I don’t know about you, but the idea of online learning is hugely appealing to me. The flexibility to do it from anywhere and at my own pace makes online learning sound like the holy grail of the educational experience. I’ve often envisioned myself learning all kinds of new skills and information right from the comfort of my home office (aka: couch) all done in my spare time.
Then, reality sinks in – there’s no such thing as “free time” and if I’m really being honest, my couch office is a one-way street to dreamland, not a place where I’m learning new information. Unless it’s about How It’s Made…
And we haven’t even talked about subject matter yet. If the topic I want to learn about is something complex and detailed, like one of my favorite topics, Insurance Compliance, most surely is – it adds another element to the equation. Engagement. I will say, I’ve done some online learning programs on the topic, and while there was no shortage of valuable content right at my fingertips just waiting for me to master it all, the subject matter can be dry.
That said, online learning really can be a valuable tool in gaining new skills and expertise. Here are my top three tips on how to set yourself up for a successful online learning experience:
1. Be Realistic – like I said above, online learning isn’t necessarily any easier than any other type of learning. You still have to “show up” and do the work. But, online learning can make it more convenient to access the information you need. Be honest with yourself about what you need to do to make the experience a successful one. Schedule your study time, commit to the schedule, and set up a space that is conducive to learning. Or, in other words, don’t lay on the couch and expect to learn much or feel engaged in the content.
2. Know Your Goal – Understand exactly what it is you’re looking to learn, and find content that delivers. Look for a syllabus, course description, or course outline. If you have questions, ask! The more focused you get on your goal – what you need, and why you need it – the easier it will be to figure out if the course meets your needs. Another benefit here is that knowing your goal helps keep you motivated. Online learning requires some self-discipline, and if you’re anything like me, it doesn’t take much to convince yourself to do something else with your time (#YOLO #TreatYoSelf). I know at least for me, the more meaningful the goal is to my life – whether it’s for work or my own personal goals – the more likely I’ll stay motivated to see it through.
3. Ask Questions – Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. Something doesn’t make sense? Ask. Can’t figure out how to get the lesson started? Ask. Wish you could know more about XYZ? ASK. Online learning can be isolating. You might think of something, but never circle back to it because, well, life. But this is about you and moving yourself toward your goals, so make sure you ask the questions.
Online courses can be a powerful tool that allows busy professionals an avenue to continue learning. Don’t shy away from it! Take the time to develop a strategy and set yourself up for success. Happy learning!