As digital access grows and the global village shrinks, online learning has quickly become a highly useful tool for the entire planet. From bookkeeping to social media management, mathematics, or project management, the Internet has allowed for virtual classrooms for people of all backgrounds and cultures.
This melting pot of learning brings with it many unique advantages and disadvantages, but a crucial takeaway should be that the overall experience often hinges on the individual student.
Step 1: Get to Know the Course and Its Platform
The odds are that because you’re taking an online course, you’ll be making use of a digital learning platform of some type, be it Sakai or a bespoke system. Take some time to get to know the platform – chances are you’ll be spending quite a bit of time using it in the upcoming weeks! Play around on the forums, become familiar with the interface and ensure that you’re comfortable with the platform. And if you’re uncomfortable, bug an instructor!
Step 2: Participate, Participate, Participate!
If the course allows for it, participation is absolutely vital to a great online learning experience. Contribute your ideas, theories and perspective when possible and relevant, and interact with other students regularly.
While course material and experienced educators are fantastic, a real gem can be found in the connections made with other students. Because everyone is doing the same course, it’s likely that you’re in a similar industry or field. So get to know, and learn, from each other.
Also, don’t forget about chat rooms, forums and other interactive channels which the course conveners might offer. They’re there for your benefit, so don’t let them go to waste!
Step 3: Network like There Is No Tomorrow
While included in the second step, networking is a great benefit of online learning. Imagine your course as a virtual conference, with students from across the globe, many of them bringing unique experiences, challenges and opportunities.
And don’t forget about the ubiquitous social media! Leverage professional social networking platforms like LinkedIn to create long-lasting connections, or better yet, ask a student or instructor to write a virtual recommendation for your social media profiles and Google CV.
Step 4: Don’t Leave Your Work to the Last Minute
Don’t be your own worst enemy! While it’s tempting to leave your readings and assignments to the last minute, this is one sure-fire way of sabotaging your learning experience. Not only will you be forced to rush through the readings, but chances are you’ll also submit work that, let’s face it, won’t accurately reflect your capabilities, knowledge and experience.
To make the most of your course, create a work schedule upfront. Consider upcoming events and commitments and try to create a structured learning program. A great benefit of online learning is its flexibility, so take advantage of this. Are you an early riser or a night owl? Find a time that suits your nature and stick to it!
Step 5: Put Your Learning in Practice, ASAP!
One of the best ways of learning is by doing, and what’s a better way to cement your recent online education by implementing your knowledge as you’re learning it?
Depending on what you’re studying, take the initiative by making practical steps towards pushing your capabilities. For example, if you’re studying a course in social media, create an online presence from day one and implement your regular learning as you learn, be it by perfecting your copywriting skills or creating a viral buzz. By doing so, you’ll also see the fruits of your labor a lot sooner than if you wait until your virtual graduation!
An Important Reminder
While online education grows from strength to strength, a lot of responsibility lies with you as a learner. There is no educator standing over your shoulder making sure your deadlines are met or that you’re actually doing the readings. That said, there is a huge amount of support out there, so go ahead and ask as many questions as humanly possible!
Besides operating within both the education and digital industry, the team members at Quirk Education thought it would be a great idea to put together a nifty infographic which explains how online learning came about, and importantly, why it’s beneficial. This infographic serves to introduce you to the awesome possibilities of learning via the Internet and more.
Click the infographic below to enlarge.