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Six Steps to Learning Faster & Better While Attending an Online College

Sep 13, 2010 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 3 Comments

College isn’t easy, whether you’re earning your degree online or at a traditional school. But there are a few things you can do to make sure you learn faster and better—leaving more time for your other obligations. Here are a few steps you can take to learn online more efficiently.

Take a typing class

It might sound old-fashioned—but you’d be surprised at how much easier it is to participate in online classrooms if you type quickly and accurately. When almost all your classroom participation and assignments are delivered in writing, you really start to notice how much time your usual hunt-and-peck method is taking you—and you’ll notice the benefits of better typing skills right away.

Learning to type online doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t even have to take an actual class. There’s plenty of software out there that will help you improve your WPM with games and exercises that are fun as well as effective. 

Learn to speed-read

Students Studying

Stack the decks in your favor by studying in a way that enhances learning—and avoid setting yourself back by cramming, running on zero sleep, and giving in to distraction. 

Speed-reading isn’t just skimming. It’s learning the skill of picking out the most important information quickly and efficiently. When most of your homework burden is made up of reading-based exercises and research, reading comprehension can come in really handy—especially if you’re balancing a full class load with a full-time workload and family demands.

Set a schedule

Learning faster means dedicating real time to your studies—time that you put in and stick to no matter what. If you can’t set a regular time for study, you’re much more likely to skip studying when your life gets more demanding—which means you’ll have to cram more studying into a smaller amount of time later. This increases your stress and ultimately can reduce the amount you’re actually learning as a result of your studies. When you’re studying online, setting a time to study can be easy—whether it means studying before the kids wake up, during your lunch break, or while you’re commuting to work.

Get rid of distractions

While some brag about their ability to multitask, focusing on many different things will actually hurt your learning. Many students have trouble focusing—especially when they’re taking online classes and are expected to study outside of the classroom. Improve your study habbits, get rid of your cell phone, email, television, radio, Mp3 player—whatever it is that distracts you the most—for the time you have set aside for studying. Remove distractions, and you’ll absorb classroom content faster and easier.

Don’t cram

Cramming also hurts your actual learning rate. Instead, study in small sections over several days and weeks—in a regular schedule. You can’t learn everything in a year-long program within the last few weeks—and that’s why it’s especially important to commit to a single time each day when you can spend a relatively small amount of time studying. This lessens your stress load—and boosts your ability to learn.

Test yourself

Testing yourself at the end of each study session cements what you learned in your mind. Testing yourself could take the form of answering questions in a quiz or running through your flash cards—or it could mean explaining something to someone else, writing a recap of everything you learned, or solving a series of problems without help. If you can’t, you know that you have more studying to do. And if you can, your knowledge of the subject area is that much stronger.

Take care of yourself

If you’re living on Red Bull and Twizzlers, getting two hours of sleep every night, or constantly pulling all-nighters, your learning will suffer. Even if you spend hours studying, your brain won’t absorb the information if it’s exhausted and undernourished. Get enough sleep, eat healthy meals, don’t skip breakfast, and minimize stress in your life. If you don’t, your grades are very likely to suffer as a result. And if you can’t find the time to make sure your basic needs are met, consider making a drastic change—such as asking for help in providing care for your children or negotiating with your boss for a less demanding schedule.

Getting through college isn’t easy. But it’s especially challenging when you’re a nontraditional student juggling full-time work with full-time classes. Stack the decks in your favor by studying in a way that enhances learning—and avoid setting yourself back by cramming, running on zero sleep, and giving in to distraction. If you do, you’re likely to see the results in your grades.



mike Over a year ago

Very informative and makes sense, just need to apply the rules.

Rosemarie5013 Over a year ago

Thanks for this well appreciated information..I needed this..

Jennifer Over a year ago

Great Information! Retweeted @edgabber, thanks!

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