How do you retain your knowlede after completing a course? | Coursera Community
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How do you retain your knowlede after completing a course?

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Let’s face it. After completing a course, I am sometimes very surprised to know how quickly I forget what learned in class. Of course, this does not apply just to MOOCs, but also to other forms of education. I hope I am not the only one having this problem. 😉 So, my question to you is: what do you do to retain your knowledge?

For classes that are essential to me, I create flash cards and occasionally review them. But I am afraid, this is VERY time consuming. Also, whenever I review the cards, I am frustrated in how much I forget. But, put it positively, this is probably an important step for my learning process.

For other classes, I upload the sillabus with some notes on an app, so that I can search and review the course material when necessary.

I am unsure of what works and what doesn’t, so I would love to hear your opinion and experiences!

13 replies

Userlevel 7
@Pat B, you have taken an incredible 100+ online courses – do you have any insights to share?
@Kohei , I think this fairly normal, unless you are one of these fortunate people who remember everything. You remember information if you use it frequently. Much of what we learn and study is forgotten, but we often remember that we learned it at one time and know how to access it again if needed.
I keep lots of small notebooks around where I jot down notes. It’s fun to return to them to read through what I learned.
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@Judith , thank you very much for sharing your experience.

Yes, I also enjoy rereading my notes. I put them on hard copies of the presentation material. I also revisit some of the lectures and deepen my understanding. Sometimes, I even discover that I was missing the main point!

Also, I found out that reviewing the questions I raised and the discussion I participated on forums really help me to recall what I studied. So, this leads to a rather obvious conclusion: active participation while taking the course can enrich your long term learning.
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@Laura Yes, I do have some thoughts but time is really short this week. I hope to post something in a couple of days or a week. Sorry to be so slow replying!
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No worries @Pat B . It would be great, if you could kindly share your thoughts when it is convenient for you. 🙂 @Laura , thank you for the introduction.
Userlevel 4
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@Kohei I have recently stumbled upon a video on youtube where Jim Kwik, an expert in memory improvement, has given some tips on how to memorize things. I found those tips to work for me.

However, I believe that it also depends on what exactly you want to memorize or retain. Is it a list of something, a procedure, a concept, a movement routine etc.

Sometime it may help if you make a role play (in your head or live) and explain the subject to another person (it can be a person in a mirror as well).
In one of courses regarding the brain functions and areas, learners are required to build a brain model (you can use whatever material you want and even go artistic about it) and than mark different brain areas and add names to them.
You can also list main points from the course and than look for additional resources for each point. The brain likes new things.:)
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@Danijela , thank you very much for your ideas. I will take a look on Jim Kwik’s YouTube.

Yes, I agree with you to be specific on what you want to remember. Remembering everything may not be practical, and you could retain more by selecting what is important for you.

It also helps to look for additional resources, as you mentioned. It can improve your understanding as well, especially after you made some effort to understand and to remember the material.
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I must apologise for taking so long to reply here. It’s been a busy few months, and every time I thought of this post, there was another pressing task to be done.

Here are some ideas to help retain your knowledge after completing a course:

Remove distractions: turn off notifications, use headphones to minimize outside noise, study in a quiet place (although some people can study well in a coffee shop).

Focus while you watch the videos or read the course materials. If you find yourself thinking about tonight’s dinner or a movie you saw last week, bring your mind back to the video. Watch all or part of the video again if necessary.

After focussing, take a break. The Pomodoro Technique teaches us to concentrate fully on the task for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. As Barbara Oakley explains in the Learning How to Learn course (, taking breaks helps the brain make connections between newly learned things and prior knowledge by slipping out of the focussed mode and into the diffuse mode of thinking.

Take notes by hand. Even if you never re-read them, you will have absorbed more by writing as you listen or read. Here are some ideas for taking effective notes:

Flash cards are great! Yes, time consuming to make, but so effective. Flash card apps are available, although I haven’t tried them.

Practice memory techniques such as those used by Nelson Dellis (, Jim Kwik as mentioned by @Danijela, or others.

Again, as mentioned by @Danijela, explain it to someone, or your cat, or a mirror, or a teddy bear. You will quickly find out just how well (or how badly) you can remember the material. Keep going back to your notes, or write better ones, until you can explain it properly. Not necessarily word-perfect.

Revisit the material later the same day, then again the next day. Keep revisiting it regularly. You can gradually space out the time between revisions. This is called “spaced repetition”.

If you are trying to learn several subjects, learn each in short blocks in what is called “interleaving”.

Just to keep things in perspective, although I have completed more than 100 courses, they haven’t all needed deep concentration or memorization. I am embarrassed by how little I can remember of many of those courses.
Userlevel 4
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This is a very useful thread! Thank you @Pat B for all these resources. I will take time to check them out.
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Dear @Pat B , thank you very for taking your time to kindly share your thoughts. This is very helpful indeed.

Yes, I agree that focusing on the material when you learn is essential to retain what you learned in the long run.

I also think that flash cards are very effective. When I completely forget the material, I often revisit the videos for the courses I already complete. Although this process is time consuming, it helps not only to retain the material but also to deepen my understanding.

I now taking the "The Science of Success" on Coursera and came across the following line: "Experts develop strategies for overcoming the limitation of memory in their area of expertise." Now I can think of better ways to retain the materials. Thank you so much for your insights!
Userlevel 5
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as we all are human being so it's quite natural to forget .
i have some tips which i follow to improve i.e.
make practical notes while studying so to refer them later
make a habit of revising
use discussion forums
use the community

Userlevel 4
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Dear Sawaraj, Thank you very much for sharing your tips. Yes, active learning by participating in discussion forums and taking notes can really help to recall the materials I learned. Still, when I revise my notes and flash cards, I always find it necessary to review them again!
Userlevel 1
Thank you all for advice.

To retain what YOU guys have discussed, I decided to post this thread though normally I'm just lurking.

I believe in the power of efficient note-taking, I like to make mindmaps to help me recall what I've learnt from a lesson. This is better than purely text notes for me. It takes pratice to take good notes, and I'm still on my way.

Meaningful learning model tells me that meaningful learning has to be authentic, active, constructive, collaborative and intentional.

Have goals in mind. What do you want to get from the course? Be selective in what is really valuable for yourself.

Active learning is surely the key in whatever we are learning. Paying attention helps us at least have the knowledge in our short-term memory, which is the step before it becomes our long-term memory.

Actively constructing knowledge, instead of passively absorbing the video course is also important. Connect the course material with our own life, our own practice allow us to put them into reality in authentic settings and becomes part of the knowledge base.

Collaborate with others and learn with others. Two heads are better than one if both are participating actively and articulate and communicate with each other.