In 2020, we saw a growing number of workers and companies seeking out and offering online learning opportunities. Not only are workers looking to gain skills for success in our changing economy, but companies are also looking to advance the skill set of their organization. While this trend towards learning 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 at work, 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 five proven steps based on established learning science principles of practice, application, and reflection that you can leverage to make the knowledge more ‘sticky.’
Partner: create communities and find a study buddy
It’s hard to stay motivated if you feel like you’re doing everything on your own. 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 fellow employees or friends who are also taking it. Research shows 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. A well-designed learning experience will provide you with opportunities to practice, apply, and reflect, for example, by asking you to solve finger exercises as you learn. But you can also reinforce your learning outside of a class by connecting it to your everyday work.
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. You can also skip to the material that you need at that point in time, so you can be sure what you’re learning can be applied directly to the work you’re doing.
Pencil: take notes even though everything is available online
While online course content is always available to reference, taking good old-fashioned notes helps with retention of the information. When watching pre-recorded videos, pause and write a brief summary of what you have heard in notes every few minutes. For live video, take notes as you watch. Pay attention to what you are hearing and participate in the discussion to help keep your focus. Raise your virtual hand or ask a question in the chat.
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 either with each other. Set up a ‘lunch and learn’ with fellow coworkers taking the same course as you, and try teaching the material back to each other to reinforce your learning.
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 five 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. What other methods do you use to stay motivated in your learning?