Going to school, when you’re a kid, is essential. Not only it gives you fundamental knowledge, it also teaches you how to learn. But as you grow older, it is not sufficient anymore. Things are evolving so quickly, it is impossible for school to keep up. There are so many different skills that require a lot of practice to develop, and that’s just something you can’t do in a classroom.
In this article, I’ll give you my tips on how to learn online. Honestly, the vast majority of skills I use on a daily basis, I’ve learned on my own. And I actually prefer learning on my own, because I decide what I learn, when, where and at which pace.
One mistake I’ve made repeatedly is telling myself I would learn something but not defining when or why. The first thing you should do is set up your goals. Personally, I was much more efficient in learning something new when I had a deadline.
Let’s say you’re a student and you want to apply to internships for the summer. You’ve wanted to learn how to build a website for a long time, but never got around to it. Now is the chance to do it: you can set yourself the goal to build a website before you send out your applications, so you can give the link to recruiters. You could also want to learn how to speak in public before your next presentation at work, or learn how to play guitar before your trip with your friends. It doesn’t matter if your resume is so good you don’t need to add a website in it, if you have already done 15 presentations in the past year and your colleagues really don’t care about your communication skills, or if there are already 3 people in your group of friends who know how to play guitar. The important thing is that with your goal comes the motivation to learn.
If you cannot think of anything that would motivate you to learn new skills, just make plans to do this on a particular week-end for example. You could mark your calendar and tell yourself that on that week-end, you will start learning these new skills and not stop until you’re satisfied with what you’ve done.
Once you know what you want to learn, find a tutorial – video or text, it’s up to you. I started learning with text tutorials (for French people, OpenClassrooms is the best starting point I know), but now I mostly look at video tutorials on Udemy. On this website, you can find links to free Udemy courses or coupons to get a 100% discount. There are a lot of websites where you can find free tutorials (edX is great), just type in what you want to learn + “tutorial” in google and pick the one that seems the most appealing to you. If you’re using an API or a framework, usually the documentation is enough and you don’t even need to find a tutorial.
Tutorials will get you started but will not get you very far (well, advanced tutorials can get you to do difficult things but you’ll still be copying). So once you’ve master the basics, you can start thinking about what you want to do and try new things. If it doesn’t work, just look for help on the internet. Doing your own thing is the best way to learn.
I strongly encourage you to take notes each time you hear/read something that you are not familiar with. Even if it makes sense in the moment and you think you have it memorized, you may forget a little while afterwards.
If you know you’re going to learn a lot of things shortly, you can even have a special notebook/folder that contains all your new knowledge. You’ll be grateful in a few years that you didn’t throw away your notes or lost them after you moved. I myself have started last September to write everything I learn in a notebook, and not only is it convenient to have everything in the same place, it’s also rewarding to be able to see how much you’ve learnt.
Maybe you’ve never thought about what you wanted to learn, maybe you have but never found the motivation to do it, or maybe you learn new things very frequently. What I can tell you is that learning is awesome, it’s what humans are made for! It’s amazing what our brains can do, and there’s nothing like the feeling of being able to do something you couldn’t before. So, think about what new skills you would like to acquire, and start learning!
A girl in tech.