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Five Tips To Get The Most from Online Learning

Five Tips To Get The Most from Online Learning

With the COVID-19 pandemic still a serious problem in many countries, millions of people are making the move to online learning. Online classes are a great way to learn new skills or hone your existing ones in preparation for a new job, a new career, or just for fun. And online courses are quickly becoming the norm for traditionally in-person programs. 

Many people have the impression that online learning is much more difficult than in-person instruction. Perhaps they may find it harder to pay attention, or feel like they’re not making progress as quickly as they would in a live classroom setting. But with a few tips and a bit of planning and dedication, you can get just as much from an online course as you would from an instructor-led class. Whether you’re taking one of our free online coding courses or paying thousands of dollars for a college credit class, the way you approach online learning can make all the difference.

Set Aside Time for Online Learning

With in-person classes, you have to show up at a certain place at a certain time or you won’t be able to participate in the class. Many online classes, on the other hand, are totally open-ended. That means you can start the course whenever you want and work through the material at your own pace. While this gives you the flexibility to learn and study on your own time, it can be difficult for those who prefer a bit more structure to their schedules.

So create your own schedule! Set aside specific and committed time periods to work through online courses, to review previous material, and to do practice exercises. Mark these times out on your calendar and stick to them, and try to not let other things interfere with the time you’ve set aside.

Setting aside specific times will also help other people in your life see how important the class is to you. While online learning is fun, helping your friends and family see how important it is to you will help them to respect the time you’ve set aside for it.

Set An Online Learning Goal

One thing that can help you to make the time for online learning is to set a goal for yourself, along with a date by which you’d like to accomplish that goal. You can then set smaller goals, or milestones, that lead up to the larger goal.

For example, perhaps you’d like to find a job as a web developer. First, set a date by which you’d like to accomplish this goal -- perhaps a year or so away. Then, figure out what things you need to do in order to meet that goal. Maybe you’d like to learn JavaScript first. Then you’d like to master the MEAN stack. Then you’d like to build a website for yourself using it. Put each of those smaller goals on your calendar.

Then, as you’re scheduling time for your online courses, think about both the larger goal and the smaller milestones that will get you to the goal. When you can visualize the journey from where you are now to where you want to be, it will help you to see the value in setting aside time now to spend time on your online courses.

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Reduce Online Learning Distractions

In the classroom, there are only so many things that can distract you from learning -- someone whispering behind you, asking you for a piece of gum, or something happening outside the window. But with online learning, the distractions can be infinite. From phone notifications to the temptation to check your social media accounts, it can feel impossible to buckle down and work through the course. Plus you may have distractions at home from kids, pets and family members who don’t realize that you’re trying to study.

As hard as it is, you’ll need to get a handle on distractions in order to benefit from your online learning experience. Put your phone on do-not-disturb mode to silence notifications. Close any unnecessary programs or browser tabs on your computer, and resist the urge to check social media.

You can even use technology to reduce distractions. Most phones now have settings that let you limit the use of certain apps during certain periods of time. This way you can “lock yourself out” of social media or messaging apps and focus on your online classes. Or you can install a browser extension like StayFocused for Chrome that will keep you from browsing to distracting websites.

You can also try to reduce your use of technology when learning online. How? If you’re watching a lecture or live class, set up your laptop or tablet on a table that’s out of arm’s reach. Then grab a paper notebook and pen to take notes. That way, you’ll be able to totally concentrate on what’s going on without being distracted by notifications and social media on your computer.

To reduce external distractions, try to set up a quiet study space where you can focus on your classes without others interrupting you. If you have a room where you can close the door for privacy, do it! Explain to others in your house that you’re trying to focus for the next little while, and to not disturb you unless it’s an emergency. Over time, they’ll learn to respect your study time.

Use the Pomodoro Technique to Manage Distractions

The Pomodoro Technique is a popular method for time management. Essentially, you set a timer for a specific amount of time -- usually 25 minutes -- and then work on a task until the timer goes off. Then you set a timer for 5 minutes and take a quick break. After four of those periods, you’ve earned a longer break of 20-30 minutes.

You can use this technique to manage distractions while studying. Promise yourself to study or do practice work for the 25 minute period -- then indulge in distractions like checking your phone during the 5 minute breaks. Try it -- you’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish using this technique!

Use Habit-Forming Learning for Online Courses

In many online courses, you get access to all of the course material as soon as you sign up, and you can work through it as quickly as you’d like. It can be tempting to rush through everything as soon as possible. Or you may try to skip around to different lessons, only doing the ones that look interesting to you.

Both of these approaches can hurt you when it comes to retaining the information you learned in your online class. In general, online classes are structured very similarly to in-person classes. They start with basic or general information, and then eventually work up to more advanced or specific topics.

Think of it like building a house -- you need to start with the foundation, then the walls, then the roof, and finally the doors, windows and finishes. Starting the other way around, or skipping parts, will leave you with a very unstable house. In the same way, working through a course in a haphazard way will leave you without the learning foundation you need.

In the same way, cramming an entire course into just a few days can prevent you from getting the most from your online classes. Rather than doing all of the coursework in a single sitting, try to build a regular learning habit. All of SoloLearn’s free coding courses are built around fast, bite-sized lessons. But this isn’t so that you can do all of them in a single afternoon -- rather, you can make them a regular part of your daily routine whenever you have the time.

You can use habit-based learning even for courses that weren’t designed that way. For example, say you have a college course with a weekly lecture plus assigned reading and practice problems. Rather than setting aside one afternoon to watch the lecture, do the readings and the practice, break everything up over the course of the week. Watch the lecture one day, and then spend 20 or 30 minutes over the next few days reviewing your notes, doing the readings, and working on the practice problems. This will help you to retain the information longer and build a learning habit that will make it easier for you to get the most out of your online course.

Whether you’re taking one of our free online programming courses or a full semester of college courses, you can get the most out of your online courses by managing your time, minimizing your distractions, and taking advantage of habit-forming learning.