by Catherine Franz
E-Learning is doubling yearly. Classes, e-courses, e-books on how-to and what-to appear by the thousands online weekly. In- person seminars and workshops are limited to location and access. e-Learning allows easy access, creation, and international distribution to a whole new world of experiences -- negative and positive.
Avid learners now feel like there is a smorgasbord laid out before them. It's like having teachers and trainers crowded into your den. Yet, no sooner do you buy one e-learning material, start reading, and another enticement grabs your attention that is suppose to be even better, even grander. The flow of new material never seems to end -- a high percentage poorly written.
Online learning is now starting its climb up the product maturity bell curve. This means that buyer's dollars are voting, demanding, more well thought-out and written material. As an avid on-line reader, I let out a deep sigh of relief and look forward for this next wave to occur across the board.
Studying on a computer screen requires different uses of the mind and eyes. Normally we read in a scanning method when browsing the Net. Now, with studying, reading will require more deliberate and careful. This increases material understanding, comprehension, critical evaluation and practical application.
Adults who have been away from educational studying for a while, will need to review again the scope of skills needed to study again. Ones they learned back in school. For some just thinking about studying again makes them crawl under the bed covers. Those with less break time since their studying days, the skills will return much quicker. If good study skills were not previously learned, there will be some struggle or frustration that might be experiences while learning the correct methods and creating new habits. For them it will be like creating a cake from scratch instead from a package mix.
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.
About the Author: Catherine Franz is a Business Coach, who specializes in writing, marketing and product development.