01 Oct Remote Control: getting the best from online CPD
The words “Can you hear me?” and the standard reply of “You’re on mute”, appear to be the way of starting any CPD, training or workshop these days.
All the CPD providers are gearing up for more online and remote teaching using learning management systems, live streaming, webinar platforms, and video conferencing such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom.
Speakers and presenters are having to learn new online skills of audience participation and engagement – some faring better than others. Of course, personal protective equipment-appropriate practical courses are still available and we have had webinars as part of our CPD provision for years now, but the trend towards online learning has been forced to encompass the traditional face-to-face and practical learning that many of us enjoy – not just for the learning, but the social and informal benefits that encompass a few days of CPD out of the practice.
The reality is that online CPD can be very convenient for many people with reduced travel, accommodation and time away from family. However, online learning requires skills in time management, self-discipline, willpower, and strong motivation.
Whether you are enrolling in a 12-month certificate course, a CPD series over several weeks or months, attending individual webinars or joining a Mastermind learning group, here are some key study tips to help you learn, stay focused and stay motivated.
1. What are your online learning practices and expectations?
Online CPD is not necessarily an easier way to learn, but rather a more convenient one – and now, a necessary one. To successfully learn online, you need to dedicate a significant amount of your time, consistently attend the programme, concentrate while studying and fully commit to your learning process, just as you would do for a regular course or event.
I’ll admit not everyone makes a good online learner. When you sign up for that interesting webinar or online course, you will be expected to fully apply self-discipline, commit yourself and participate in the virtual classroom as required. You will have to be willing to adopt the necessary technology, work with others effectively online, and do your homework and assignments on time. If you are not able or willing to do all the aforementioned, you will probably not be a very happy online learner.
2. Clarify your learning objectives and goals
This applies to any leaning – not just online – but it is worth repeating. To stay on track, and get the best out of webinars and group training events, have in mind what you hope to accomplish by the end of it. The learning objectives and goals of the course can be an excellent road map during online learning, but create your own notes related to your objectives and make sure that you review them every time you start a new module or an assignment.
If it is practice-sponsored CPD it will be worth checking in with your practice mentor to ensure you are meeting the practice’s objectives as well.
3. Plan the work – work the plan
A study plan is critical to any long-term learning, structured or unstructured, online and offline. Here are some tips to help you build it:
Plan. Obvious to say, but… never wait until the day before an assignment due date to start working on it. Being a last-minute stress junky is just not an effective way to learn. Knowing when all your assignments are due will facilitate your time management, and accommodate holidays and rotas.
Have an effective diary system. Online learning needs more structure and discipline than offline. Create an online study calendar linked to your computer and mobile device that will import invitations and all-important dates, such as exams or assignment deadlines, as well as committing to weekly study periods.
Create task lists. At the start of each week make a list of the tasks and objectives you need to complete by the end of the week to prioritise your study and stay on track.
Set time limits and take “peak exits”. Estimate how much time each task will take to complete, whether it is a specific assignment or simply reading a chapter. Try to stick to your time limits, as this will help you develop your self-discipline. It is far more effective to stop studying on a peak, before you lose concentration, allowing you to get back into flow more easily next time.
Stay on schedule. Procrastination is the worst enemy of online learners – so pair up with another attendee as an accountability buddy. If you are having difficulties submitting your assignments on time, contact your online facilitator and let him or her know. Equally, do not beat yourself up over the occasional missed deadline or attendance. We are all busy people doing our best. Keep calm and carry on.
4. Ask for help when you need it
While discovering new information independently can be an exciting part of your study, the best and most immediate source of information is your course facilitator and your fellow attendees. Build a relationship with your online instructors, contact them regularly, and inform them who you are and how you could use their help.
By asking your online instructors to clarify problems, you will also help them to not only evaluate learners’ level of understanding of the online material, but also get an idea of the overall effectiveness of the online course. By asking a question, you also help your virtual classmates, in case they are having similar difficulties. If you don’t ask for help when you need it, you will end up demotivated and your facilitator cannot help.
5. Review, revise, repeat
Regular revisions of the things you have already studied will not only improve your memory and retention, but also help you better understand what you are learning. Create your own flash cards for your key notes and quiz yourself on the key concepts of the online course.
Furthermore, consider having one or more study partners. Working in groups will offer you alternative views of difficult concepts, motivation to achieve better results, and help in completing your online assignments more quickly by reviewing what you have learned. Share your study notes and habits with your virtual classmates, and support each other throughout.
6. Participate in online discussions
Online learning doesn’t necessarily mean learning in isolation. Connecting with your virtual classmates on social media or your online course’s forum will tremendously enhance your e-learning experience. Participate actively in online discussions and group activities, suggest study tricks, offer your input on the course and engage in new ideas. If you are introverted and shy about expressing yourself, use the text chat and Q&A facilities rather than speaking.
Ensure you are mindful of your online tone; be respectful when you disagree with other members of your online group, and always write in complete, clear sentences to avoid misunderstandings.
7. Stay motivated
Finally, don’t underestimate the effort needed to fully commit to your online course. To stay motivated and engaged, consider following these tips:
- create your study routine at your own comfortable pace
- decorate your study space with inspirational quotes and pictures
- remember the reason you took the course
- share what you learn with your colleagues at work
- accept that you will have less productive days
- have healthy snacks nearby to boost your energy
- reward yourself every time you complete a challenging task
- make sure that you regularly take some time for yourself
- stay positive and enjoy the journey
By Alan Robinson