Hello again. Before I dive into the subject of the title above, allow me to personally wish all of you the best of health physically, mentally, and emotionally during these trying times. I take encouragement in seeing all sorts of news stories about those out there helping their fellow humans as much as possible. I know when I go to the store, I’m saying an extra thank you to every employee I see.
On to our subject. Whether you’re a college student, high school student, or adult learner and whether you are learning through our courseware or some basic subject courseware, learning online and in at least some kind of isolation is far different than learning in a traditional classroom. Having taught in both situations the past 20 years, I have three observations/hints that will hopefully help with the online learning modality:
- Mix it up
Online learning has many facets. Sure, you have the video portion as the focal point of the course, but many of these online courses have other materials, like quizzes, textbooks, and, for computer programs, the programs themselves. Change up the learning mode frequently. Many of our courses have a suggested lesson plan/study guide in the back of our workbooks that break up the lessons into video, practice, and workbook time. Use those as your guide. Too long on one medium and you will start to wander. When you feel yourself needing to mix it up, do it.
- Pace yourself
How long is a high school class session, typically? 45 minutes? 55 minutes? (It was 55 for me back in high school, I think. That was a long time ago.) Match each study session for each subject/course to that time. It is very difficult for anyone to be in learning mode for too long without a break. If you are not bound by time constraints, here is a good rule to follow: If you are starting to lose focus on what you are trying to learn, take a break. Get up, walk around, get a drink of water, do something. Now, you may be thinking, “but I study for 2-3 hours straight all the time.” Good for you if you can do that. But studying is different than learning. Studying, for the most part, is a reinforcement of that which you have learned. It takes much more intense concentration to learn something new and one’s attention span for that is usually smaller. If you don’t believe me, try learning something new (like cooking for me) for two hours straight and see how much you remember after the first 30-45 minutes. There are numerous articles online that will back this up and I invite you to research this if you wish.
- Test yourself
As you mix up your learning and pace your learning, test yourself often. I don’t mean take a quiz or take a test here. I mean see if you can do that which you have learned, if applicable. Let me give you two examples: If you just finished watching a section of a Word course on how to build a table, open Word and build a table or two and put some data in there you can relate to. If you just finished watching a section on adding adjustment layers in Photoshop, open Photoshop, get a picture to edit, and make your own adjustments to the picture. Many of these certification exams are hands-on, meaning that you must perform tasks. What better way to get some practice than to create and edit a project that relates to something you like? Just to drive the point home, when I needed to refresh my Adobe Premiere skills before teaching the course last year, I edited some footage of something to which I can relate: my golf swing. If only I could edit the swing itself…
I digress. The point is: learning online is indeed different from learning in the classroom but, absent of a live instructor, you can make the rhythm of learning online make you feel as if you are in a classroom, through mixing up the learning, going at a reasonable pace, and testing yourself often through getting some hands-on practice.