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6 tips for getting the most out of online learning

online learningOnline learning offers a flexible and convenient way to learn in the place you choose on a schedule that is convenient for you. Here are some tips that will help you get the most out of online learning.

Tip #1: Prepare your mind and body.

Work on your online learning when you are well rested and well nourished. If your body is tired, so is your mind. If you're hungry, you will not be as receptive to learning. Of course, it's not a good idea to work on your online learning immediately after eating a huge plate of lasagna, either. After a big heavy meal, your body spends most of its energy digesting food, which makes you feel sluggish and sleepy — so your goal here is to be not hungry, but not over-stuffed either.

Tip #2: Schedule your online learning time.

Online learning courses are generally chunked into digestible modules of about 30 minutes in duration. If you have a course that consists of forty 30-minute modules, you will probably want to break your online learning into several separate sessions on separate days. If you try to complete twenty hours of training in one session, you’ll get exhausted and you won’t get the most out of the training.

Be realistic about the time you will need for an online learning session and plan accordingly. Make sure you give yourself enough time to work through all of the material for the session and digest it.

Think of the time you have scheduled as an important meeting with yourself. Don’t allow interruptions to this meeting with yourself.

  • Ensure other people in your office are aware when you are in training and not to be interrupted.
  • Let your calls go to voice mail or have someone take messages for you.
  • Switch off email notifications so you won’t be distracted.

Tip #3: Prepare a virtual classroom for your online learning.

Work in a quiet space with no distractions. This may mean working somewhere other than your usual desk.

Most online learning provides audio. You may find that earphones/ear buds will make it easier for you to hear the audio... and they'll help block out most other noise and distractions from your environment.

If you are accessing your online learning from home, let your family and friends know you’re “in a class” and that they should not interrupt you for anything other than an extreme emergency (the house is on fire or someone is bleeding profusely).

Add a link to the online material in to your Favorites list on your web browser, so you won’t have to waste time finding the site when you get ready to access your next online learning session.

Tip #4: Increase the impact of your online learning.

Most online learning provides a quiz at the end of each module. When you finish a module, if you feel you don’t have a good grasp of the material, go through the module again before taking the quiz. This will reinforce what you have learned, and help you to score better on the quiz.

Statistics show that most people do best on a quiz if they take the quiz immediately upon finishing the material covered.

Go back through the material and look up the answers for any quiz questions you get wrong.

Some online learning allows you to retake a quiz if you don’t score well the first time. If you have this opportunity and you don’t do well on the first take of the quiz, complete the module again, and then retake the quiz. This not only improves your score, it actually reinforces what you have learned.

Tip #5: Use it so you won't lose it!

Use what you've learned! Apply new ideas and skills to your work as soon as possible.

Tip #6: Set yourself up for a successful certification exam.

If your online learning course offers a certification exam, schedule it as soon as possible after completing the course. I have found that the best time to take a certification exam online is Tuesday morning after eating a good breakfast. On Tuesday morning you’re still somewhat rested from the weekend (not burned out yet), but you are less likely to have to deal with the types of unexpected interruptions and IT emergencies that occur on Mondays.

I hope you will find these tips useful when you take online courses. One more thing — remember that when you're learning online, you're in control of the time, place, and pace of your learning, so it's up to you to make the most of it!

Gaye Walker has been an instructional designer at Nan McKay and Associates for more than a decade. She specializes in the design and development of online courses and tools that provide PHAs with flexible training options and has previously written for the NMA blog about the benefits of online learning.

Our partnership with HTVN provides students with the opportunity to enjoy many training options for both the HCV and public housing programs. Visit their website to view available classes.