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5 tips for excelling as an e-learner

Even though this crisis is unprecedented, and we have no idea what the future of the country or the world will look like, there is always a silver lining that we need to find and make the most of, says Lisa Illingworth, CEO and co-founder of FutureProof SA.
Lisa Illingworth
Lisa Illingworth

“For us at FutureProof SA, that silver lining is the digitalisation of education. In 2016, Frost & Sullivan released a report, Digital Education: South Africa’s Economic Imperative, that stated that South Africa’s education system was based on traditional methods developed for the industrial era – and that these methods were no longer relevant in a digitalised economy.”

Even more concerning was the fact that our trained workforces needed to be able to compete in a globalised environment – something our education system was not doing. The report concluded with the statement that a digital education system was the only solution that could address the education system in South Africa, and that tackling this head-on would also address many of the other challenges our economy was facing.

“Four years later, very little has happened in this space – until now,” says Illingworth.

Covid-19 has taught all of us that the future of education is digital. We all knew it, but no-one was actively implementing it.

“If we want our learners to come through this crisis stronger than they were when we entered it, now is the time to embrace digital. We don’t have a choice. The question is: how well we will make this shift?” she asks.

5 tips for excelling as an e-learner
© dolgachov – 123RF.com

Illingworth shares five ways to make the most of e-learning. If you’re a student, start thinking about what your new world of learning looks like – and if you’re a parent or educator, support your young learners in this journey.

1. Embrace online learning

Digital learning is not just classroom learning through a computer screen. Classroom learning has a built-in monitoring system. Learners are all together, and they’re being watched. You have to do the work. Online learning requires far more self-discipline, willpower, motivation and time management skills. The good news is that these are all excellent skills when you enter the working world. Embrace digital – it’s a new world, but it’s full of benefits.

To become an effective digital learner, embrace the following:

  • Fully commit yourself to digital learning as a new paradigm
  • Become tech savvy if you aren’t already
  • Work effectively with others – digital learning can be very collaborative
  • Always complete your tasks on time

2. Make sure you have the right tech

Reliable internet connectivity is a must, but most of the other platforms you will need are free. You’ll need to set up an email address and have access to Skype, Zoom and other platforms that your educators will use.

  • These are designed as collaborative platforms, so you will need to adhere to the rules that are put in place for Zoom and Skype calls – for example, you can’t speak over each other.
  • Mute your mike when you aren’t speaking and use the chat function to engage politely with others on the same channel.
  • Set up your camera and screen to look and feel like you are part of a classroom or a group.
  • Place your camera at eye level and focus it correctly – this will help everyone to feel like you are all in a classroom together.
  • Open your video window close to where your camera is placed so that you can look and speak in the direction where your audience is.

3. Take control of your learning experience

As we’ve highlighted, online learning is not the same as a classroom environment. It’s impossible to spend all day on Zoom calls for example. Instead, you need to advocate for your learning needs. This will only be possible if you are also responsible and meet your deadlines, however.

  • Ask for flexible ways to participate that work for you. Your educators are also new to this, and there will be some trial and error. The good news is that you can positively shape your experience by offering your preferences.
  • Schedule breaks for yourself. It’s very easy to spend all day in front of a computer screen. Make sure you get up, go outside and walk around. Scheduling your ‘distractions’ is a great way to ensure you move enough and can come back to your screen rested and ready to concentrate.
  • Stay healthy. Both your brain and your body need rest and exercise. It’s easy to forget about normal routines at home, so schedule them in.

4. Become a master of time management

Most learners lead heavily scheduled lives – parents, teachers and class schedules tell them where to be and when to be there. One of the biggest benefits of e-learning is flexibility, but this comes with a large degree of responsibility as well. To succeed as an online learner, time management is critical:

  • Design your learning schedule. This should be modular and flexible. Online learning has many different components – review them, understand them and schedule them into your day.
  • Track your deadlines and make sure they are all in your electronic diary.
  • Work away from distractions. Don’t have the TV or music on in the background, or YouTube videos playing while you work.

5. Embrace your online community

You’re no longer sitting in a classroom, which means your online experience can be very lonely, or incredibly rewarding if you collaborate and join discussion forums, discuss ideas and challenges with your peers and support each other.

  • Make use of messaging boards and forums. Ask questions and pose ideas.
  • Join a virtual study group. We’re moving away from parrot-fashion learning and into a world of agile thinking and digital skill-building. You don’t need to work alone.
  • Make your learning stick. Established learning principles say that practice, application and reflection ensure that the knowledge you are accumulating sticks with you. Repeatedly practice skills, apply knowledge in different contexts, and reflect on what you have learnt. Digital is a great way to do this – you can re-watch videos, record talks and interact with fellow learners through forums and study groups.

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