This post was originally featured on debugacademy.com.
Online courses are very common in the tech world. We’ve all probably taken at least one Udemy course, and many boot camps and technical schools are offering remote options to accommodate distant and international students. They’re an easy, accessible, and sometimes cheap way to quickly and efficiently improve your skills…if done right.
Sometimes people have a hard time staying motivated and focused when taking online/remote courses. I’ve taken quite a few and I’m currently taking Debug Academy’s remote Drupal course. So this is a dilemma I’ve come across over and over again. This time around though, I wanted to break the cycle. So I decided to ask people on Twitter for tips on taking online courses.
I’m going to outline some of the feedback I received and even add some of my own tips. Here are 7 tips to help you successfully complete an online course.
This was by far the most common advice I got on Twitter. And this is what I’m worst at. Several people emphasized the benefit of having a set schedule. It’s helpful to keep track of deadlines and due dates. And even if your course is self-paced, try to work on it at the same time every week or every day if you can. Consistency is key in reaping the benefits of having a schedule.
Take notes!!! I can proudly say that I do this religiously. And I personally believe that it’s best to write your notes. I like to decorate mine and use different color highlighters and post-its. But if you like to type out your notes, do that. The most important thing here is to actively take notes especially when new information is being covered.
Try your best to attend live virtual classes if your schedule allows. Try to participate too. Even if you're uncomfortable speaking or being on camera, answer and ask questions in the chat. Doing this really helps me to feel like I’m more a part of the class and gives me a real sense of accountability. If for some reason you aren’t able to attend, watch the class recording as soon as possible!! Don’t put it off. See tip number 5 for more help.
Many online and remote courses host chats on platforms like Discord and Slack solely dedicated to their students. These chats are a great place to turn to if you have questions or need help or ideas. In all honesty, I’m not the best at actively participating but just like attending live classes, chats help establish a sense of community and accountability in students. So I’m setting a goal of participating in/checking chats once a week.
Put forth extra effort to stay on track. If you miss a lesson, watch it at your earliest opportunity and do the classwork and assignments too. Even if you already know the information being covered in certain parts of the curriculum, still complete assignments and classwork. It never hurts to reinforce what you already know by working on class projects. Don’t use your knowledge as an excuse not to do work. This might actually cause you to get into the habit of not doing work even when new topics are being covered. So try your best to keep up with your lessons and assignments so you don’t get stuck behind.
Being part of an in-person course has the added benefit of allowing you to be in an environment where everyone is working on the same things as you and everyone is learning the same material as you. When you’re participating in an online/remote course, you’re usually by yourself AND you might be working at home. And everyone knows that home is where all the distractions live. Try to limit distractions as much as possible. Let your family know which times during the day or week you will be working on your course. Invest in noise-canceling headphones if you can. Listen to music that helps you focus. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb and leave it across the room. USE THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE!! (Can’t you tell this one is my favorite?) If you can, create a space dedicated to working. It doesn’t have to be an office. I have a desk in my dining room that is solely for work.
Last but not least, be patient! There may be a lot of information that seriously confuses you. And because of the pace of the course or your own time constraints, you may not have the time to deeply explore certain topics. But trust the process. Most of the people who create these courses are experts and they have content later on down the line that will reinforce things you might not understand. So patience is key. And be persistent! When you’re facing a problem that you can’t seem to solve, keep at it. Don’t give up. Ask for help if you need to. Be persistent and patient. In the end, you’ll be glad you were.
I know that was a lot. But I promise implementing just one of these tips will help you be more effective with online courses. As I go through my Debug Academy course, I’ll definitely be using these tips. I’ll be updating you all on my progress here and on Twitter. So stay tuned.
And of course, I want to hear what you have to say! What helps you gain the most from online/remote courses? Feel free to leave any tips or advice you have in the comments! I’m always looking to improve my learning skills. And I’m sure others would love to hear from you too! So please don’t hesitate to share with us.