Learning Online is Just as Effective as a Classroom
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Learning Online is Just as Effective as a Classroom

Online certification training has certainly made studying for IT exams more convenient. But we all knew that. Online degrees no longer have the stigma they once had. YouTube has everything from full college courses to simple tutorials. Most people online to learn. But even knowing that many companies still rely on expensive instructor-led bootcamps to train their technical teams. Why?

To be fair, self-paced learning has its challenges. Without an instructor-led course to attend regularly, it is easier to lose your motivation and skip training, which can derail your learning efforts. An online, self-paced environment can be daunting for some people. But, utilizing principles from educational psychology and cognitive neuroscience — Bloom's Taxonomy, active/passive learning modes — you can maximize your online studies.

If you choose a self-paced learning approach, like online training, you need to develop smart exam preparation strategies with an eye toward concepts in educational psychology and neuroscience — to maximize your success.

Let's explore how to learn effectively in online, self-paced environments.

Consider Bloom's Hierarchy for Maximal Learning

Bloom's Hierarchy, also called Bloom's Taxonomy, is an educational framework used for decades at all levels of education: from kindergarten to college and beyond. Represented by a pyramid, it describes a framework through which learning can be understood in terms of knowledge acquisition and active goal-setting.

The bottom of the hierarchy is concerned with the learning of basic facts and concepts, while the top of the pyramid is dedicated to the creation of new and original work based on successful application and synthesis. A streaming video curriculum for IT certification exam preparation, such as that used by CBT Nuggets, can be made more effective by paying attention to the principles of Bloom's Hierarchy. Bloom's Hierarchy can help learners establish and reach learning goals.

In particular, the hierarchy categorizes knowledge as belonging to different categories — facts, concepts, procedural knowledge, and metacognition. As the learning process progresses, learners transition from basic knowledge of facts to more deep knowledge that can be synthesized and used to form novel concepts.

The goal of IT certification exam preparation can be thought of in terms of Bloom's Hierarchy. At first you may only be familiar with concepts over time with repeated exposure and use of different learning strategies, you will be able to synthesize this knowledge and draw connections between ideas. You'll also be able to utilize critical thinking skills to evaluate these concepts and develop new ideas.

Employ Active and Passive Learning Strategies

Active and passive learning are two different types of learning methods that can help promote information retention during your exam preparation.

Typically, online self-paced learning involves watching videos and digesting large amounts of information.This type of learning is referred to as passive learning because it does not involve interacting with the educational content.

Active learning, on the other hand, refers to any type of learning that has an interactive component: taking quizzes, participating in discussions with other students online, and engaging in problem-solving activities.

Ideally, an effective self-paced online learning strategy should include both active and passive learning. CBT Nuggets offers both active and passive learning activities, in the form of online videos, interactive quizzes, accountability coaching, online discussions, and more.

Using a combination of active and passive learning strategies ensures that test takers will learn optimally. It also maximizes their exam preparation experience for the best results on test day.

Schedule Frequent, Short, & Intense Study Sessions

A self-paced online learning program requires that learners create their own study plans. This is one area in which online students may falter compared to those in conventional classroom settings. There are no regular lectures to attend to help keep students accountable and on track.This means that students using self-paced training need to be extra diligent in their planning. Research shows that short, regular study sessions are more effective than one-time, hours-long study sessions. Watching 30 minutes of online training is a perfect example. So-called "exam cram" sessions promote familiarity with the material, not actual learning. Actual learning can only occur over a longer period of time and requires not only information absorption (i.e., studying) but also other processes such as sleep, which is an important, restorative process crucial for learning.

Therefore, instead of pulling all-nighters, schedule shorter, regular, more intense study sessions. Because they are shorter, you can more easily work them into your day-to-day schedule, and over time, these small efforts will add up to big results on exam day.

Focus On Understanding the Material

As mentioned above, cram sessions promote familiarity with material, but may not promote true learning. For example, you might know all the different components that make up a network, but what good is that if you don't understand how they work together?

If you are simply familiar with the material, you may choose an answer that is related to the concept in question, but actually choose the wrong answer. On the other hand, if you have actually learned the material, you'll be able to narrow down the options and pick the correct answer. Real learning takes time because your brain cells have to adapt to storing new information. This adaptation takes the form of biological processes such as memory consolidation during sleep, for instance.

It's important to keep in mind that learning is not an instantaneous process — it takes time. Both in terms of committing new material to memory and having that information be etched into your brain cells over time via various physiological processes. So, with exam preparation, as in other aspects of life, slow and steady wins the race.

Seek Out Accountability

Having someone who holds you accountable and keeps you on track can help you reach your goals. At the very least, have someone to support and encourage you through the ups and downs of pursuing an IT certification

Someone to hold you accountable is especially important for self-paced online learning. There are no regular lectures, teaching assistants, or professors to provide feedback or support. Struggling to find someone? Sharing your goals on social media is another way to keep yourself on track. Your family and friends can be a great support network.

Coaching is also another avenue. Coaching services, like the ones CBT Nuggets offer, can help you set realistic goals, develop study plans, identify additional training resources, and, of course, offer encouragement. Coaching services are included free with CBT Nuggets subscriptions. While coaches may not be technical IT experts, they can help you stay focused and positive during your IT certification journey. Going into exam day, feeling encouraged will likely increase your odds of a successful outcome.

Final Thoughts

When studying for IT certification exams, it's important to keep in mind that learning is a multifaceted, complex process with many components. Yes, you need to be motivated and prepared for the time investment. However, you also need to recognize your brain's limits.

Following the helpful guidelines above will help ensure maximal success learning online and preparing for IT cert exams.



Ultimate Tech Support Cert Guide

A 119-page guide to every CompTIA, Microsoft, Cisco, VMware, and Citrix certification, and how they fit into your career.

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