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5 Tips to Make the Most of Online Learning

by Armenta Lockhart - April 16, 2020

There are many online learning opportunities to take advantage of to sharpen skills and learn new tools you can use for work or for personal and professional development. However, online learning does take self-discipline, commitment, motivation and concentration to get the most out of the online learning experience.

As an instructional design specialist with more than 15 years of online learning and teaching experience, I've put together these best practices for online learners who may be interested in free online courses or training.
5 tips for online learning

1. Be Mentally Prepared

So, you’ve got a computer or an electronic device with access to the internet. Now mentally prepare yourself by knowing what skills you would like to learn, or content you would like to further your knowledge in to achieve personal or professional goals.

You will most likely be more motivated to learn and retain the information that is being offered if you base it on your interests. For example, are you interested in building your financial stability? If so, try taking an online course in this subject first.

2. Devote a Time and Space to Learning

Online courses and trainings can be either asynchronous or synchronous or a combination of both. Asynchronous learning offers the most flexibility since participants can learn the course/training material at their convenience since the course content and activities are provided in advance. Synchronous learning is real-time online learning which provides participants with immediate feedback, lectures, and interaction with other participants in most virtual classrooms. 

A combination of both may offer content and activities in advance and offer live lectures and chat rooms at a specific time. Once you know the learning type environment:

  • Set a time where there will be no or minimal distractions.
  • Keep in mind it is best to learn when you are most productive and fully alert.
  • Also, read course/training instructions in advance to see if you need specific supplies in order to participate in and complete the training (notepad, calculator, etc.).
  • Set a time to take a mental and physical break.

3. Know Your Learning Preference

Most online courses and trainings offer videos, assignments and assessments. Some online courses offer a virtual community for other participants to actively collaborate, interact, and learn from each other.

Understanding your learning preference can help you focus on which activity is best for you, for greater chances of success in the online course/training. For example, some learners prefer videos where they can take notes and have access to the video later to reference. While other learners prefer being in synchronous online learning environment where they can attend a live lecture and can participate in real-time Q&A and receive immediate interaction and feedback.

4. Fully Participate

Online learning is what you make of it, and fully participating will increase your chances of getting the most out of the course. Complete all the assignments and activities. Complete the entire lesson or presentation that is being taught so you can walk away with an enhanced skills, confidence boost, and increased knowledge that can be utilized to further your professional and personal goals.

5. Apply What You Learned and Continue to Study

Once you have successfully completed your online course/training, find ways to apply your knew skill or knowledge until you master it. Seek out credible resources, trainings, and webinars that will assist in sharpening in your skills. These skills could turn into a new business or a new career, so keep your future in mind to keep you interested and motivated.

Now that you have some online learning tips, consider taking one of Arkansas Cooperative Extension’s online courses that are available online. Most of the online courses are free. Topics range from backyard poultry, childcare certification for early childhood professionals, financial management, application technology, to home gardening.


Briggs, S. (2019). 8 study tips for online students. Sydney: Newstex.