Two essential skills for success in e-learning are adapting old skills and habits from the traditional classroom for use in e-learning and developing and applying new e-learning skills and habits for e-learning.From building a robust vocabulary of technology-related terms to adequately preparing for a debate in online discussion board and building the skills for e-learning typically takes many of the study habits from the traditional classroom and applies them in new ways using technology.
In addition to the adaptation of traditional study skills, some technologies have dramatically changed how a learner interacts with their instructors, peers, and course materials, thus requiring the development of some new study skills (see Figure 1). For instance, learners must invent new tactics for creating effective group dynamics when team projects are required in an online environment, such as leading the group through the well-known forming, norming, storming, and performing stages.
Figure 1: Relating Online Success with Traditional Student Success Skills
(Based on the E-learning Companion, Watkins & Corry, 2004)
Techniques to Help e-Learning
Save your printer ink. Don't print out the material, rely on your notes and your memory. Taking ink-created notes is just as important with e-Learning as in any other type of learning environment. Yes, I did recommend using good old ink and paper. Note taking isn't just set aside because the learning material is online. Taking handwritten notes is a key element in moving new short-term information into long-term accessibility.
If you would like to have a checkpoint or a measuring stick on what you are retaining, take note taking to the next level. You will want to preview the material, as mentioned next, then begin reading and taking notes. After this, take a break, return, and then type up your notes. While you are typing add information that you remember from the material or what you have learned from other sources. Add whatever is swirling in your mind. This is best way to measure what you have retained and what is still missing. If there is something in your notes that doesn't make sense, then you will know what you need to reread and start the process again within that smaller scope. You can even ask further in-depth questions (see below).
Review and scan all the material. If the material is large, scan the entire area, then return to one smaller section at a time and chunk it. Read titles, subheadings, and spend a few extra minutes on any diagrams or memory aids. Look for patterns in the material. If the material is well-written you will always discover one or more patterns. Patterns help mind-visual- understanding associations. Is there a quick summary at the end of each chapter? If yes, read this during your preview. Previewing is important whether the new material feels comfortable or is stretching you.
When previewing follow ideas and major concepts more closely rather than words. Let titles and heading provide clues and guidance. If the author is playing cutesy with the headings - the title doesn't match the contents--rewrite the headings so that they fit something that can help your memory.
By reading the introductory and concluding paragraphs first, you will also be able to calculate what you're reading pace will need to be, how much time you will need to set aside, and the amount of effort.
Take special care of your eyes when reading from the computer screen. Take frequent eye breaks by refocusing them on some object far away. If your eyes are bothering you, there are special computer reading eye drops available. If you wear bifocals, ask your eye doctor or the lens manufacturer to raise the starting line to accommodate computer use. This will also stop neck strain caused by the slight movement of up and down to align the bifocal line so that you can read the screen. Bless the doctor who told me about this. This adjustment removed the neck pain since.
Don't slouch. Frequently it is easy to lower shoulders and neck. This occurs most often when the monitor is not at the ideal position -- eye level. This also adds tension to the neck and shoulders resulting in muscle cramping. If you tilt the screen up, at a higher angle, where the screen's center points toward your nose, you will reduce tension and cramping.
We tend to assume that our reading pace remains the same for Net browsing and for e-Learning. Not true. e-Learning requires the same flexibility as if you are reading a book. The pace depends on reading skills, type of material, and the quality of its presentation. Allow your pace to change depending on the information. Let go of comparing how long it takes when you read it in printed form vs. online form. Allow flexibility in study time until you learn to gage the material with your own level.
Allow your inquisitiveness to be open while studying. Record questions that appear within your thoughts. A great way to expand or answer the question is to write the question on the top of a blank page. Set a timer for 7 to 10 minutes and write fast anything that shows up. At the end of the writing, write a summary sentence or two of what you wrote.
Did your free write answer the question? If not, you may want to continue through a few more timed exercises. Or let it go for the moment, return to your studying, and add it to your research list. Free writing is always a great way to access deeper meaning being stored in your subconscious.
The most important key to any type of learning is to find your own rhythm and stride and have fun with the whole process. Retention is best absorbed while relaxed, open and curious.