Many professionals seek to be ‘lifetime learners’ – and with good reason: Scientists have suggested that you need to keep your brain active in order to avoid mental decay. In fact, challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them.
Physiologically, the hippocampus plays a crucial role in acquiring, consolidating and establishing new memories. The nearby amygdala then reacts to emotionally powerful information, helping the brain to retain information that has emotional impact. And once a memory is consolidated, it is stored primarily in areas of the cerebral cortex, the large, domed outer layer of the brain.
The science notwithstanding, however, some people just seem to learn easier and faster than others, often exhibiting creativity and innovation, and quickly picking up new skills.
But being a strong learner can, for lack of a better term, be learned. Because beyond inherent physiological predispositions for learning advantages, anyone can ultimately acquire the skills necessary to process and retain information.
And in this day and age, it’s widely accepted that eLearning is an excellent option for people of all different backgrounds looking to further their education. Professionals, parents and older students are among some of the learners who find that going to school online fits better with their lifestyles than attending classes held in traditional campus settings.
Despite all the benefits of eLearning, however, it’s difficult for some eLearners to adapt to virtual education when they’re accustomed to brick-and-mortar educational environments.
But really successful eLearners know the secret is to make the process as energizing and efficient as possible. Here are five eLearning best practices for how they do it.
Because successful eLearning requires personal discipline, it’s very hard to master if you aren’t serious about learning. Successful eLearning students recognize education as being a lifelong process, and are genuinely excited about expanding their knowledge. So avoid signing up for an internet course if you aren’t completely ready to fully invest yourself in it just yet.
Effective time management is one of the biggest problems with which many eLearners struggle as many online students juggle a slew of other important responsibilities outside of their classes, making it challenging for them to find moments where they can buckle down and focus on their studies. If you’re as busy as most eLearners, consider investing in a planner where you can schedule a daily routine for class participation and assignments.
For example, if you’re a morning person, plan to do discussion questions and replies before the rest of the world awakens. And allot more time in your weekly calendar for reading and writing assignments. But whatever you schedule, make sure you actually do it.
While in-person educational settings make it easy for students and professors to connect, the virtual barrier of eLearning complicates this process. However, it’s still vital that eLearners leave feedback for course designers and instructors. This can open the lines of communication and help to improve future learning experiences.
While it’s true that eLearning allows you to study from the comfort of your home, don’t let that comfort be your downfall. Take your courses seriously. Complete your assignments at a desk or a kitchen table – not lying in bed. Research shows that learning outcomes are better for students who study in a quiet and organized space and if you don’t have that kind of an environment at home, do your assignments at a local library or a quiet coffee shop.
Many successful eLearners ace their courses because they have designated study spaces where they can focus and complete assignments. While you may need to do coursework in your office’s break room or the dentist’s waiting area to stay on top of everything, you should have a go-to spot where you know you can have peace and quiet.
Education experts have identified several major learning styles – and catering to your individual learning style can help you perform better when learning. Every brain has a preferred method for receiving information: Some prefer to see things written or drawn out, others prefer to hear things, and others still prefer kinesthetic learning in order to process information in a practical way.
Determine what method speaks to your brain, and translate the material accordingly. If you’re visual, make charts and find video tutorials. If you’re auditory, find lecture recordings, podcasts, read it aloud to yourself, and discuss it with someone else. If you’re tactile, act it out, build a model, or use a computer simulation. In order to be a successful eLearner, you need to be self-aware about your own learning needs – and cater to them.
Like fingerprints, no two eLearners will be exactly alike. With a little self-awareness about how you best process and retain information, and the application of these eLearning best practices, you can quickly evolve into a successful eLearner and, arguably more importantly, a successful lifelong learner, both personally and professionally.
By Victoria Zambito, SVP of Content and Communication