How do I get the most out of online learning?
December 20, 2021  

Supplied by Minx Avrabos from SAIEE

With the rapid evolution of technology and electronics, we spend more time online than ever before. This shift in lifestyle has not only impacted the way we complete day to day tasks but has filtered through to every level of business, from small business to corporate. This change has had a significant effect on the way training is being taken by most professionals and has raised the question, ‘How do I get the most out of online learning?’

This CPD article aims to offer practical advice on how to get the most out of your online learning experience, some of our top tips for online learning, and how to retain that information and make the most of whatever course you choose to undertake.

Why is online learning increasingly important?

As technology advances and user experience improves, so does the popularity and frequency of use of online learning. It’s been proven to be a successful learning method and offers several different benefits alongside traditional in-person forms of education. 

Connects professionals from all over the world

One of the main advantages of online learning is that it can connect professionals from all around the world and enable them to share their knowledge without meeting in person. Traditional education is hindered as location dictates which classes you can take. Online learning enables you to sign up for classes worldwide, which can provide a more in-depth understanding of the global industry and help you build your network whilst developing an international mindset.

You can take control of your learning hours

Flexible learning hours are, in our opinion, one of the main benefits of online learning. Varying circumstances can mean you can’t always attend the most suitable training course/event for your requirements. Online learning offers most professionals the opportunity to learn whenever best suits them. Having the ability to learn with more flexible hours gives you more control over how you complete your professional development for the year. Giving professionals the flexibility to learn when you feel motivated should help increase your ability to retain information and enable you to get the most out of online learning.

Considers individual learning patterns

Every individual learns differently, and when you are taking an in-person course, you must adapt to the pace of the class or be left behind. One significant advantage of online learning is that it allows you more freedom to work at your own pace, which should inevitably improve your learning experience. Learning at your own pace should improve your grades and provide a more enjoyable overall learning experience.

Some research shows that, on average, individuals retain 25-60% more material when learning online compared to only 8-10% in a classroom environment. This is primarily due to professionals learning at their own pace and having fewer distractions than a traditional in-person learning environment.

Simple tips for online learning

One of the main factors that influence how much you are getting out of your online learning is how well you can take notes on the information presented to you. Understandably it is effortless to lose focus after spending a couple of hours staring at a screen, so it is imperative to plan your note-taking process to help maximise the amount of information you retain. 

We have compiled a few of our best note-taking tips for online learning:

  1. Structure your notes, so it is compiled into sections – You should organise the information into small modules and use it to test your knowledge, rather than just passively writing and rereading notes as this is likely to boost your memory and make it much easier for you to return to the relevant sections of your notes.
  2. Ask yourself a “pre-question” - Work out what you want to get out of a lecture before it takes place. Researchers believe that this technique is particularly effective for online learning. As it is not easy to skip through video content to find answers to those pre-questions, viewers will be much more likely to end up paying more attention.
  3. Work on your concentration - When you look at a screen all day, it can be tiring and hard to keep focused. Working out how best to boost your concentration might help you out, and there is currently an abundance of methods that research suggests are incredibly effective. Among those are simple methods such as making sure you are well-rested and taking regular breaks. It would be best to try to identify what helps you concentrate and make sure you are practising it before you sit down for your online training.
  4. Get socialising – Some studies suggest that discussing course material with others in online forums may improve outcomes. The most active individuals in the learning forums were more likely to achieve a higher final grade.

Additional tips on how to practically apply knowledge to future situations

  1. Focus on the relevance of what you’re learning - If you want your learning to be engaging, then remembering it in other contexts is essential when establishing relevance early on. Research shows that connecting what you’re learning to what you already know helps to build neural connections and long-term memory storage so you can apply it in future situations much more effortless.
  2. Take time to reflect and self-explain – It can help you identify any incorrect assumptions, lead to a deeper understanding of the material, and ultimately promote knowledge transfer.
  3. Identify any gaps in your knowledge – If you don’t completely understand a particular concept or some of the information you’re learning, transferring it to new contexts will be much more difficult.
  4. Practise generalising – By rewriting something that you have just learned in a more generic form, it is easier for you to remember it. When you encounter a future situation, you should apply this knowledge much more effortless.
  5. Find daily opportunities to apply what you’ve learned - Applying what you’ve learned to real-world problems takes a lot of practice. Hence, it’s essential to look for opportunities to apply what you’re learning in your everyday life. If you just attended a customer service training course, for example, try to employ one of the new strategies you learned about when interacting with customers on your first day back at work. 

Look for CPD certified courses

One effective way to get the most out of online learning is to ensure the courses have been CPD certified. If you want more assurance that the training courses will be delivered at a high standard, then look for ones that have been CPD accredited by a recognised independent organisation, such as the SAIEE. This will help ensure that the course is not riddled with promotional sales materials, and you can focus on retaining the maximum amount of information possible.

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