Suggestions for Online Learning

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Coursera Teaching & Learning Specialist @Linlin has shared these 8 tips for people learning online for the first time. They’re great tips for longtime online learners, too!

Taking an online course for the first time? As a member of Coursera’s Teaching and Learning team, I’ve had the privilege to work with hundreds of educators to bring their courses to more than 48 million people around the world. Based on research and best practices from our community, here are eight, go-to study tips for learning online.

#1: Set daily goals for studying
Ask yourself what you hope to accomplish in your course each day. Setting a clear goal can help you stay motivated and beat procrastination. The goal should be specific and easy to measure, such as “I’ll watch all the videos in Module 2 and complete the first programming assignment.” And don’t forget to reward yourself when you make progress towards your goal!

#2: Create a dedicated study space
It’s easier to recall information if you’re in the same place where you first learned it, so having a dedicated space at home to take online courses can make your learning more effective. Remove any distractions from the space, and if possible, make it separate from your bed or sofa. A clear distinction between where you study and where you take breaks can help you focus. 

#3: Schedule time to study on your calendar
Open your calendar and choose a predictable, reliable time that you can dedicate to watching lectures and completing assignments. This helps ensure that your courses won’t become the last thing on your to-do list.

#4: Keep yourself accountable
Tell your friends about the courses you’re taking, post achievements to your social media accounts, or blog about your homework assignments. Having a community and support network of friends and family to cheer you on makes a difference.

#5: Actively take notes
Taking notes can promote active thinking, boost comprehension, and extend your attention span. It’s a good strategy to internalize knowledge whether you’re learning online or in the classroom. So, grab a notebook or find a digital app that works best for you and start synthesizing key points.

#6: Join the discussion
Course discussion forums are a great place to ask questions about assignments, discuss topics, share resources, and make friends. Our research shows that learners who participate in the discussion forums are 37% more likely to complete a course. So make a post today!

#7: Do one thing at a time
Multitasking is less productive than focusing on a single task at a time. Researchers from Stanford University found that “People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.” Stay focused on one thing at a time. You’ll absorb more information and complete assignments with greater productivity and ease than if you were trying to do many things at once. 

#8: Take breaks
Resting your brain after learning is critical to high performance. If you find yourself working on a challenging problem without much progress for an hour, take a break. Walking outside, taking a shower, or talking with a friend can re-energize you and even give you new ideas on how to tackle that project.

Some additional suggestions:

  • Minimize screen distractions:
    • Close all browser tabs and windows that are not being used
    • Turn off all notifications from emails and social media
    • Enter full screen for the browser and documents
  • Set a detailed timetable:
    • break down your routine into smaller manageable parts with time allocation for reading, watching a video tutorial and writing notes
  • Ensure to use a notebook and pen:
    • Make notes by writing on pen and paper: this helps retaining knowledge better than just typing on a device
  • Customize your screen:
    • Check your Accessibility preference settings and use them (both Windows and Mac devices have them, just search for “Accessibility preferences”)
  • Turn on captions and subtitles when watching video tutorials:
    • They are useful to everyone and reading them while listening helps with retaining the information
  • Read the video and podcast transcriptions: 
    • They are helpful to everyone and some people prefer reading the transcriptions than watching the videos
  • Organize your resource library in a spreadsheet or as a list in a word document
  • Ensure to take regular breaks from the screen:
    • but do not allow your small breaks to break your flow with distracting activities: do a small number press-ups, star jumps and stretches, make a cup of tea or any healthy drink you like or just close your eyes for 10 minutes to rest between topics.