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Last Updated on November 6, 2020

12 Ways for Any Slow Learner to Easily Speed Up Learning

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12 Ways for Any Slow Learner to Easily Speed Up Learning

Have you ever struggled to learn something? Has it ever taken you longer to figure something out than everyone else? Do you have a mental block when it comes to certain subjects? We all have our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning new things. Everyone is a slow learner about one thing or another.

I know I’m a slow learner when it comes to new languages or anything technological. However, that doesn’t mean I’m a slow learner all around. It just means I’ve got some areas for growth.

Luckily for me and you, there are many ways to speed up learning with extra support, even when we’re talking about those  creative or academic areas that we usually struggle with.

Here are 12 ways for slow learners to speed up learning.

1. Relax and Stay Calm

It’s tough to learn much of anything when you’re stressed out or upset about something, so learning how to relax and stay calm is vital to speeding up your learning.

In one study, stress negatively impacted both recall and recognition tasks.[1] This means that we need to do our best to de-stress and stay calm if we’re trying to shift from a slow learner to a fast one.

What kinds of activities can help us reduce stress and stay calm? Breathing exercises can help reduce stress. Slowing and deepening our breath can help us feel less stressed and calmer.[2]

Mindfulness exercises can also help us think more about what we’re learning and less about what’s stressing us out. Noticing what’s in your immediate environment and listening to the nearby sounds can help you shift from worrying and overthinking (bad for learning) to being able to better focus on the task at hand.

2. Remove Distractions

It’s also extremely difficult for a slow learner to learn efficiently when surrounded by distractions. Extraneous noises and technology overload can get in our way when we’re trying to learn something new.

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When possible, put your phone away and turn off notifications. Also, do your best to find a quiet spot with no radio or TV to compete with whatever it is you’re trying to learn.

Once you do all of this, you can learn how to take your learning to the next level in this video:

3. Eat Right

It may seem obvious, but there’s a direct link between proper nutrition and learning outcomes. Nutrient deficiencies can cause you to feel like you’re in a haze, which is a surefire recipe for slow learning.[3]

Combat that by eating a healthy, balanced diet filled with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Fatty acids have been linked with memory and brain-boosting, so make sure to eat fish and nuts or try an omega-3 supplement.

4. Sleep

Another healthy way to boost your learning is to get plenty of sleep. When we sleep, our brains sort through our experiences from the day. Some synaptic connections erode while others are strengthened during sleep. This just means that your brain requires deep sleep to strengthen memories, so you have to sleep in order to learn.

Get at least seven hours of sleep each night, so you can wake up refreshed and ready to learn. Try reviewing the information you’re trying to learn before bed, so you can use your sleep time transferring it into long-term memories.

It also helps to have a consistent bedtime routine. Your body needs to have consistent Circadian rhythms to fall right asleep and get those valuable REM cycles.

5. Play to Your Strengths

We all have our strengths and weaknesses, right? I know I’m terrible at foreign languages and much more comfortable with reading and writing. Take a self-assessment and think about things you learn quickly and things that turn you into a slow learner.

Then, use this self-assessment to your advantage, and play to your strengths. When I’m struggling to learn Spanish or Bosnian, I challenge myself to read children’s books or write rudimentary stories because I enjoy them and am more comfortable with these activities. This helps me learn something I struggle with because I’m playing to my strengths, instead of just forcing myself to review grammar or memorize flashcards.

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6. Practice Makes Perfect

Another trick for speeding up slow learning is to plan repeated exposure to whatever it is you’re trying to learn. Just reviewing your notes once is not going to do the trick.

There’s something called spaced repetition that helps make learning more effective[4]. Spaced repetition is when you study tough material more often and easier material less often.[5]

Spaced repetition for slow learners

    For example, if I’m trying to learn a new language, I might quiz myself with some vocabulary flashcards. I’m going to repeat all the cards I got wrong sooner than the ones I got right as I continue to add in new flashcards.

    Spaced repetition is a proven method to help you store new information as long-term memories, which means that it becomes second nature.

    7. Mnemonic Devices

    Who remembers ROYGBIV? Probably a lot of you. ROYGBIV is a mnemonic device that helps us easily (and quickly) remember the colors of the rainbow.

    Mnemonic devices help speed up learning by making memory encoding easier. It’s much easier for me to remember ROYGBIV than it is to remember all the colors. Then, the first letter of each color gives me a hint to make remembering the colors easier.

    So, if you’re having a slow learner moment, speed up by using mnemonic devices.

    8. Try All Learning Styles

    Learning styles started to gain in popularity in the 1990s. Since that time, there’s never been definitive proof that someone’s preferred learning style (auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and reading/writing) improves learning outcomes. However, knowing which style you prefer can help you learn faster.

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    I know I prefer to see things written out, so when I want a better chance of learning someone’s name I either write it out myself or ask them to write it, since hearing it spelled only confuses me further.

    Find your preferred learning style and use it to your advantage.

    To really speed up learning, mix and match the learning styles, and try to match the learning style with whatever you’re trying to learn.

    For example, if you’re trying to learn a new song, you may want to hear it first. If you’re trying to figure out some new statistics, it may help to see it mapped out visually.

    9. Reflect and Adjust

    When we’re talking about speeding up learning, it may not make sense to stop and reflect, but being reflective and self-aware can speed up learning in the long run.

    Keeping a journal to review past learning helps boost learning a little, but that may just be the boost you need to move from a slow learner to a not-so-slow one.

    10. Know Your Learning Blocks

    It’s also important to know what makes you shut down when trying to learn new things. I know that if I’m feeling embarrassed, I tend to shut down and get defensive instead of being open to learning new things. It’s important to figure out what makes you shut down, so you can recover and continue to learn.

    Improv has a lot to teach us about how to create learning environments that promote creativity and learning. By going along with people’s ideas and not judging each other, we can create learning environments that are much more conducive to faster learning.

    11. Don’t Be Afraid of Mistakes

    Learning also requires us to make mistakes. If we’re too worried about being right or being perfect, we won’t take the risks necessary to learn new things.

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    When mistakes do happen, it’s important to be able to talk about them openly to learn from them, instead of letting them lead to shame and embarrassment.[6]

    You can learn how to let go of perfectionism here.

    12. Get Curious and Be Playful

    Finally, to move from a slow learner to a fast one, it’s crucial to be curious about whatever it is you’re learning.

    In one study, curiosity was shown to have positive benefits for workplace learning and performance.[7]

    The key is the shift in focus. When we play, we are better able to shift our focus from internal thoughts to an external focus on the people and objects around us. This helps decrease overthinking and distractions and helps people focus on the present moment and the task at hand, crucial ingredients for efficient learning.

    Final Thoughts

    Don’t beat yourself up if you think you’re a slow learner. Find comfort in knowing we all have our learning strengths and weaknesses.

    You should also find comfort in the fact that there are twelve practical ways that you can start speeding up your learning today.

    More Tips to Speed Up Learning

    Featured photo credit: Andrew Le via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Clay Drinko

    Clay Drinko is an educator and the author of PLAY YOUR WAY SANE (January 2021 Simon & Schuster)

    How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential How to Think Smart (If You Think You’re Not Smart Enough) 7 Proven Ways to Strengthen Your Long Term Memory What Is a Fixed Mindset And Can You Change It? 9 Steps to Make Self-Regulated Learning More Effective

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    Last Updated on August 11, 2021

    23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

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    23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

    Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless. Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent, free online education awaits on the following 23 sites.

    1. Coursera

    Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

    Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

    Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups. However, the free courses are now quite limited, so you’ll have to

    2. Khan Academy

    Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well-organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

    Among the more well-known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly user-friendly, which may make it easier to keep learning goals. If you’re looking for a free online education, you can’t go wrong with Khan Academy.

    3. Open Culture Online Courses

    If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos, and podcasts from universities around the world.

    The site features a lot of material found only on universities’ private sites, all in easy-to-browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses without having to visit and search each university’s site.

    Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales, and many state universities around the United States. It’s a very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

    4. Udemy 

    Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

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    Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top-quality content. This is another site, however, that mixes free and paid content.

    5. Lifehack Fast Track Class

    Lifehack believes in skills that multiply your time, energy, and overall quality of life.

    In this rapidly changing world, traditional education skills just don’t cut it anymore. You can’t afford to take years learning a skill you’ll never really practice. Besides offering some paid courses that will help you become a better self, it offers a list of free courses which aim to train some of the Core Life Multipliers including:

    These are cross-functional skills that work across many aspects of life.

    6. Academic Earth

    Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

    Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

    7. edX

    Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics from universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley, meaning a high-quality, free online education is entirely possible here.

    8. Alison

    Unlike the previous sites on this list, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

    It’s a great option if users need a professional certificate for their learning, as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

    9. iTunesU Free Courses

    A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

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    Desktop users can access iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

    Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including by genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos and paid content.

    iTunesU does include courses on a variety of topics, but it does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

    10. Stanford Online

    Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session-based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

    Stanford Online is a great site for high-quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school. If you’re looking for free courses, make sure to mark the “free” option on the left-hand side.

    11. Open Yale Courses

    Open Yale Courses echoes Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses but learn better by watching than by reading.

    12. UC Berkeley Class Central

    Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but it includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts, and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

    13. MIT OpenCourseWare

    Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, and it includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

    14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

    Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list. However, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics, but for the topics that are covered, impressive, in-depth material is available.

    15. Codecademy

    Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

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    The courses at Codecademy are well-written and easy to follow, and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, and it organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

    16. Code

    Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high-quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

    In addition to kid-friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics, and Javascript.

    Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

    17. University of Oxford Podcasts

    The University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

    The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. This is another great site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

    18. BBC Podcasts

    For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

    Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

    19. TED-Ed

    Another great destination for more general learning and free online education is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all-encompassing, motivational web series comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

    Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, but it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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    20. LessonPaths

    LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high-quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

    21. Memrise

    Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

    Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

    22. National Geographic Kids

    The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid-friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keep kids interested on this site.

    National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

    23. Fun Brain

    Fun Brain is another great option for kids looking for free online education, as it focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game-based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

    Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and it is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

    The Bottom Line

    With so many amazing free online education resources, everyone has the ability to boost their skills and knowledge. Whether you’re interested in picking up some interesting trivia for your next party, improve your resume with some coding or business skills, or become a more well-rounded person, these resources are perfect for you.

    More About Online Learning

    Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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