By Pat Bowden, published August 29, 2017.
Here are some useful tools to help enhance your MOOC experience:
Device Connected to the Internet
You obviously need this to study online, but you don’t necessarily need to be connected constantly while studying. You can use a phone or any computing device such as a tablet, notebook, laptop or desktop computer. If you have a generous internet data allocation and bandwidth you may be able to do it all while connected, but if your internet is limited or unreliable, here are some tips to minimise its use.
Some platforms let you download videos and watch them later. Video transcripts may also be downloadable. These facilities are particularly helpful if you need to watch the videos more than once in order to understand or remember the material. Downloadable PDFs are also available in some courses. With the Snipping Tool discussed below you can also save screenshots to read more carefully later. Quizzes and exams need to be done online, but if you are doing a course that requires written assignments you can write them offline if you wish, then copy and paste your work into the assignment field.
In most MOOCs, a substantial amount of the material is presented in the form of videos, and even if you’re not hard of hearing a set of headphones can help. You will be listening to speakers from all over the world and many of them may have unfamiliar accents. Your headphones can range from the simple lightweight headsets that come with many phones to top of the range sets with superior sound quality. Consider your comfort and budget when selecting headphones.
You may also like to turn on subtitles if they are available, particularly if you are not a native speaker of the language the course is presented in. Most courses are in English, but you can find MOOCs in a number of other languages. Coursera also has an interactive transcript, so you can click on a section of the transcript to go straight to that part of the video. Remember you can replay videos as well as change the playback speed. This makes it convenient to save time by speeding up parts that you may already be familiar with. Slow the speed down again for new material, to even slower than recording speed for really tricky bits. The pause button is also a handy tool so you can finish or review your notes on one section before starting on the next.
Virtual Folder for Each Course
This may be tricky if you are using a mobile device exclusively, but is a handy way to keep a record of useful information. When starting a new MOOC, create a folder in the cloud, on your computer’s desktop or in a directory where you can easily find it again. Keep all your downloads, images and assignments for each course in one place. Filing items under chronological names such as Week1, Wk2 can be useful, or you could use the date as part of your title in year-month-day format as in 2017‑08‑29.
Pen and Paper for Handwritten Notes
Just because something is old fashioned doesn’t mean it’s useless. Research has shown that students who take notes by hand perform better on tests than those who either take no notes or who type them out as they listen to the lecture. Having a dedicated notebook for your MOOCs is recommended so all your notes stay together in one place.
This handy device is loaded onto most computers running Windows and allows you to snip a portion of the screen and save it as a PNG, GIF, JPEG or MHT/HTML file. See here to learn how to find and use it. It’s a quick way to save images into your course folder. Don’t have a Windows computer? Here is a Mac version.
This can help to both avoid procrastination and learn more quickly. If you’re having trouble getting started, try telling yourself that all you need to do at first is one 25 minute Pomodoro session. When the Pomodoro is ticking, ignore distractions and put in concentrated, uninterrupted study time which will help you learn more quickly and efficiently. For a full discussion of the Pomodoro, see my blog Learning Success With a Pomodoro: What is Your Ideal Study Time?
Calendar or Diary
Whether you use a physical or virtual calendar or diary, keeping track of your course deadlines will make the process much easier. Some MOOCs can synch with your online calendar to automatically populate important dates. Spending a little time at the start will help you keep on track throughout the course.
A Final Thought
What other tools have you found useful for online study? Tell us about them in the Comments section below.