Little did we know that just over a month ago so many of us would find ourselves confined to our homes and be unable to carry out the usual daily activities or work that we once took for granted. With the possibility of this situation being the new ‘normal’ for some time to come, it has left many people wondering how to fill the time during this period of isolation.
It’s therefore no surprise that online learning has seen a real increase in popularity in the past few weeks, particularly for those in the trade who cannot work from home. Having the flexibility to log-on to virtual courses, at a time that suits, can be a real benefit with many choosing to use their ‘down-time’ to study for qualifications that will benefit them once social distancing is at an end.
If you are thinking about taking an online course, here are our five top tips for getting the most out of online learning …
1. Do your research
Cheap is rarely best. And the most expensive option doesn’t make it the best either. So, always choose based on quality. Never buy without seeing sample course content, not just advertised material. If there is little sample content available, ask yourself why? Check out reviews and testimonials from people who have used the course before signing up. It’s easy to go with a provider because they are well-known, but that doesn’t always guarantee that the course you end up with is interesting and best suits your learning needs. Finding the right balance of price, good reputation and high-quality will boost your chances of success and help ensure you pass your qualifications first time.
2. Seek variety
Few would argue that we learn best when we are engaged. Some online training is dire, often nothing more than automated voice over PowerPoint slides or something similar. It is essential to have well presented, engaging content to give you the best chance of enjoying your online study. Research1 indicates that quality learning requires interaction and utilises elements such as regular revision questions, videos, on-site demos and graphics. These help keep your attention and allow you to retain the information being shared; so seek out these solutions.
Take a look at these examples from Learninglounge.com to give you an idea of the quality and variety you should expect from online learning.
3. Find your most effective study environment
Once you’ve found the best course for you, think about how you’ll find it easiest to study? Here’s some questions to ask yourself:
· Where is the best place for you to conduct your online learning? What are the benefits and distractions of places like the kitchen, bedroom or garden? Where will you best concentrate?
· What limitations do you face with your available technology to study online? How fast and reliable is your broadband or Wi-Fi connection? What browser are you using? Can you currently stream video to your laptop, desk-top or tablet? Most can, but if not, the minimum requirements for a quality viewing experience are provided on learninglounge.com
· When is your best time to study? Early morning, afternoon or the middle of the night? Will you be able to remove all distractions at that time of day?
· What are your expectations and objectives from the course? Be clear what you want to achieve and by when. What will best help keep you focused on completing the course?
· What deadlines, assignments or live tutorials do you need to complete? Can you commit to the timeframes? When do you need to have your qualification? Set a target completion date and create a study programme that fits your timeframe and circumstances. You can always amend it, but a structure can be a good motivator.
· How would you benefit from a structured study plan and routine to give you some additional focus? What time are you giving yourself for interesting distractions and breaks to do something nice. Tea, coffee or whatever you fancy. Give yourself time to digest your learning!
4. Stay focused
One of the great things about online learning is that there are far fewer distractions than with classroom-based courses but, to maintain your focus, you’ll need to be disciplined to ensure you get the most from this type of training.
It’s a view that lead tutor Dave Austin from LearningLounge.com agrees with.
“If you want to get the most from your online course, concentration is key. Most people are easily distracted, even when isolated at home. Emails, social media, phone calls and family members popping in can really get in the way of learning. Our most successful students have found that allocating a specific time in the day to study pays dividends. Switch off the phone and email, ask not to be disturbed and fully focus on the task in hand. Thirty minutes focussed study is worth much more than an hour of disturbed time”.
5. Embrace the opportunity
Virtual learning does require a certain level of self-discipline, and because study is often self-guided, you’ll need to maintain enough enthusiasm to complete the course. With this in mind, make sure that wherever possible you select a course that really interests you or that you have a professional motivation to complete.
Being clear in your mind as to why you are studying and reminding yourself of this can be a significant motivator. Ultimately, it is to boost your career, expand your skill set and potentially enable you to take on your next challenge with confidence, so don’t lose sight of this.
Online learning does have the benefit that you study at your own pace. Skip through bits you know well, revisit areas of weakness. There is no-one in the front row struggling with a simple concept and slowing your day. Likewise, no-one knows that you are having a tough time with something. Video presenters never get bored repeating things. The learning pace and style is totally focussed on you.
If you are an electrical professional thinking of studying whilst at home, check out www.learninglounge.com for a selection of practical courses and qualifications, including 18th Edition study packages and the new electric vehicle equipment installation course, EVE. Special discounts apply to some of the courses during the self-isolation period - contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details of our latest offers and promotional pricing.
1LEARNING EFFECTIVENESS ONLINE: WHAT THE RESEARCH TELLS US Karen Swan Research Center for Educational Technology, Kent State University