Learn Smarter, Not Harder
Certification Magazine|October 2020
Everyone is doing online learning now — but that doesn’t mean they’re doing it right
NATHAN KIMPEL

Here’s something you probably don’t say to yourself very often: “I have too much time.” The thought of adding one more entry to your list of things to keep track of is probably daunting to most people in the best of circumstances. Only, sometimes that one more thing can make everything better. And sometimes it’s the only thing there is — the new way forward.

Both notions are at least a little bit true of online learning in 2020. For many, it’s the new status quo, at least for a while. And for almost anyone, online learning can make things better. You can develop your understanding of IT concepts, or acquire new knowledge and skills. You can better position yourself to excel at a current job, or become better qualified to take a different (possibly better) job.

Not only that, but online learning might just be ... better. Research suggests that online learning increases retention of information. It’s easier to hang on to what you learned from that AWS certification class. Your Cisco routing and switching training will stay with you longer, making it easier to apply that learning to a real-world scenario.

Best of all, online learning generally takes less time than traditional methods — and, as previously discussed, time is something we could all use more of. Of all the changes brought on by coronavirus craziness that could be here to stay, here’s one that might actually make things better. Who would have thought anything good would come out of this situation?

Even before COVID-19, the online learning technology sphere was already experiencing rapid growth and increasing adoption. Worldwide, investments in online training and education climbed to $18.7 billion in 2019, with the overall market value projected to reach $350 billion by 2025.

Whether it is online certifications, virtual tutoring, video conferencing tools, or online learning software, there has been a significant surge in usage since COVID-19. With the ultimate end-state of the pandemic being unknown, it looks like 2020 will be a boom year for online education and training providers. The market is red hot right now and looks to do nothing but grow in the near future.

Online learning is good for you

Obviously, bandwidth matters. For those who do have access to the right technology, however, there is evidence that learning online can be more effective than traditional learning in a number of ways. Some research shows that, on average, students retain 25-to60 percent more material when learning online, compared to just 8-to-10 percent in a traditional classroom.

This bodes well for online instructors, and also for being able to sell what you yourself have learned, which we will touch on later. The increased retention is thought to be mostly due to students’ ability to learn faster online: E-learning requires 40to-60 percent less time than traditional classroom learning because students can work at their own pace. An online learner has the freedom to go back and read through — or watch or listen through — difficult concepts over again.

An online learner can skip past things they already know, or accelerate through familiar concepts. You can tailor the learning experience to suit your strengths. I have one guy on my team who listens to and watches all e-learning videos at 2x speed. That’s what works for him.

Finding out what works for you is important to overall success in online learning. Every individual is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Because online learning is highly configurable and adaptable, however, you don’t have to worry about doing it the one right way. You can pick and choose and discover your own formula for success. That said, let’s discuss some broadly applicable tips for success:

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