Reflections of an online learner: Strategies for getting the most out of it

Filed Under (reflection) by on 19/03/2013 and tagged , ,

In this post, I would like to share what I have learned from being an online learner. As some of you might know, I am taking an online course from The Consultants E certified by Trinity College which is my first official online learning experience. After having completed the first module of the course, I can definitely say that it has given me an opportunity to reconsider the components of a successful online learning environment and the basics of online learning. The course has been really effective since it possesses all  key points in a good e-learning program which are  guidance, clarity, transparency, interaction, flexibility, diversity and design.

So, is it easy to be an online learner? In my personal opinion, it is not very easy to be able to catch up with a fully online program since it requires a lot of learner awareness and responsibility. On the other hand, it is up to the learner to make decisions about how to learn, what to study, and timing of  tasks which makes the process more flexible. It also helps the learners to be more active while trying to make decisions which is a quality desired by most of the educators.

While trying to complete my tasks, I used some strategies for being able to learn from them  as much as I could.  Here are the golden rules I found useful to make the most out of this learning opportunity:

1-Stay organized: It is possible for you to think that you are bombarded with a lot of information in an online course and this can scare you at first.  Print the syllabus of the course for being able to organize your time and resources. In addition, if you use some tools for writing what you have learned or your comments, it will be easier to look back what you have learned so far and keep them in mind.

I used evernote as an online notebook to write my reflections. It is a tool that can be used both online which requires a web sign in and its program which can be downloaded on a computer. It also has a mobile app which is easy to use. I opened a new notebook for the course and opened new pages for each week dividing them into tasks. Before replying to a forum discussion or writing an entry, I used the notebook for the week we were working on.
Since I could use it both on my phone and computer, I could access my notes easily.

2-Be careful with deadlines.

Although online learning allows learners to do their tasks flexibly, the reality is that there are some deadlines to submit these tasks on time. It is advisable to make a table including the deadlines of each task week by week and print them out to post them on somewhere close to you. It can even be saved on a mobile device for you to look at whenever possible. If you are a last minute person, things can get out of control at times especially when there are many other things to do. Having this possibility in mind, planning when and how to finish the assignments can be helpful since it can help you to see the bigger picture which can make you think about the timing of tasks and plan accordingly. However, there can be times when you stay behind and can not catch up with your tasks which is not bad. If you do your best, it can be possible to turn lurking into reflective practices.

3-Have self discipline.

Responsibility is another issue to be careful about in online learning. Teachers act as facilitators of learning process in such kind of learning which puts the responsibility on learners’ shoulders. This means that as an online learner you need to motivate yourself and make decisions on various issues such as time management and how to do the assignments. If there is lack of motivation, look back and try to see what you have achieved in the course so far which can give you the power to move on.

4-Interact with your coursemates and tutors as much as possible.

There can be times when you think that you are alone but if it is an online course, it means that there is a group of people having the same feeling of isolation. The key to destroy that feeling is interaction.  You can share your ideas with the others on various platforms. Exchanging ideas with colleagues using forums, chats, and virtual meeting software can also be good for receiving feedback on your progress from different people other than the tutors. The comments of the participants and tutors are invaluable since they make you question the aspects you haven’t considered before and be considered as a mirror. Going over the comments not only on your posts but your coursemates ideas can raise your awareness on your strengths and the areas you need to work on. You will even notice that your style of giving feedback has changed by analyzing the interaction.

5-Use mobile devices.

Taking an online course can require you to sit down for a long time which can bore you at times if you are a kinaesthetic learner like me . While doing my assignments, I sometimes realized that I needed to move to be able to carry on. Thanks to useful mobile apps, I now feel free since I can be flexible and do  my assignments anytime and anywhere since I don’t have to finish them only by using my laptop . (I will share these apps on another blog post.)

Having been an online learner for more than two months, I can definitely say that  it has given me the opportunity to be reflective, critical, and aware. I would like to thank my dear tutors Anne Fox and Robert Martinez and my coursemates for providing me with useful feedback which has made me realize many aspects of being an online learner.

I would like to finish writing by asking my dear readers the following question:

Have you ever taken or taught an online course? If yes, what is your advice to online learners?



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8 Responses to “Reflections of an online learner: Strategies for getting the most out of it”

  1.   Christina Says:

    Hi Beyza!!!

    very interesting post indeed! I did an online course called ‘Effective Online Tutoring’@ the University of Oxford last year & it was a very unique experience! As you said it differs a lot from a f2f course! It requires a lot of self- discipline and commitment to keep up with the flow of the process. Of course, you have the flexibility to study at your own time and pace! What I found really important is the contact with your tutor and virtual classmates! The less you lurk the better it is :-)! It’s good to be involved and contribute to online discussions! This way you gain& learn a lot more!My piece of advice to online learners:
    don’t be an introvert and be open minded about sharing life, work, and educational experiences as part of the learning process.

    Hope you enjoy your course Beyza ;-)
    All the best!



    •   beyzayilmaz Says:

      Dear Christina,

      I really agree with you in that it is a different type of learning and therefore requires a lot of self discipline and dedication as well as interaction.

      Thanks for dropping by!




  2.   Vicky Loras Says:

    Hi Beyza!

    This post comes at exactly the right moment for me – I have applied for an online MA and first of all, it has been a long time since I last studied extensively and second, a long time since I did an online program. I will print this out and carry it at all times! Thank you so much for this : )

    Good luck,


  3.   Anne Fox Says:

    Thanks for the shoutout Beyza! It is actually quite unusual to find advice from the participant perspective so I think this will be a very useful post to many potential online students. I must say though that the variety in online learning is just as great as the variety in face to face learning. I am actively involved in four different organisations offering online courses at the moment and they each offer interesting but different ways of doing things.


    •   beyzayilmaz Says:

      Dear Anne,

      I was dying to write a post on this and the course really triggered me to be able to do it. Please feel free to share it with the other online strudents. I agree with you in that e learning increases the opportunities we have in course delivery . I look forward to sharing more ideas.

      Thanks for dropping by!: )



  4.   Alessandra Says:

    Hi Beyza,
    I’ve been doing online courses for two years now (my Delta with Bell and courses at Harvard Wide World. It’s interesting that our feelings are very similar – yours, mine and other students’. It’s easy to forget about the dates and assignments because there is no one to remind you or because you won’t feel embarrassed for not having finished something while other people have (if you’re not working as you should, you and your tutors are the only ones to know). As a consequence of not working as you should, it’s easy to feel demotivated, so you really have to be online often, do your reading and tasks and interact with your peers. Once you get behind and assignments begin to pile up, or you have no idea what other people are talking about, there’s a good chance you’ll feel like giving up. Also, maybe you could try and share your findings and ideas with other people around you (colleagues, students, or in a blog). That might help you with keeping things going in your course and reflections. In my case, we had a discussion group in my school, so we needed to read texts and write videos in order to contribute.


    •   beyzayilmaz Says:

      Dear Alessandra,

      It is really nice that we have exactly the same ideas on e-learning. As you stated before, there definitely needs to be a platform for interaction and keeping students posted. Staying behind (lurking) is also another issue but as you underlined interaction is the key for being able to prevent it. For me the most important thing is awareness. I believe that a good course makes us aware of our strengths and weaknesses.

      Thanks a lot for your comment.




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