Have you crossed a post with a bunch of links to e-learning websites (MOOCs) and online libraries for courses that you can make use of? You probably saved this post and never checked it back. Did it make you feel overwhelmed by the never-ending flow of knowledge on the internet?
In this article, I will tell you how to overcome this feeling and start making use of your time to learn more and maybe earn a degree or two.
You are on your own
Whether you are already enrolled to a course you didn’t check back, or you have a long list of wanna-enroll-in courses, you need to understand how e-learning is entirely different from traditional education, where you can interact in-flesh with peers and tutors. In e-learning:
- You can study anywhere, literally: I once took a graded quiz on the beach, and the other night I was sick, so I wrote my essay in bed. It’s obvious since it is e-learning, but you wouldn’t know how awesome it is until you try it.
- You are responsible for your education: No one will ever notify you of your exams, quizzes or assignments. Even when it happens, don’t expect it to be the norm. You are in total charge of your education.
- You have to make all the effort: Unlike a physical classroom, you have to send your questions to your tutor, he/she will not notice you if you are distracted and won’t discuss your performance with you for your own good.
Set educational goals
If you are new to the e-learning experience, start with one course that really interests you so as not to get overwhelmed. And before rushing to enroll to a bunch of courses, you will never check again, set your educational goals. Here is a list of educational needs you might consider while choosing a course or a skill:
- Your current work/job skills: Skills you need to perform your current job better.
- Growth skills you need in your career: Skills you need to get promoted or expand your job description or pay range.
- Certification courses: Courses (or skills) you may need for a particular certification you need to boost your career status.
- Career shift related skills: Skills that you need to learn before jumping to a new field or industry.
- Hobby-related skills: Skills you just want to learn, just for your enjoyment.
From there you can create an educational roadmap, with all the skills you need to acquire on a timeline, edit and update it as you go.
Take advantage of the flexibility
Flexibility is one of the huge advantages of online self-learning. Not only you can attend classes and study anywhere, but also you can study any time that fits your schedule. This exact feature may come to your benefit while you are trying to up your career game. For that let me tell you that e-learning can fall into one of the following types:
- Preset scheduled curriculum (certified or not): you follow deadlines preset by the MOOC platform, you have to submit your assignments and projects, and answer quizzes before their deadlines. This is where you have to plan your schedule around your course deadlines.
- Self-Paced: Some online courses don’t have a preset schedule. You are your own boss here. This is where most of us screw up, and where self-discipline and knowledge of motivated skills come in handy.
- Self-study: Other topics are broader than getting an e-learning course, you have to take it to the next level and include several courses (track), resources, and books. This is what we call self-study. Though we are not talking about this kind of e-learning, it’s the most interesting type of them all. To have that level of dedication and persistence, the area of study must be super-interesting to you, because it is also the hardest of them all.
E-learning environment has certain educational terms and expressions that we don’t usually use or hear about throughout our educational experience in school or college. Let me introduce you to the most common terms:
- Peer Assessment: Your assignments don’t get assessed by your instructor only, but also by your peers. You get evaluated by three of your peers, and you -also assess three of your peers. You get the average mark of their gradings. Peer assessment is a key factor in giving you a different perspective and tests your critical thinking, which is a very important skill in any educational process.
- Discussion Forums: They are basic forums where you discuss a specific topic, aspect, problem, or example of your material unit. You have to reply and interact with your instructor and your peers. They substitute the usual classroom discussion. Sometimes participation in the discussion forums is a must to get certified.
- Learning Journal: Some platforms take it to the next level with a learning journal. In the learning journal you share your thoughts, your reflections and what you experienced personally and academically through the course units.
- Citation: It is the clear identification of the source of work or information. Some instructors prefer specific citation styles than others, and sometimes they request for some tweaks on a certain citation style.
- Plagiarism: Failing to create a clear citation, or quoting without referring to the source. Plagiarism is prohibited and may result in removing you from the course or banning you from the platform.
Being a good online student
Being an online student is not only about how you perform academically, but also about how you interact with your instructors and peers. Apart from the general etiquette, you accompany with the word “polite,” here are some points to keep in mind:
- Know the rules: Read course disclaimers and MOOC student handbook -if available. Make sure you don’t break any rules. It’s good for you also to know what you are entitled to and what to do if you got harassed or discriminated in any way.
- Avoid politics: Engaging in politics (unless related to the course you are taking) creates tension between you and your peers.
- Be culture-sensitive: Online, there are many students from all around the world. You have to respect other cultures. Never comment on something that may hurt students from a certain culture or have a certain belief.
- Never plagiarize: It is the biggest mistake you could ever do in your academic life. Make sure you cite and refer properly; when you paraphrase and when you quote.
Build your support system
Being an online student, especially if you already have a job, is not an easy thing. You will need the people around you to understand your situation and support you to achieve your goals.
- Instructors: Ask your instructor when there is something unclear, or you want further reading material.
- Academic Advisors: Stay connected with your academic advisor (if exists) and ask him/her about anything you need to know when in doubt.
- Study buddies: Communicate with our classmates and choose someone you find his/her contributions interesting. Offer to be his/her study buddy and schedule study sessions and revision marathons.
- Your family: Tell your partner, family, and friends about your goals, so they can help you through the process.
- Your manager: Orient your manager to your schedule and situation so he/she can understand when you need a day or more off before your exams. This is very effective, especially if what you are studying will level up your career-related skills.
Studying online might mean that you don’t have to go to a classroom or a physical space. Though, you need to make sure you have a system that helps you perform academically:
- Good internet connection, because you don’t want to miss a deadline or get cut out of an exam.
- A reliable laptop, as much as it seems obvious, you might lose that research paper you have been working on for weeks because your hard drive needed to be erased.
- A dedicated spot for studying, inviting enough to help you commit to your educational goals.
Just like any education or learning process, make use of technology. Go mobile. If there is an app for your MOOC platform, use it. Record your notes and annotate over the learning material. Track your time and use the results to your benefit while planning your study sessions.
But don’t go too digital
Of course, some skills and some classes are all digital, like programming, data analysis, and digital marketing. But, don’t ditch the physical notes entirely. Taking notes by hand enhances recollection and helps the information stick more.
Take it seriously
It’s easy to go down the slope, especially when the course is free. Sometimes, also, you may think that a self-paced online course is delayable, so there is no urgency. That’s why you need to make a commitment to yourself and put your eyes on the end goal. Maybe it is your opportunity to grow in your career, find a better job, or even shift your career entirely. Make an effort to schedule study sessions on your calendar, or reserve it as a daily habit to study for a certain time. Whatever works for you. Don’t save an effort that will contribute to your development.
Now, it’s your turn: what is the course that came up to your mind while reading this article?