Online education is always self-education. The result in this field depends strictly upon you, your goals and your perseverance. Where should you begin, once youhave set your sights on studying online? How should you choose the right courses and, most importantly, learn in such a way that it will bring maximum benefit? I have 10 life hacks for those who are seriously considering their professional and personal development.
1. Rational choice of courses
First of all, you need to decide what you would like to study and where. There are a lot of online courses on offer today, and at times it is difficult to decipher what is concealed beneath their marketing spiel. When choosing a course, follow the following guidelines:
- Listen to the opinions of friends or people who have completed the courses that you wish to opt for, and also to the opinions of those who work in your field.
- Evaluate the depth of knowledge that the course is offering: will it really help cultivate the skills for the job, or will it just provide basic knowledge?
- Weigh up the price tag of the course. Don’t opt for the cheapest or most expensive option. Choose courses with a rational, justifiable cost, so that after completing the course, you will see a substantial ROI.
2. Course timetable
After you have chosen a course, check out how the classes are conducted.
Courses can have a clear timetable, or they can consist of a cycle of videos that you can watch at any time. If these are live broadcasts, then set reminders for yourself, and try not to be late for them. If the training is structured through pre-recorded lectures, do not jump randomly from video to video – follow the established sequence.
Do not neglect homework, because completing it will help memorize what you have learnt and retain it in your mind in the long-term. Try to devote 45 minutes every day to this self-education task for a month – this is the most effective and efficient method.
3. Concentration Mode
Are you constantly distracted by social media? Android smartphones have a special feature known as Concentration Mode. It restricts the user’s access to applications for a certain period of time. Activate this restriction before starting to watch a lecture, or taking a test. If you’re on iOS, you can find apps with similar functionality in the Apple Store.
4. Mind maps
Making notes is a very important tool for any student. One of its formats is called mind maps. The diagram of these “mind maps” looks like a tree, with “branches” depicted like words, ideas, tasks, or any terms associated with the general concept. This pictorial depiction makes it easier to absorb and retain information and helps to:
- memorize, understand, think over the logic of the illustrated material;
- clearly explain your position to the listeners;
- briefly and concisely present the material;
- easier to make decisions, develop projects, create plans.
5. “Tomato” time management
If you belong to the category of people who procrastinate before getting down to work, then the Pomodoro timing system will be a big help for you. The idea is simple: set a timer for 20 minutes and devote these minutes exclusively to learning, without allowing yourself to be distracted by anything else. After that, take a 5 minute break, and then set the timer again for 20 minutes. And so on.
If you are unable to maintain concentration for 20 minutes, reduce this time to 10 minutes. Gradually increase it to 45 minutes – the optimal duration for a daily training session. Such a system will include provision for a 15 minute recess. Just imagine how much useful information you will be able to remember if you have 4 such sessions a day!
6. Bullet journal
Bullet journal is a scheduling system that helps you organize any information, including plans and daily tasks. It was invented by the New York designer Ryder Carroll: as a student, he could not concentrate on any single topic for any length of time, and was looking for a way to quickly capture thoughts. This is how Ryder came up with his own system of signs for marking notes:
- point – task to be done;
- cross – completed task;
- sign < – task is scheduled;
- > sign – task has been rescheduled (you did not manage to complete it on time);
- an asterisk – thoughts and notes that need not be built into the schedule, but which may be useful in work;
- circle – an important event or program.
What does Bullet journal look like in practice? You write down an important thought, event or task in a notebook (in free form), and then put the corresponding icon next to it. It’s that simple!
7. “Urgent or not?”
The Eisenhower Matrix is another time management technique for prioritizing a to-do list for the day. The matrix consists of four squares:
- important but not urgent;
- important and urgent;
- not important, but urgent;
- not important and not urgent.
By writing each task into one or another square, you can assess its real significance and decide on the priority it deserves.
Mnemonics is the “art of memorization” that was invented in ancient Greece. It is ideal for those situations when you need to quickly learn some formulas or rules. The principle is simple – you need to come up with personal associations or use readily available phrases from the Internet. They will serve as triggers for what you need to remember. A classic example of a well-known mnemonic phrase is “Every hunter wants to know where the pheasant is sitting.” This phrase is used for remembering the order of the colors in the rainbow. You can use it not just for memorizing colors, but for anything, even the laws of physics.
Feel stuck in a certain topic and are unable to fully grasp it? Most often this happens because the current method of learning has ceased to work for you (temporarily). Try switching to other sensory channels. This means that you do not need to read only books, even if you think that reading is more convenient and effective for you than watching videos. Indeed, for a full and wide-ranging comprehension, the brain needs variety. So activating different sensory perceptions improves the memorization process. Listen to podcasts or watch webinars, in other words, do not get fixated on one particular method.
10. Stress management
Learning is always stressful, because you probably have to juggle several things at the same time: family, work, and self-education. Don’t be afraid of or ignore fatigue – instead, take regular time off to re-energize yourself. This will ensure that your training will be effective in the long run, and you will not feel inclined to give it up halfway. A good night’s rest, proper nutrition and exercise are the best help. There are also plenty of everyday options for dealing with stress. This can include meditation, yoga, and even just watching your favorite TV show wrapped in a comfortable blanket.
These simple yet effective life hacks will help you cope with any difficulties of online learning, cultivate a disciplined lifestyle, and even surprise an employer or acquaintance with your new skills.