For today’s round-up I’m going to focus on the tips and strategies for success that online learners are sharing in our #OLsuccess twitter stream and forum posts. Top tips mainly concern motivation and organisation, though there is also advice on how to work productively with others, and a few bits of digital know-how.
To stay motivated, online learners say:
- Relax and learn at your own pace, accept that other learners may get through work faster or do things differently – that’s OK. ‘Give yourself time – Rome wasn’t built in a day’. ‘If you feel stressed then reflect on your motive for doing the course’.
- Be clear about your own goals and what you want to achieve; be sure an online course will actually open doors (e.g. will be recognised by an employer) if that is what motivates you.
- Be ready for set-backs and bad days, and plan for how you will keep going. ‘There are ups and downs and you may sometimes feel like things aren’t going as planned. Keep pushing and you will succeed.’ ‘Understand that setbacks are part of life and not the end – develop a growth mindset!’
- Be pro-active: get involved, ask questions, ask for clarification, share what you know.
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses as an online learner.
- Schedule time away from the computer, especially out of doors.
- Enjoy what you’re studying: only take online courses that really inspire you, choose content and activities that match with your interests and goals.
To stay organised, online learners say:
- Research the course to see if its objectives and structure will meet your needs: understand the course aims and how it works; check the course requirements, due dates etc.
- Prepare: navigate around the course before you start, find the resources and forums, introduce yourself to other learners, take time to get to know the environment and how everything works
- Organise your time, don’t expect someone else to do this for you: create a timetable suited to your lifestyle, decide when and where you will study, ringfence your study time.
- Plan your learning in detail and and monitor progress: think about how and when you’ll complete the readings, videos, activities; set yourself goals from day to day.
- Create a positive study area; minimise distractions and interruptions.
- Develop a system to organise the information and resources, including a variety of different media.
- (Some learners advise): Keep up to date: don’t leave everything until the last minute, keep up with other learners so you can collaborate and share with them.
- (Other learners suggest you use the flexibility of learning online to) go at your own pace, customise the learning to suit you, decide what is relevant to your own goals and skip the rest: ‘you’re making your own learning path; take a mix and match approach‘.
There is some advice to make working with others more enjoyable and productive (bearing in mind our findings that working independently is preferable for some learners):
- Get to know other students on the course and get involved as early as you can; join in online discussions; share ideas, resources, problems, and use this to motivate you. ‘A mutual support network is hugely motivating‘.
- Maintain regular contact, even if it’s just a positive comment on someone else’s contribution.
- Accept and explore different viewpoints, use the opportunity to meet people you would not otherwise encounter e.g. from different subject backgrounds, cultures, countries.
- If you do fall behind, reach out to other learners and teachers for support. Don’t be shy to ask for clarification, help, guidance, advice. ‘The online community is generally very supportive. Don’t be afraid to reach out.’
- Understand where your support comes from – home, work, colleagues, family, peers.
- ‘If you do find it difficult to have a voice – start small and work up to more as your confidence grows‘.
There weren’t as many comments about technology use, but a few pieces of valuable advice from online learners were:
- Make sure you have reliable technology to work with before you start!
- Use open web tools to support your learning, wherever this is possible, e.g. open educational content, online lectures, open e-books and journals to complement course content.
- In the same way, use social media and web tools to support your connections with other learners. ‘Skype chat allows you to share with other learners in a controlled way’. ‘Maybe there’s a FB group‘ ‘Even if you are using a LMS, develop a digital support infrastructure using the web.’
We also had the Open University Library following the discussion: they pointed us to their quiz to self-assess digital learning practices.
If you follow some of this advice you may achieve online learning success on a grand scale:
- ‘I’ve completed more than 40 MOOCs, so I know it’s achievable!’
- ‘I have a BA and two graduate degrees…it is sometimes about endurance and rigor.’
For people interested in analytics, we’ve had well over 800 tweets sent out with the #OLsuccess hashtag and over 200k impressions (twitter accounts reached by those tweets). Some of that is due to people with many followers retweeting us – stand up @EricStoller and @jisc – but we are reaching a large number of separate accounts and our reach is building as we go along. We really need to translate that interest into online learners commenting, responding, visiting our online forums and taking part in the ten-minute survey. That way we can gather more valuable advice and learn even more about what makes online learners tick.