Getting the most from online learning: 6 questions to ask yourself

Since lockdown the UK e-learning market has been flooded with offers from online learning providers wanting to do their bit to help people stay at home, keep children entertained, or to provide distraction and release. From Futurelearn’s ‘Why does Bohemian Rhapsody feel so good?’ and ‘Norwegian for Beginners’, to the University of Kent’s ‘MA in a Day', it seems that whatever your penchant, you can find it online somewhere – and often free too. With newly found time on our hands, the UK population, it seems, is rushing to press return on the world of online learning.

It’s too early to know how much of this enthusiasm will translate into success – how many will complete the course they signed up to, find a new job as a result, or forge a total change in life direction – but what is clear is that coronavirus has changed the landscape of how we learn forever.

With #iwill Pears Fund money to extend the reach of our much loved Make a Difference Challenge training programme through the introduction of an online learning platform launched in 2019, e-learning isn’t as new to Young Citizens as it might be to other charities and organisations thrust into cyberspace this spring. We already know and see the huge benefits to delivering online training – more now than ever obviously – but we also know that getting the experience right isn’t always straightforward for learners. 

Want to get the most from your online training experience? Here are six key questions to ask yourself if you’re considering embarking on a new course over the coming weeks:

1) What do you want to get out of completing the course?

Do you want to add to or update your CV? Are you hoping to change career at the end of it? Or are you simply looking to feed your mind - to feel positive about improving yourself? Depending on your motivation for signing up, you will want to look for different things in a course. For example, if it’s professional development you’re seeking, then accreditation or CPD validation will be more important to you than if you are just looking to fill some time – either to escape from the reality of life for a moment, or to catch up on a subject you’ve been meaning to study for a while and never quite found the time to.

2) Is the provider experienced in delivering online training?

Who’s delivering the training you’re interested in? Are they an experienced organisation with a proven track record, or an individual with a good idea? Anyone can say they’re an expert, but is this person/organisation suitably qualified to speak on the subject? Is the course validated by an external CPD provider or affiliated to a university, for example? Shop around - are there other providers who offer similar courses? Are any additional hidden costs involved - such as having to pay to release your certificate at the end? Note that ‘free’ doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be of poor quality – and likewise paying a fortune doesn’t guarantee you a great experience!

3) How do you like to learn?

It really is ‘horses for courses’ with online learning. It’s not possible for a trainer to vary tone and content in the way they might in a room of delegates by pitching it slightly differently every time, so you will need to choose a ‘voice’ and style of delivery that works for you up front. All platforms feel different – ask yourself if it’s easy to navigate, does the tone of the trainer ‘speak’ to you, and is the subject pitched at a level that will stretch you without being too taxing? How is the content delivered - video, quizzes, or reading text and answering questions - is there a test at the end? Some providers offer ‘tasters’ which allow you to try a module before you commit to the rest - others allow a free ‘preview’ of the first part of the course.

4) What support will you receive?

How will the learning provider support you as you progress through the course? Is it possible to ask the trainer questions if you get stuck, or need motivation? Will you be able to link up with other students on the course through a dedicated Facebook group, monthly webinars or a members’ forum, for example?

5) When will you complete this course?

The absolute beauty of online learning is that it can be done in your time, and in your own space – it’s completely flexible (excepting any live webinars you’re expected to attend of course) – but ultimately it won’t complete itself. You’ll need to be committed upfront, visualise how you’ll get this thing done and set time aside to complete it. Make sure you know how long the course is expected to take, whether any additional time needs to be factored in for reading texts, or doing research and stick to your plans.

6) Is your tech ready too?

Things happen, and there’s bound to be one or two technical hitches as you get started on your course. Don’t give up the first time your tech fails – it might be that a change of browser is needed in order to be able to download that video, or that you need to try a different time of day to stop the buffering. And have you checked your spam filter for those login reset details? Whatever it is, be ready for a certain amount of faffing at the beginning as you get into the swing of it.

Hopefully, before you know it, you’ll be finished, downloading your certificate and looking for your next venture!    

Young Citizens is open for teachers wanting to learn more about the following topics and programmes supporting citizenship learning in children and young people. All courses are CPD certified.

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