What does it take to be an online learner?

Many online learners are bombarded with so many resources that we tend to ‘data harvest'

"What makes a good online learner?" Someone asked me this question recently at an industry networking event. (It made me wonder how many class-based teachers are asked what does it take to be a good face-to-face learner?)

That point aside, I'd recommend checking out this article by Edudemic, which looks at skills for both online students and teachers. It contains some great ideas including time management, connectedness and the need to have some basic computing skills. I haven't reworked their list, but instead I've looked at the integration of online study and the skill challenges this can pose for new students.

The ability to focus attention

The amount of information available online now is unprecedented. We view web pages differently to how we read offline text. Basically, the pattern for viewing a web page is like a capital F. We start at the top and read the heading, then down a bit further, and view another bold heading. Finally, we scan down the left side of the page. If none of that is appealing, we move on to a new page or site. We've developed these new reading skills with such gusto that reverting to deeper reading is challenging. Constant web links that serve to distract and entice us don't exactly help, either. My tip: read the whole page or article first, then go back and re-read and click through the links.

The ability to manage distractions

Pop up ads. Scrolling advertisements. Banners. Subliminal messages. These are the price of admission to the online world. Meanwhile, our lounge rooms have massive screens that frequently claim our attention. And then there are our ever-present gadgets and devices. And who else has noticed the number of apps that come with settings that include push reminders when you haven't visited the site in a day or two and have ‘never power-down' modes? The constantly connected student needs to master self-control.

The ability to ‘synthesise' effectively

Synthesising is the drawing of information from multiple sources. And quickly. Many online learners are bombarded with so many resources that we tend to ‘data harvest'. This means the analysis of credibility and accuracy may only take a few moments before a source is determined as being worthy or not. There are some great librarians and teachers who can assist with students' data harvesting skills.

So if you're thinking of studying online, go for it! Good online courses will support students to develop these and many other skills. TAFE NSW has plenty of online study options and many skilled teachers and online facilitators who are ready to help you find out what it takes.