I just finished the Google Data Analytics Certificate 8-course program offered through Coursera in partnership with Google. It took me 8 months to complete, so I thought it might be cool to share a few things I learned from the undertaking with peeps. School is or isn’t for some people, but I think learning is for everyone.
I won’t bore you with the course content (you can look here for that), instead – I’d like to share a few pointers with you in case you ever decide to learn more via online alternatives that are out there. With more people working from home than probably any other time in recent U.S. history, it’s important to keep your skills sharp.
Tip #1: Know Your Why
Anyone who works in any type of professional setting has probably heard the phrase “Know Your Why” at one point or another. Just because something is a little cliche doesn’t mean it isn’t true. I think it’s important for you to have a personal reason for pursuing your online learning coursework – otherwise, you’re going to lose motivation to complete the program fairly easily.
In my case, I’m developing an internal Data Literacy program internally for my day job, so I wanted to go through an introductory course to see what the experience was like. Even though it was a program meant to target people entering the field and Junior Analysts (I’m a Senior Data Analyst by day), I felt like I learned a lot of cool things to reinforce the basics of what I already knew. Any my “why” for taking the program kept me extremely motivated all the way through — week-after-week and month-after-month.
Tip #2: Learn Something You’re Interested In
I love manipulating data. Even if it wasn’t a part of my day job, I’d be messing around in spreadsheets on a regular basis just analyzing portions of my life. Taking the time to learn more deeply about something that intrigues you will keep things from going in one ear and out the other as you take on your online learning.
People who have never taken digital learning courses often underestimate just how different it feels compared to active learning in an in-person classroom setting. Trust me, it’s different. With no one there to see what you’re doing, and with nothing stopping you from using the time to binge the latest streaming craze – it’s easy to get distracted. So, the material needs to hold your interest. If you’re not interested, you’re more likely to tap out.
Tip #3: Pace Yourself
I could have probably finished this program in 2-3 months if I just hauled ass through the material (if not sooner). But there’s value in pacing yourself.
Aside from just getting to live your life and decompress every now and then – pacing yourself helps with retention and stress management. You’ll also dodge fatigue if you allow a little breathing room between the days that you study.
A good thing to help you out with your pacing is the next tip…
Tip #4: Set a Schedule
Whether you’re spending an hour a night in the material, or 7 hours a week — it helps to actually set time aside on your personal calendar (because learning really is a personal endeavor). For me, I decided that weekends were the way to go.
Sure, my consistency in blogging suffered because of it, and I wasn’t able to post YouTube videos (go on and subscribe while you’re in there) as often as I would’ve liked – or workout whenever I wanted to… But prioritizing studying on the weekends in my schedule helped me progress through the work that needed to be done.
Tip #5: Hold Yourself Accountable Somehow
Whenever I want to make sure I’m staying on top of something, I tend to tell tons of people about it. There’s a psychological angle to that approach for me because now I feel a certain kind of pressure to deliver or look like a fool. Haha – I know that no one cares about what I do and don’t do at the end of the day — but the impact on my mind and sticktoitiveness is amazing.
I don’t know what that looks like for everyone reading this, but it may take the form of telling your friends. It may take the form of you setting up consequences for yourself if you don’t follow through (like a contractual agreement to pay out a certain amount of money if you fail to deliver by a certain date or something). Whatever works for you holding yourself accountable — do it!
Tip #6: Actually Study the Material
I warn you now that you can BS your way through online learning the same way that some of us BS’d our way through learning in the physical world at school. And the temptation is even stronger now because aside from a few due dates and maybe some graded assignments (depending on your learning environment) – you don’t have any authority figure holding you accountable as an adult.
Cutting to the chase – if you don’t actually study, you won’t really learn anything. That may have flown when we were kids, but most adults don’t like wasting time (and I’m assuming that if you’re actively pursuing online learning, you’re at least college-aged or older). The whole point of this is to help grow your skillset or deepen your knowledge. That can only happen if you commit to studying for a few hours a week (at least). That and doing this last tip…
Tip #7: Apply What You’re Learning
Learning without application is the kiss of death to most strivings for education and it’s not uncommon to see the lack of application make some full-on college degrees useless. If you don’t have a plan to actively use what you’re learning, what’s the point in doing it? Why pay for it? Even if you have free access to something, why spend the time (our most scarce resource)?
As you’re studying for whatever online learning you’re doing, take moments (with an “s”) to think about how you’re actually going to use what you’re learning. How is this going to help you grow? What key things will you take away? What will you do differently or better?
If you can’t answer those questions – maybe it’s time to revisit the first tip and work your way back down this list or pause the learning (for the time being) entirely.
We all take different things away from our lessons in life, those tips are what I just happened to internalize about this recent online learning process of my own. If you’ve ever taken on any online learning (do people still call it e-learning?) of your own, I’m curious what tips you might have for others. Feel free to drop a comment down below this post – especially if you think I missed something huge.