(No, you shouldn’t be on the beach with a mojito)
The flexibility of being able to study anywhere at any time sounds enticing in today’s hectic, go go go world. Online classes seem like a gift from the technology gods—but they do come with their own set of challenges.
To help our students prepare for these challenges, we’ve put together some information and tips about studying and learning online. Maybe you haven’t really studied for anything since high school or college, or perhaps this will be your first experience learning outside a traditional classroom. You might spend all day on the computer but between the emails, social media, and home life, you have no idea how you’re going to remember any of this!
We’ve tackled these concerns in a two-part series:
- In this article we’ll cover the sciency brain stuff: How the human brain deals with digital information and the best ways to remember the material you’re studying. These are some tried and true methods that will help you make the most of your online education.
- In part two we’ll look at personal learning style, study environment, and a few tools that you may find very helpful while studying online. See how to set yourself up for success from the get-go!
So, on to the sciency brain stuff!
While every person is unique in how they learn and retain information, it is important to know that research does agree on a few points when it comes to reading and studying. We don’t want to get too detailed about the science, but knowing a little about how your brain works with information, especially digital information, will help you move through your course more efficiently and retain more information at the end.
As we continue to use computers and technology in our daily lives, our brains are adapting to help accommodate the massive amounts of information we are constantly receiving. Research shows that now, when we read anything, we are skimming the words. We are skipping through paragraphs. We are trying to find the most important words and phrases, eliminating everything else. (Are you doing it right now?)
This may be OK for a novel, a textbook or a newspaper. It is not OK for an online course: Most computer-based courses (definitely our AdjusterPro courses) have already done that work for you. So while it seems simple, think about it before you sit down to learn. Recognize that your brain will want to skim through that information. Don’t let it. What’s in the course is all important stuff. We promise!
Study vs Break Time
There are a lot of differing opinions on the exact numbers but the constant takeaway is your brain needs a break. You may need to experiment a bit but research shows, at most, you should not study for more than an hour without a break.
AdjusterPro Tip: Our courses were designed in manageable modules to help create a natural cycle of work and breaks.
‘The Pomodoro Method’ recommends focused work for 25 minutes with a 5 minute break. The ‘Rule of 52 and 17’ calls for just under an hour of work followed by a longer break. You get the idea. It may be tempting, especially if you have a hectic schedule, to sit down and power through for a few hours. Or maybe you tell yourself you’re “taking a break” and then switch from your online class to your email, Facebook, or favorite sports or gossip website. That doesn’t count! Force yourself to take a real break at least once an hour: Get up and move around. Make some tea. Grab some food. Go outside and walk for a few minutes. Shoot some hoops. Change your scenery. A quick recess will amp up your productivity and comprehension.
This is the main challenge for every student of every age, and unfortunately the computer has not helped us here. Research shows we do not retain digital information as well as printed information. But there are some things we can do to help us remember.
- Study the same material in multiple ways. Take notes. Make flash cards. Read aloud. Any time you translate words into a different medium—from online to print, from print to speaking—it helps solidify those pathways in your brain and you will remember it better. This is why we have both audio and written information in our courses. Receiving and translating the same information in two different ways helps you retain it. Research also shows that explaining what you have learned to someone else greatly improves recall. So if you are struggling to understand and remember a concept, or even a definition, grab your spouse, your kid, even your dog and explain it to them. It sounds silly, but science shows it works!
- Review the next day. After you learn something new, try to review that information within 24 hours. This is based on a concept called the Curve of Forgetting that scientists have known about for a long time. The Curve of Forgetting explains that within 24 hours of learning something new, you will forget 50%-80% of that information. But if you review it, even for just 5 minutes the next day, your retention rates skyrocket! (Use your flashcards and notes.) It can be challenging to do with a hectic schedule but it will save you time in the end.
- Don’t multitask! One of the biggest advantages to online study is also its biggest challenge. You may think you are still learning the information even though you’re checking emails and listening to the news and chatting with your wife, but science disagrees: you aren’t. Research shows that multitasking interrupts the processing and absorption of knowledge into your brain. So if you aren’t really processing it, you probably won’t be able to recall it.
AdjusterPro Tip: Try to treat your online class just like you would a normal class. Close all other windows and programs on your computer. Put away your phone. Turn off the television and email/text notifications.
Lack of Sage on the Stage
Traditional classrooms offer a ‘Sage on the Stage.’ A teacher. A pro. An expert in the material who can help guide you, lead discussions and answer questions. But online learning lacks the sage, and this can have an intellectual and emotional effect on some learners. We often need help when we come across a concept we don’t understand.
AdjusterPro Tip: Join our Facebook Alumni group! We have a wonderful group of past and current students who are supportive and eager to help the adjuster community.
Experts can explain things in different ways to help you understand the information. They repeat data throughout the classes to help you remember it. Additionally, great teachers ask questions and lead discussions that keep students engaged and focused. There is no easy solution to the challenges presented by a lack of sage. Much like digital brain, simply being aware of the issue can help you overcome its effects. Recognize when you need to reach out for help and don’t be afraid to do so. Take a break when you find yourself overwhelmed by the information and want to look to a teacher for assistance.
So before diving head first into that next chapter or course, create a strategic plan for your work. If you keep these brain basics in mind and make an effort to adjust your study habits accordingly, you’ll see great results and be on your way to a successful career as an adjuster.