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The Secrets To Reading Faster And Absorbing Information Better

The Secrets To Reading Faster And Absorbing Information Better

As a history major, people always asked me how I could stand reading a boatload of books every week. While I answered them, they’d usually stare at my bookshelf and faint, much like I do when looking at equations on a whiteboard. What is my secret? It’s more obvious than you think: I never read any of my assigned books front to back. How, you ask, can you absorb information without reading the entirety of a book? Go on to discover some of the tricks people use to fool others into thinking they actually read those thick tomes sitting on their shelves…

1. Read the conclusion first.

A lot of authors like to speak in an arcane manner initially, throwing out long-winded, incomprehensible phrases for the first several pages of their book. It’s at this point that many fall off the wagon and throw whatever they’re reading to the ground in disappointment. The key is to cheat. Go to the end of the book first, and find the conclusion. Any writer worth their salt will provide the reader with a neat little summation of their argument and a quick review of the examples they used there. As they say on the website Spreeder:

You don’t really need to know the biography of the author, do you? So skip it. Then you can also skip the prologue in most cases – it usually contains a mere introduction to the book, and rarely contains information that will be of real use to you.

However, the Epilogue is a completely different matter – make sure you read it, because it is usually used to sum up the book, and can even provide extra information from later editions.

The other benefit of this is that all of that nonsense at the beginning of the book will make a lot more sense when you know exactly where the author is going. If you’re in a bind (read: supposed to have read a book for class tomorrow morning but never got around to it), reading just the conclusion may be sufficient enough to provide the illusion that you know what you’re talking about.

2. Use a highlighter.

One of the mistakes people make early on is that they give up highlighting, either because they end up marking too many things or were told by teachers that it’s a useless endeavor. The truth is that highlighting can be a great tool – if used correctly. You shouldn’t use it on everything, and you shouldn’t use it once every fifty pages. Instead, you’ll want to focus your efforts on highlighting the author’s summary statements. They’ll often ramble on and on about one point for several pages, and provide at the end a neat little bow tie shaped paragraph that definitively states the point they were trying to get across. Highlight this, and when you go back to skim the book, you’ll have everything you need to know ready at a glance. I can’t tell you how many times this helped me when going back to review a book for a test.

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3. Use the table of contents and subheadings.

It often surprises people, often college-aged kids, when they hear that most scholars often don’t read books in their entirety. Instead, what they usually do (and I’ve been told this by a professor) is check out the table of contents, and read the chapters that interest them or are relevant to their work. Or, they’ll skim through the book and stop when they see a subheading that interests them. This makes reading less of a chore, since you’re only reading what you want to read. You’ll still get the gist of the author’s overall point as well, since they’ll usually restate it in some way in every section of the book. This is a great technique to prevent “eyes moving down the page but not processing a single world” syndrome.

4. Be proactive instead of reactive.

Clay Johnson, author of The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, has some interesting thoughts in regard to this point.

The number one piece of advice I have is to consume consciously and deliberately. Transform your relationship with information consumption into something that you do proactively, rather than something that happens to you. Once you do that, you can start applying frameworks.

This sort of goes back to what I was saying earlier. You shouldn’t be reading for the sake of reading, or trying to force your way through something that doesn’t speak to you.

Even in college, where professors assign readings to you, you can take an active role in what you’re reviewing. One of the ways to do this, as I said before, is to skip the parts that are boring to you, instead focusing all of your attention on sections that appeal to you.

Another way to get around this in college is to do your own research. Along with the class readings, find (professor approved) books related to your class that speak to your soul. I once took a class on 19th century Italy, and while I loved it, the readings could get a bit dry. What worked for me was finding a book on that era about a figure I found intriguing (Giuseppe Mazzini), and reading about that time period from the perspective of his life story. That made it easy for me, since all the history we were learning in class was now framed by a story that I could connect to.

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Reading isn’t something you’ll automatically have fun doing unless you put in the effort to find things you want to read.

5. Don’t try to read every word.

This was a mistake of mine for a long time. I had this idea in my head that if I read every word, I’d remember more information. Instead, I’d usually glaze over and die of mental boredom.

The truth of the matter is that most non-fiction books are formatted in a way that makes reading every word a redundant practice. The author only has so much to say, the most significant of which can be found in the conclusion. Most books are filled with evidence rather than profound points, which is good for you since, while evidence is interesting, it’s all proving the same thesis. Therefore, don’t be bogged down reading endless streams of evidence that prove the author’s argument, find a few that interest you and move onto the next chapter.

This goes for fictional reading too. Don’t quit because you get to a boring part in the book (e.g. those scenes in Game of Thrones where George R.R. Martin describes every little detail about the roasted duck his fictional characters are eating). Just skim it until you see something important. Sure, you might miss something, but it’s better that you keep moving than put the book down in frustration.

To close this point, I’ll quote Peter Economy (yup that’s his name, pretty cool huh?)

The one thing that helps me get through such material and actually learn something in the process is to skim it instead of trying to read it in detail. As I skim, I write down the major points in a notebook. After I’m done, I can then review the major points I’ve collected and have a pretty good idea of what I need to know.

 6. Write reader responses.

Bear with me before you start groaning. While most people hate writing, it really is one of the easiest ways to retain lots of information in a short amount of time. One of the things I used to do to remember the key points of a large book was to condense it into a single paged double-spaced reader response. In roughly two paragraphs, I’d outline the author’s argument, a few of their interesting pieces of evidence, and what I had a problem with/ what I thought they could have done better.

Like highlighting, writing reader responses provides you with a tool to quickly review the more impactful aspects of a book. When reviewing for a test, it’s much easier to pull up your reader responses than to fervently flip through all your books again.

7. Discuss what you read with others.

As much as I dislike working in groups, there’s no question that talking about readings with friends or classmates will help you retain information. Indeed, back in college I had a study buddy, and we’d discuss pretty much everything we read. We often joked about some of the author’s points, or certain pieces of evidence they used. Surprisingly, when it was time to take the final, I often remembered complicated sections from the book by thinking first of the jokes I’d made up with my partner.

Some of us are auditory learners, and, as author Eric Holtzclaw states, they “comprehend best when [hearing] content and new information.” Therefore, talking to a friend about what you’ve read is a great tool in terms of solidifying your knowledge on that subject. It’s even better if you can joke about it, because then you’re condensing that information into something you find extremely relatable, which only makes it easier to recall in the future.

8. Jot down discussion questions while reading.

This is something I picked up when I was a teaching assistant. Even if you aren’t guiding a class in the discussion of a reading, it helps to keep a notepad by your side while going through a difficult text. When you see something puzzling or disagreeable, simply pause and write down a question related to the issue you are having. The key is to never assume that the author is correct; you want to keep your mind engaged in what you’re reading, and staying critical is an effective way to do this.

This works for both fiction and non-fiction books. Basically, you’ll be asking things like this:

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  • Why does the author phrase things like that?
  • Does this piece of evidence make sense?
  • Does that paragraph reveal a bias of some kind?
  • How does that point tie into the author’s overall argument?
  • What audience are they speaking to?

They can become more complicated than these; it all depends on what you’re reading really.

These are all of the tips that I can come up with at the moment! I’m sure there are more out there, so if you find any feel free to comment about them below. To summarize, improving your reading and comprehension skills is all about becoming an active participant. You need to find what you want to read, and make an effort to try and retain some of its more significant points. With luck, you’ll be speeding your way through several-hundred page odysseys in no time!

 

 

 

Featured photo credit: Glasses_on_book_101.JPG/MorgueFile via mrg.bz

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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

5 Learning Management Systems (LMS) for Effective Learning

5 Learning Management Systems (LMS) for Effective Learning

Businesses rely on talent to generate and sell value. Without skilled people to create its products, manage its operations and execute its strategies, a business would inevitably fizzle out of the game and leave better-staffed competitors to take the field.

This is the reason why ambitious companies go great lengths to attract top talent,[1] shelling out millions of dollars in the process and bending traditional work policies just to bring highly skilled but demanding candidates into the fold.

Clearly, the contours of business are changing. But so are the demographics of work.

Millennials have become the dominant generation in the job market in terms of population, and some have already transitioned into leadership roles. Most millennials consider opportunity to learn and grow more important than overall compensation.[2]

Companies also today expect employees to come equipped with razor sharp business acumen.[3] Unfortunately, there is an alarming discrepancy between the actual skills businesses need and those currently possessed by job candidates.

To stay in the game, employers need to continually upgrade their training and skills development strategies to cover the entire employee lifecycle.

What are Learning Management Systems (LMS)?

Learning management systems are software-based solutions for authoring, presenting, consuming, storing, and tracking educational content and training materials. These systems aim to centralize all instructional content (e.g., lessons, training modules, instructional videos, presentation slides, worksheets, online quizzes, ebooks, takeaway notes, etc.) in one place.

LMS enable instructors to design and deliver learning experiences to students, with the added capability of evaluating the effectiveness of the instructional materials and grading the learning progress of students.

On the other side of the equation, learners use LMS to develop skills and acquire new knowledge virtually anytime and anywhere via the different channels and content formats made possible by digital technology.

Over the years, a wide range of features and technologies have been integrated into learning management systems to help enhance the experience of training designers, instructors, and learners. These include cloud and mobile technology, artificial intelligence, responsive design, scheduling, gamification, data analytics, and interoperability with other applications.

5 Best All-Purpose Learning Management Systems

There are dozens of LMS vendors catering to the general market or to specific segments such as K-12 learning, higher education, and corporate training.

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With so many options available, selecting the right LMS solution for your needs can be complicated and costly, especially when you end up adopting a platform that doesn’t exactly match your goals or requirements.

Short of conducting a comprehensive audit of your needs and finalizing a learning roadmap, the safest bet would be to adopt full-featured but affordable LMS solutions.

Based on user reviews, here are the 5 best LMS to help people gain knowledge, build skills, and achieve mastery:

1. Canvas Network

Launched by Instructure as an open source software in 2011, Canvas is an end-to-end cloud-based service originally engineered for the education sector.

Widely adopted for K-12 and Higher Ed learning, Canvas can be repurposed for anything that involves an instructor, a subject matter, and a student.

Used around the world by people of all ages and organizations of all types, Canvas arguably has the largest learning and support community in its class. It works on desktop computers, tablets and mobile phones.

To get a glimpse of the platform’s fresh interfaces, you can visit the Canvas Network, a learning community that provides educational and instructional materials created by colleges, universities, corporate businesses, independent course developers, and other knowledge-sharing entities around the world.

Hosting hundreds of interesting topics from data science to horticulture, the learning network also serves as evidence to the scope, capabilities, and popularity of the Canvas LMS platform.

Canvas is hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure, which enhances the platform’s reliability, speed, scalability, and overall online performance.

Additionally, platform adopters enjoy a low-risk environment since cloud-based solutions require no hard stops for version updates, upgrades, or system migrations.

The Canvas website does not show a price matrix but says the service adopts a simple formula for computing fees: a one-time implementation fee and an annual subscription fee based on total number of users. It also promises free basic services for teachers who want to use the platform.

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In addition to Canvas, Instructure also offers Bridge (an LMS designed for corporate environments), Arc (a video platform for online learning), and Gauge (an assessment management system).

Check out this video if you want to learn more about Canvas Network:

2. Google Classroom

This free service from Google aims to improve the teaching and learning process using cloud technology, web apps, workflow simplification, and seamless communication between students and instructors.

Using Classroom, educators can easily create and schedule classes, distribute assignments, send feedback, and grade quizzes all in one place. By streamlining processes, Classroom helps teachers save time and organize classes more effectively. Both students and teachers can also work using any device anytime and anywhere.

Classroom works perfectly with other Google tools, having been launched initially as part of Google’s G Suite for Education. This LMS solution taps Google Drive for content storage and distribution, as well as Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides for the creation and sharing of instructional materials. Meanwhile it integrates Google Calendar for scheduling and Gmail for communication.

With G Suite, other communication channels such as chat messaging, video conferencing, and a dedicated website are enabled.

Easy to set up and manage, Google Classroom is free to use. One of my very first courses was actually hosted on Google Classroom.

Going beyond the classroom environment, Google offers G Suite Enterprise for Education for large institutions. This suite provides enhanced search and analytics capabilities as well as advanced tools for enterprise communications.

3. Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment)

If budget and capability equally top your list of LMS adoption criteria, then Moodle might just fit the bill. Which is to say there’s none (i.e., bill).

Moodle is a free and open-source learning solution for distance education, workplace training, flipped classrooms, and other pedagogical environments.

It is also a full-featured LMS supported by a robust community and a thriving developer ecosystem. Not surprisingly, Moodle is used in more than 15 million courses by more than 130 million users in 230+ countries.

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Among other things, Moodle enables administrators and educators to create a dynamic and dedicated website to host organic, easily accessible, and highly customizable courses that can be experienced on desktops and mobile devices anytime and anywhere.

Moodle provides a personalized and intuitive dashboard as well as a host of collaboration tools for content designers, teachers, and learners. A universal calendar, an efficient file management system, an automatic notification system, multimedia integration, and a progress tracking tool all come with the package.

Check out this video if you want to learn more about Moodle:

4. Absorb

This platform recently bagged PC Magazine’s Editors’ Choice Award for Best LMS.

Co-designed and built by former course authors, Absorb takes learning experience to the next level. This turnkey LMS solution is responsive, full-featured, and highly customizable for maximum impact.

Course developers can orchestrate a wide range of experiences depending on audience or learning situation. In addition to surveys, polls, and e-commerce integration, Absorb supports formal online learning and certifications standards such as AICC, SCORM, and Tin Can.

The user interface can also be modified to match the learner’s location, group, or department, allowing for a different look and feel for customers, channel partners, management trainees, and newly hired employees.

Absorb supports all personal computing devices from desktops to mobile phones. There are also native or hybrid apps for iOS and Android.

The only possible drawback to the platform’s powerful feature set is its pricing. The service reportedly implements a flat, one-time setup fee depending on your business and training requirements. According to the site, any plan comes with a dedicated success team for your account.

Although small companies are welcome to try, midsize to enterprise-scale organizations are probably the best segment to readily adopt this LMS solution.

Take a look at some examples of Absorb in this video:

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5. Watershed Collaborative

Created by a group of educators, this nonprofit rethinks the priorities of an LMS, asserting that too many systems miss the most essential elements of what makes learning stick. They promise a better user experience – emphasizing Learning before Management and System.

Watershed aims to support an inquiry-based learning experience through an integrated mix of online and in-person learning strategies and interactions designed expressly for teams – including collaboration, reflection, and dialogue.

While Watershed was founded initially to serve the K-12 education market, the company has since expanded its scope to cater to all types of teachers and learners with its video-rich, state-of-the-art platform.

If you’re a mission-driven educator, content creator, institution, or business, this LMS may be the one for you.

Watershed specializes in assisting you with the instructional design of courses and provides content production services to ensure top-quality video assets with lasting value. Their LMS makes it easy for course creators to continuously update and tailor content to support small and large groups, while ensuring the technology and instructional strategy supports communities of learners.

Pricing varies based on products and services, but revenues support the nonprofit’s ability to make its platform and courses available at little or no cost for high-need educators and educational settings.

Honorable Mentions

There are dozens of LMS vendors in this growing market and the brands included in foregoing list are by no means the only viable options for companies or learning institutions looking to upgrade their learning infrastructure.

Many other excellent services are worth checking out. These include:

  1. Docebo is an LMS designed for hyper-engaging students, employees, customers, and other learners. The system helps organizations identify and resolve competency gaps with strategic learning interventions.
  2. Cornerstone OnDemand is a talent, training, and performance management solution offered as an SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). This service enables learners to create personalized playlists of instructional content.
  3. Lessonly is an LMS solution that makes it easier to recall and reinforce whatever skills or knowledge you have learned through quizzes, coaching, and constant practice.
  4. Skillsoft is an online training and corporate learning platform developed by a two-decade old and billion-dollar company with the same name.
  5. D2L BrightSpace is a learning management system that has all the basics for delivering excellent, rich-media experiences for classroom or workplace training.

Conclusion

There are many ways to learn but some are more effective and meaningful than others. Whether you are a teacher looking to enhance classroom learning or an HR manager creating a long-term talent development plan for employees, the key to impactful learning is to understand and bridge the needs of learners, the goals of your institution, and the actual capabilities of the learning tools you are considering.

Note that using multiple LMS platforms is possible although not recommended. On the other hand, adopting other learning solutions beyond LMS (such as podcasts, mentoring, and onsite in-person workshops) may significantly improve learning outcomes. Always go for products and plugins that seamlessly integrate into your core LMS tool.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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