help keep your focus.
Participate: engage in discussion forums, asking and answering questions to learn from your peers
Well-designed online learning platforms commonly include an online discussion or Q&A forum. Participate in the discussions virtually with your global classmates by asking a question or making a comment, or simply reading through the discussions. This is where your study group or buddy can also come in extremely handy, as you can hold each other accountable to discussing the coursework with each other.
Remember that learning how to learn is a skill
Keep in mind that simply enrolling in an online course is a big step to be celebrated. It means that you are investing in yourself and your future - and this motivation can carry you far towards reaching your goals. Incorporating these proven learning tactics will make your learning experience much more enjoyable, interesting, and allow you to retain and apply the information learned faster and more effectively. •