How to Make the Most of Online Courses


How to Make the Most of Online Courses

The number of places that you can turn to
online to learn anything that you might ever want to learn continues growing. With platforms like Skillshare, and Coursera,
and Udemy there is no shortage of online courses. With that said, the mere existence of online
courses and the decision to sign up for one does not necessarily mean that you’re going
to get a whole lot out of it, and in this video I would like to address that question
and share some tips for how you can make the most of whatever online courses you choose
to sign up for (including my own, if sketchnoting is a skill that you’re interested in learning). I’ve got four distinct tips to share today,
so let’s jump right into the first one. I think it’s worth identifying two things
up front, before you even start digging into whatever course you just signed up for. I think it’s important for you to clarify
your why and set a goal. Though those two things might sound similar,
in my mind they’re actually distinct. Think of your why as your compass – it’s
a more foundational part of who you are, what you’re all about, and where you’re going
in life. And your compass is the thing that helps you
continually move in the right direction, the direction that’s right for you. So within this context of online learning,
you want to make sure to define for yourself why it is you chose to sign up for the particular
course that you’re about to take on. Why do you want to learn whatever skill that
course is teaching? And this is a deeper level, not a surface
level one. So if your first response to that why is something
like “Well, it will make me better at my job.” Why will it make you better? In what way? And why is that even important to you. So spend at least a few minutes, maybe digging
a few layers of why deep until you feel like you have a good understanding of why it is
that learning this particular thing is important to you, and that you can express that why
concisely. That becomes your compass. That why is intentionally a little bit deep
and might be somewhat long term, which is why we balance that why with a goal, and I
like to think of your goal as your binoculars. A goal is something that’s a little bit
more concrete, something that you can see in the distance and work your way toward. Your goal, then, is the specific thing that
you would like to get out of the current course that you’re taking. Now, depending on how that course is structured,
chances are there’s already some sort of a goal built int. But the goal of the instructor, the creator
of the course, may or may not align complete with your specific goal. So don’t be afraid to set your own goal
that is specific to you that aligns with your why, so that you have something specific to
work toward as you’re working through the course. And in this way, by first defining your why
and then setting a specific goal, what you’re doing is you’re personalizing the course
so that it fits for you and your journey, recognizing that your journey is in some ways
unique from everyone else that happens to take this course as well. And by adding those personalized touches,
you’re going to make it more likely that you’ll get something useful out of the course. And you’ll have a personal investment in
it from the get go, which will help provide some momentum along the way. Speaking of momentum, that ties well into
tip number two. In order to build and maintain some momentum
as you work through an online course (with the assumption that you’re probably working
through it on your own) you’ll want to set aside a dedicated time and space within which
you focus on working through the course materials, making progress on the lessons and the activities
that you find within it. If you don’t set aside a dedicated time
and space, it’s too likely that you’ll forget to make regular progress on it, especially
since it’s a digital thing. You don’t necessarily have a book on your
shelf that you’ll see regularly that will remind you of the thing you’re trying to
learn. But if you intentionally set aside some time
and some physical space, then you’re much more likely to actually dig into the course
materials and make progress regularly. And my suggestion is to hook that time and
space into your daily routine, the routine that already exists. Recognize that you already have a flow to
your days, that probably starts with some breakfast, maybe some coffee, then likely
you jump into work at some point (whatever work looks like for you) maybe taking a lunch
break in the office or outside of it, then back to work in the afternoon, and ultimately
you end at home. Try to identify where within the flow of your
day it makes the most sense to spend some time on the online course that you signed
up for. It might be best to do it right after breakfast
and before you head into work. Maybe on your lunch break is a good time. Or maybe in the evening once you’ve put
the kids to bed. When you intentionally build it into your
daily routine and have it follow up a specific thing that you do regularly, you’re building
in a helpful trigger that (once you get that going) anytime you finish the activity that
precedes your learning time, you’ll be reminded “Oh yeah, this is the time that I’ve set
aside to do a little bit of learning via that course.” It will help remove some of the start up energy
that’s required to actually get going with that learning. Another piece that will help remove that startup
energy is if you have a specific physical location that’s dedicated to whatever it
is you’re learning through that course, a location where you do that learning. Maybe that looks like giving this course a
desk where you print out whatever resources are part of the course, where you can leave
those resources alongside a pen that you like and a mug that you know is good for coffee
in the morning or tea in the afternoon. That plays a similar role to a book that you
might leave out on your desk that you’ve been meaning to read. It’s a physical reminder of the learning
that you intended to do, and the fact that you’ve given it that space makes it easier
to jump into that learning. If you’re not always in the same place when
taking in that online course material, the physical location could be just a single notebook
where you keep track of all of your notes from that course. That notebook could be something that you
take to different rooms within your house or office, or throw in a backpack and head
to a local coffee shop. And you probably already know yourself well
enough to know which of those two types of options might work best for you – a permanent
physical space like a desk, or a more portable one like a notebook. The important thing is to set aside that space
along with a specific time (maybe even one that you put into your calendar so that you
make sure that you give it priority – because I’m making the assumption that you’re
really excited about whatever the topic of that online course is, and that you do want
to make progress on it). And by setting aside a dedicated time and
space, you’re just moving the chips a little bit more in your favor, making it more likely
to build that momentum and maintain it over time. The third thing that I think can be helpful
when taking online courses is to meet up regularly with a friend in person. Now, internet friends are important too, and
can be just as real (we’ll get to that in the next piece), but I do think there’s
something unique that comes from being in the same physical space as another human being. I myself have found it very helpful to have
a recurring weekly co-working session with my friend Austin who you’ve seen in a handful
of these Verbal to Visual videos. And that weekly co-working session plays a
couple of roles in my life. On the one hand, there’s a level of interpersonal
accountability. I have another person that I can check in
with every week and share what progress I made since the last week. And even just know that I’m going to have
another person to talk to, to check in with about the particular project that I’m working
on, that makes it much more likely that I’ll actually make the progress that I want to
make. That accountability is more powerful than
one when I’m just relying on goals that I set and declare to myself. What those co-working sessions also allow
for is collaboration and a cross-pollination of ideas. And what’s nice about that is you don’t
even have to be working through the same course or on the same type of progress as the other
person that you’re meeting up with. In fact, I think there are a lot of benefits
for each of you to be working on your own thing because you’ll find that interesting
parallels occur between whatever project you’re working on and your friend is working on,
and something that they’re doing might spark an idea with your project, and that’s the
type of energy that you get by being able to have a conversation with someone face-to-face
about what you’re working on. And through that cross-pollination of ideas,
you might even hit upon a particular project that you might like to collaborate on together. You can bring your skills, they can bring
theirs, and what you create is bigger and better than anything that each of you could
have build on your own. So, for all of those reasons, I do think it’s
worthwhile to try to set up a regular meeting with someone that you know, in real life,
face-to-face, because not only will that help you stay accountable to the goals that you
set for yourself, but it will also spark new ideas and help you work through problems more
efficiently than if you only did your learning on your own. Now, as helpful as those in-person connections
are, I do think there also is a whole lot of value in documenting and publishing what
you’re learning online too. That relatively simple act of simply sharing
what you’re learning is actually the whole reason that this project here, Verbal to Visual,
even exists. Because before I started this platform where
I teach the skills of visual note-taking and share ways that it can be used, I started
a blog called The Graphic Recorder where I simply shared every sketchnote that I took
and the things that I was doing to improve my own skills. And by sharing that journey on a blog and
connecting with others via platforms like Facebook, and Twitter, Instagram and YouTube,
what that was doing was getting some helpful feedback loops in place, feedback loops that
helped me to actually learn more efficiently, because other folks where there cheering me
along and suggesting another author that I should look at or this other website or YouTuber
that might help me along with my own journey. And knowing that those people were out there,
and wanting to be a part of that community and participate and support others as well,
that became a way of tapping into those same two benefits of accountability and cross-pollination
of ideas, and on top of that it resulted in this really cool record of my learning, of
the stages of my own development that I continue to be able to look back on. It’s an archive of my learning that I can
always look back to, to see how far I’ve come, to remind myself of lessons that I may
have learned but forgotten, and also to sow the seeds for a creative career that I might
want to foster and help bloom in the future, using the tools of the internet to support
that creative career. And to approach that sharing from the perspective
of a learner takes off so much pressure, it takes off the pressure of trying to present
yourself as an expert or someone who has mastered this skill. Instead you get to say, “Hey, I just signed
up for this online course, I’m super excited about this topic, and I’m gonna share what
I learn along the way, I’m gonna share my own work along the way. Because by documenting what I’m up to, reflecting
on it, sharing it with others, having conversations with others – those are all things that will
amplify whatever it is that you ultimately learn and take away from a particular online
course. So that rather than just binge-watching a
bunch of videos one weekend that you forget the next, you’re actually putting into practice
what you’re learning and building a strong foundation for continuing to use those skills
in the future. So, I think that if you do all four of these
things, you’ll be in really good shape. So do try to spend a little bit of time addressing
each of these things as you jump into whatever online course you’re excited to take next. Start by clarifying why you’re taking that
course and setting a specific goal, then make sure to set aside a dedicated time and space
to make progress on that course. Try also to meet up with a friend or two (maybe
every week, maybe ever month) to check in on how it’s going and share progress with
each other, even if you’re taking different courses and working on different projects. And spend a bit of time documenting what you’re
learning, the work that you’re doing, and sharing that in an online format so that others
can participate as well and you create this record of what you’re learning and where
you’re going. And if you’ve got some other tips that you
think would be useful, please do drop them in a comment down below. I’m sure others would enjoy seeing them. Because the phenomena of online courses and
online learning platforms isn’t going away. It’s only going to increase for the foreseeable
future at least. And I think ultimately that can be a powerful
thing because it allows you to tailor your own learning experience, to dig into the topics
that you’re really interested in and build skills that you want to build, that might
not be available in your local physical environment. There is so much to learn and so little time,
so you might as well make the most of what you’ve got. And I hope these ideas help you to do that. I encourage you to apply these ideas to any
online courses that you take, and if you happen to be interested in sketchnoting, in expressing
ideas in a visual and verbal way, tapping into that part of your brain, then do check
out the courses that I’ve created at I started learning the skill of sketchnoting
in the first place because I saw it as a very powerful learning tool, something that I’d
be able to apply to the online courses that I was taking, along with the books I was reading
and podcasts I was listening to. And it just so happens that it’s a pretty
good problem-solving tool as well as a storytelling tool as well. So there’s my little pitch for adding “sketchnotes”
to whatever list of skills and things you’re already interested in. But more than anything I hope you enjoy whatever
it is you choose to dig into next, and that you’re able to apply what you learn online
to your life in a meaningful way. Thank you so much for watching this video,
good luck with your learning, and I’ll see you next time. Until then.

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9 thoughts on “How to Make the Most of Online Courses”

  1. jeni Odilon says:

    Love it 😍

  2. Heather Martinez says:

    Agreed because like buying a book and not reading it, so many purchase online courses and don't watch or even integrate their learnings. There is one thing I would caution here: Step 4: share your learnings. While I understand sketchnoting can be for personal use, it's important not to share or encourage others to share copyrighted and intellectual property that is not yours. It's illegal. And while it might seem "promotional" I suggest contacting the author first for permission before posting.

  3. English For Life says:

    Dear Doug, as always I love your video, your speech is clear cristal, your message very useful and practical. I can only thank by now for the great teacher you are. I hope one day I'll find an English teacher whose method is based on the emotion not grammar. Any creation, beautiful as yours, has its root in feelings, emotion, memories. Congratulation. LOVE, LIVE, LEARN n LAUGH MAC

  4. MC CL says:

    This makes me think what I´m learning online. How to make a video game. so far, I learned how unity works, but I decided to publish on twitter how my progress is going, even if nothing was done in 3 weeks, have been done in unity, because of the assets, I also have been learning blender, to create the assets to use. and now that I have passed the first hurdle, making a hand, I might have a character by the end of the week. Since I cannot on this moment see y friends, I send them directly my progress, for some of them is a daily progress, for others is a weekly or mayor hurdle progress.

  5. Yinka David says:

    WHAT!!! Who the heck is the hater on this? Dislike? Aaaaaaarghhhhh! Remind me of a dialogue involving DiCaprio telling someone the person will be loved by everybody if he behaves like Jesus. The guy replied, "But they crucified Jesus!"
    Don't mind the hater(s). Great Work. And keep it up!

  6. Shabana Asmin says:


  7. Денис Аверинцев says:

    Аrе Yоu searсhing fоr gооd onlіnе coursеs . Ѕіmрly Gооgle sеаrch аs "Zoe Talent Solutions"

  8. RoeiRo says:

    Hey Doug, love your video and courses. One question: how do I know if it's legal to share a sketchnote I made summarizing ideas from a book? Isn't it problematic regarding copyrights? This is keeping me from publishing and sharing my sketchnotes…


  9. A Mommy In Time says:

    Great information ! Very concise ! Has anyone ever told you that you sound like “The Good Doctor” ? Norman Bates ?!

    Anyway! Thanks for sharing !

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