Strategies to Master Online Courses

By Leandra Gunnion

Online courses have become a familiar complement to our university life. Whether we use it to clear credits through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), acquire new skills for our internships, or simply for the fun of trying something new, we can be assured there exists a course for almost every topic imaginable. 

With its implied flexibility and seamless accessibility, it’s no wonder we find online learning so appealing. But amidst its alluring sweetness is a hidden bitter side. Without the pressure to meet assignment deadlines or prepare for examinations, online courses often bring with them an air of complacency. After all, we usually think it’s as simple as selecting a course and completing it when we have time.  

Before we know it, the course ends up being buried under a pile of our other commitments and activities. The fact is, we have so much to gain from online courses, if we could only utilise them more effectively. 

Ready to find out more about the right way to approach your next online course? Read on for some tips and tricks! 

When approached correctly, online courses can be a very valuable add-on to our lives. 
Image Credit: Unsplash | Avel Chuklanov 

Stage 1: Selecting a Course

A crucial step that sets the tone for your entire learning process is selecting the right course. Choose a topic first; think carefully and pick something you are genuinely interested in.  

It could be that new hobby you’ve always wanted to try your hand at or a skill that will boost your resume. Whatever it may be, the point is that spending time on something you are truly passionate about will drive your learning far more than if it were viewed as obligatory. 

Now, you are ready to select a specific course, but with so many options out there, how do you decide on a suitable one?  

In addition to narrowing your search by the content covered, it’s helpful to analyse the delivery method or teaching style of a course. Most, if not all courses have sample videos which are like mini-trial lessons. Make full use of such videos to explore different teaching approaches and test if these are optimal based on your learning preference. As long as you manage to grasp the information quickly, you’re good to go! 

Stage 2: Staying Motivated Throughout the Course

Upon laying the foundation in the previous stage, it’s time to progress to the most daunting part of any online course: keeping yourself motivated. Although its role is frequently overlooked, motivation serves as the fuel that spurs our continued willingness to learn. Once lost, it can be exceptionally difficult to reignite. 

When I enrolled in a data analytics course, I understood how easy it was to feel discouraged after coming across unfamiliar and tough concepts. While I initially enjoyed the course, sustaining my energy throughout the more advanced sections soon became an uphill task for a beginner like me. The technical jargon, the endless rows of data… Needless to say, my enthusiasm plummeted to an all-time low. 

I’m sure all of us intend to have a positive time during a course without feeling disheartened midway. So, rather than forcing yourself to digest all the information at one go, try dividing it into bite-sized chunks while pausing the videos regularly to check your understanding.  

While I totally understand that difficult content dampens our spirits and takes out the fun in an online course, don’t be tempted to skip it. Taking the effortless way out once will ultimately prevent any genuine learning from happening. Remember to pace yourself to avoid feeling drained after learning. Most importantly, stay optimistic! 

If it’s really hard for you to stay focused, consider doing the course with friends or family. According to a study by Stanford University, not only is group learning more motivating, but it also presents opportunities to exchange new perspectives on the study material. Teaching the course to your fellow peers can solidify new concepts and test your understanding.  

Alternatively, use the course site forum to clarify doubts and take part in discussions with your classmates to liven up your time spent during the course. 

View questions posed by others and interact with the instructor using the course site forum. 

Stage 3: Reflecting on Your Experience

Once you have completed an online course, reflect on your learning and the journey taken. Identify any challenges you faced, improvements you wish to make, and positive remarks about your experience. Such analysis will better equip you to select other courses in the future.  

Also, think about ways to sharpen your newly acquired skill/knowledge. Consider enrolling in related courses at a higher level. Not only will this add layers to your foundational knowledge but will ensure you do not lose touch with what you have already learned.  

Online courses are always available for our use, so the best we can do is make the most of these resources. I admit, following the advice in this article is easier said than done, but I did it, and so can you. The journey will not be a smooth sailing one but hopefully, these guidelines will bring you a few steps closer to completing an online course successfully!