By Althea Need Kaminske
Learning online presents different challenges for students than learning face-to-face in a classroom. Whether you are an older student learning online in your spare time, a university student taking online courses in combination with face-to-face classes, or even a younger (or much younger) student learning online as a safety precaution during quarantine or lockdown, there are some steps you can take to get the most out of online learning. Here are some tips for students, and parents of students, on how to get the most out of online learning.
Even though the classes might look very different, the basic principles of learning still apply. The same study strategies that we recommend for students in general – retrieval practice, spaced practice, interleaving, elaboration, dual coding, and concrete examples – are great ways to study while taking an online class. Learning about how learning works is a great way to start off any semester.
Time management is important for any coursework, but it is especially important in online learning. One of the most popular models for online instruction is asynchronous teaching. In asynchronous learning, learning materials like pre-recorded lectures, podcasts, or readings are posted and available for you to engage with by a certain date. For example, you may have a video and a short reading that you need to complete before answering discussion questions or completing a worksheet. Asynchronous learning is contrasted with synchronous learning where students engage with the material at the same time. A traditional classroom lecture is a form of synchronous learning because all of the students in the classroom are listening to the same lecture from the teacher at the same time. Online learning can be synchronous as well – if students are all watching the same video stream or attending the same zoom meeting at the same time, then learning is happening synchronously.
One of the advantages of asynchronous learning is that it gives students more flexibility. You can watch the video or do the reading when it is most convenient for you – during a lunch break, at a cafe with internet access, when the family computer is free, after the kids go to bed, etc. While this is a big advantage it is also a big responsibility. It means you have to manage your time and prioritize your learning. Often the type of learning activity you need to do for your class changes from week to week. This means you have to look ahead and plan accordingly.