Maximizing the power of online learning in 8 steps

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You log on and see the course outline. You get confused and side-tracked by the links, videos, quizzes, and the long list of readings. You send your questions via an email to your teacher. You start to have doubts whether you will really learn, or if you can accomplish course requirements.

If this sounds like you, don’t worry. Online learning requires adjustment, especially if it’s your first time. To maximize your experience, here are some suggestions as you start out:

  1. Have the right mindset

    Don’t expect online learning to be like face-to-face learning. Learning online is more flexible and personalized but it requires more commitment and discipline. To make the most of it, adopt the self-directed mindset. This means that you have to take charge of your own learning path and be motivated enough to follow it through.

  2. Set goals

    To help direct your learning, you have to set goals. Ask yourself, what do you really want to learn? What are your priorities? What topics are the most important to you or most practical to learn? Assess your needs to come up with the right goals.

  3. Plan ahead

    Read the course outline and make a schedule. Write down deadlines for assignments, reports or exams and quizzes. Map out a realistic amount of time to read, research or write. Don’t make the schedule too tight that you get stressed. Make an allowance for possible interruptions like work (over time?), family concerns or breaks/self-care..

  4. Have a good workspace

    Your study area should be conducive to learning. It should be quiet, clutter-free and organized to minimize distractions. It will help to be far from the TV or even the kitchen (you might be tempted to do some chores).

  5. Understand basic requirements

    Do you have a reliable internet connection? Does the course require a certain version of Windows, or software like Microsoft Office Word, Skype or Adobe Reader? Did your facilitator require an email account? Make sure that you have the necessary hardware and software required to access or send out information and connect to the course page.

  6. Ask questions

    Ask your teacher or e-facilitator right away if you need help. One of the best things about online learning is that there are many ways to connect at any time. You can use email, Instant Messaging, SMS, video conferencing and many others.

  7. Connect with classmates

    Online courses usually have online forums to facilitate connection and sharing with other students. This is a great venue to air your views, share what you have learned, and ask questions. Participation in forums can boost your learning because you get other ideas, resources, and even affirm your understanding of the subject matter.

  8. Explore the Web

    Supplement and enrich your course by using various apps and sites. Try using social media like Twitter and LinkedIn to ask questions, gather related materials, and even connect with subject matter experts. Constant use and familiarity with the vast resources available online will make you more comfortable and adept with technology. Soon learning online will become second nature to you.

Article updated January 5, 2020.
Sources: Five-step strategy for student success with online learning, Debbie Morrison, Online Learning Insights; Getting the most out of your eLearning course: 10 study tips for online learners, Chrostoforos Pappas, eLearning Industry. Both accessed June 29, 2017.

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