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How Online Learning Enhances Your Professional Skills

How Online Learning Enhances Your Professional Skills

Online education is becoming increasingly popular today, with dozens of online courses being held on a regular basis all over the globe. So why does online learning attract millions of people around the world? How does it enhance your professional skills and advance your career? And what is the future of this education trend?

Nowadays, studying in the network is not only popular, it is also very convenient. Starting from choosing an educational course, picking the right tutor, planning the time for the classes, and carrying out payments – everything can be easily done online.

What Is Special about Online Learning?

In recent years, due to the global growth of the influence of the Internet, the role of online learning has increased significantly. People like the simplicity, financial attractiveness, and fun of this way of learning in comparison with the traditional education. Indeed, studying online, you get easy and quick access to any material on your subject.

Wonder how to learn online?[1] You can also choose any convenient time and place for an online class to take part in.

The strategic goal of distance learning is to provide people of any professional activity and at any place of residence with equal educational opportunities through the use of new information and communication technologies. Based on the use of distance learning solutions, the education system creates additional opportunities for updating training content, teaching methods, and knowledge dissemination.

It contributes to all levels of education. Thus, a large number of people who cannot afford studying in higher educational institutions due to the lack of financial, physical capabilities[2] or professional employment can sign up for an online course.

Online learning is also focused on the organization of corporate training. It is difficult for corporate workers to make a training schedule for them to complete traditional full-time study. Being able to independently study when they are comfortable is a key for this category of students. With distance learning, every employer have a chance to plan his workload and schedule.

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Benefits of Learning Online

You may have perhaps thought about the opportunities that online learning can offer compared to traditional full-time education. Although the classic, well-established way of education and online learning do not exclude but rather complement each other, the advantages of online learning are quite extensive.

Some of these include the following ones:

  • There is no need to pay rent or incur other costs associated with studying in the classroom;
  • You can choose a training program and study while being away from the city;
  • You can choose any educational institution even if it is located outside of your country;
  • You are not connected to the venue of the training courses and have a chance to combine work and education;
  • You can organize your time for learning, which contributes to higher motivation, better time planning, and the ability to analyze and synthesize the material being studied.

Of course, there are many great things about online learning, which are mostly associated with online learning flexibility,[3] availability, and a high level of customization of the educational process.

What is more, the advantages of  e-education compared to the traditional way of learning are also obvious:

  • The possibility of lifelong learning;
  • Students are trained independently in their own way; they choose the time and place that suits them best;
  • A variety of subjects are at your disposal;
  • The possibility to follow your own pace – students learn the subject as fast as they can; they can review the material as many times as necessary;
  • You can choose a place where you want to study – you can study the material at home, at work, etc.;
  • The opportunity to participate in the highest quality or prestigious programs – you can attend courses at the best educational institutions, which are conducted by well-known experts, regardless of where they take place;
  • Opportunity to choose your own way of studying the subject – active or passive learning, various levels of interaction: “classic” written materials (with your own notes), interactive modeling, discussion with other students (via e-mail, teleconferences), more active use of multimedia (graphics, animation, sound, etc.);
  • Practical work with various technologies – you not only get information about the material being studied but also obtain additional knowledge and skills about the use of various technologies.

Types of Online Learning Programs

Educational institutions providing online learning programs can be divided into three main categories:

Distant Universities

For example, in the USA, there are a few of such educational institutions providing bachelor’s and master’s programs.

Find a list of distant universities in the USA. Decent establishments have the necessary accreditation.

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At the same time, there are also non-accredited programs, so it is important to find out what kind of accreditation a particular program has.

Corporate Training and Courses

Such educational organizations provide trainings and programs leading to obtaining a certificate and developing or strengthening any professional skills.

As a general rule, these are non-accredited programs established in accordance with the individual requirements of clients. Therefore, it is highly important to find out information about the course structure, its means and methods of communication, as well as student support provided.

Traditional Universities Providing Online Education

Many traditional universities and colleges have recently launched a part of their programs online, thus, expanding the list of courses offered.

How to Pick a Suitable Online Course for Yourself

There are three main features defining a quality distance education program. If you want to pick an online course that will highly contribute to your professional development, then you should pay attention to the following things:

1. Course Structure

A online education program never copies the lecture program of the same/ similar course. Instead of simple full-time study program duplication, the course is to be carefully organized in such a way to involve the student in the learning process with interesting topics and themes being discussed.

Besides, the structure of the course is to provide you with more opportunities to organize the online learning process than it would be possible with full-time education.

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The main idea of any online course is that it should be focused on the student, allowing the one to set the course content based on his personal needs and professional objectives.

2. Means and Methods of Communication

An online learning program may involve a wide range of information delivery methods; it could be email, telephone, online platforms, interactive television, newsgroups, audio/ video conferencing.

Communication methods are to be as consistent as possible to your learning style. So make sure to check it beforehand so that you stay on the safe side.

Depending on a course type, they can be either synchronous or asynchronous. The former require the simultaneous participation of both tutors and students, which allows for their interaction in real time. In this case, the means of information delivery include interactive television and video conferencing.

In turn, asynchronous methods are very flexible; they allow students to choose the time convenient for them to work on the course material.

3. Support and Contact with Students

Although participating in training courses remotely, students should in no case feel isolated from each other. A truly quality program is to involve a variety of methods and techniques for creating an atmosphere of real interaction between students and a tutor.

When choosing a distance education program, clarify how students get help and support from their instructors. Ensure that there are online support, chat rooms, online bulletin boards, and other student counseling and support tools.

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How to Use Online Learning to Enhance Professional Skills

Online education is a valuable tool in a fast-paced and highly competitive working environment. Professionals and experienced workers turn to online training or distance tutoring services to advance their career paths and strengthen their knowledge.

After all, online learning improves your skills and acquire new ones without being distracted from work.

Whatever your level of training, area of interest, preferred format or schedule, you will definitely find something that suits you.

Everyone prefers to study in different ways, and online learning can give you as much time and attention as you need. Flexibility and convenience make the process of online learning more relaxed, especially for those who are extremely busy in their everyday life.

The advantages of the online learning method have already been appreciated by many large companies around the world.[4] This type of education attracts many; not only with the opportunity to train a large number of employees at once but also with its affordable price.

Thus, large enterprises reduce the costs of staff development, while maintaining high-quality training. Online corporate learning can be done both during work hours and after the business hours.

Final Thoughts

The rapid development of information technologies and the widespread access to the Internet form new requirements for modern learning.

Taking into account all its features and benefits, there is absolutely no doubt in regards of how online learning helps you grow professionally and enhance your career.

More About Online Learning

Featured photo credit: Stefan Vladimirov via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

John Obstander

John is a productivity geek and a writing enthusiast who has no limits and got wings to take over the world.

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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques

How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques

Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes effectively.

I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

And if you focus on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

What to Write Down

Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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1. Dates of Events

Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

2. Names of People

Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

3. Theories or Frameworks

Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

4. Definitions

Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

5. Arguments and Debates

Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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6. Images

Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

7. Other Stuff

Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

8. Your Own Questions

Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

1. Outlining

Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

2. Mind-Mapping

For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

Here’s the idea:

In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

3. The Cornell System

The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.[1]

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About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

The Bottom Line

I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

More Note-Taking Tips

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Cornell University: The Cornell Note Taking System

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