What's your best study tip? | Coursera Community
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What's your best study tip?

  • 23 October 2018
  • 34 replies
  • 1480 views

Userlevel 7
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So aside from taking Learning How to Learn which I know has helped many people become much more effective at learning, what's the best advice you would give to someone who is trying to learn something new?

Particularly if you have any advice for trying to learn online, which can come with additional challenges learners wouldn't face if they were attending a school, college, or university in-person.

34 replies

Userlevel 6
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I was just going to say to take "Learning How to Learn" course but I must think harder now. 🙂 I hope to get back on this topic again. 🙂
The greatest tip I can give you is to be patient with yourself. Learning something new is not always easy. At times, you need to walk away from whatever you are trying to learn, then come back to it another time. For some reason that helps. As a clarinetist, I could practice something and feel as if I just can’t play it and have wasted my time trying....Like magic, when I come back to it, I often can!

I enjoy community theater but this often means I need to memorize a speaking part or learn the words to the music. Memorizing things as we age becomes more challenging. How I have conquered this is to encorporate it into my daily life. For example, I will write my part on small cards. I will go for a walk with the cards in hand and learn the part as I excercise. When I am making dinner, I will also use the cards, as I monitor cooking. My favorite way to learn a part is in a relaxing bath. The cards get put in plastic and placed all around the edge of the tub. Using a hair dryer is another wonderful time when you are just sitting there to memorize something. But you must remain patient with yourself. There are times you forget all the words. I learn to laugh at myself and simply try again!
Userlevel 2
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I used to mark the key words or the main concepts whit a marker color.

The whole cognitive action to decide which they are, and the physical-graphic action to mark-in rewards me whit a mnemonic way and better understanding of the main ideas.
Userlevel 5
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Use the Feynman learning technique:

1. Pick a topic you want to understand and start studying it. Write down everything you know about the topic on a notebook page, and add to that page every time you learn something new about it.
2. Pretend to teach your topic to a classroom. Make sure you're able to explain the topic in simple terms.
3. Go back to the books when you get stuck. The gaps in your knowledge should be obvious. Revisit problem areas until you can explain the topic fully.
4. Simplify and use analogies. Repeat the process while simplifying your language and connecting facts with analogies to help strengthen your understanding.


And more specifically for online learning or any learning done outside of an in person course I would say the most important thing is organisation. Give yourself an achievable schedule and put notes in your calendar to block out time, so that you actually stick to it. Also if you are learning about a topic but you don't have any projects coming up where you will implement that knowledge then give yourself a project. If you have a reason to learn then you will be much more motivated.
Userlevel 2
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So interesting and useful tips, Judith and Liz. Patience, go back and forth –in and out- on the learn issue, pretending to teach.

In my experience, when I try to teach something to somebody I feel me 'forced' to learn about, to understand it before go to express it for other people.

About go back and forth I used to say –in my work or in my teaching routine- 'the process is a free creative reflection, contemplation; followed by a clear, exact and concrete actions. And go back again.'
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A. Identify the content of the target field.

B. Read the bold letters in a loud voice.

C.Go back to A and reflect A.

D. Read the details in each chapter and review in a loud voice.

E. Go back to A and review A.

F. Repeat twenty times A through E.
Userlevel 6
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Wow, I've come to add more here since my first reply, it's filled with so many wonderful tips already. I have to think harder again! I particularly like what @Liz and @Mercurius wrote. I am also a Richard Feynman fan @Liz . I apply those lists in my studying too and found them to be effective. Pretending to teach someone is one of the useful ways I find. Then you may realize what's missing in your understanding of the concept and you go back and make the effort to fill in the gaps of missing parts. On that note, which is why I also started this thread on teaching tips if you wish to look: https://coursera-en-community.insided.com/study-tips-6/what-are-your-recommended-teaching-tips-65/index1.html#post129
Userlevel 5
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You guys said it all. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻
I think mine's a combination of all methods listed here. Sometimes I do the "back and forth" approach and other times, I simply glance through it, do some researches on the internet (if time permits) and come back for the real thing.
Taking handwritten notes works very well for me.
@Lochcarron , there have been studies about handwritten vs computer written notes. Handwritten notes are more effective by far! When we have to write things down slowly we are learning and studying them as we write. The longer act seems to stick better with us! I enjoy taking notes wherever I go, always keep a small notebook with me!
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For me, taking handwritten notes and then going again to revise them after 4-5 days help a lot in learning online. And also for the courses involving some maths, practising questions help in retention a lot. And Feynman Technique as someone has mentioned already is a good way to learn new things.
Userlevel 2
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Taking handwritten notes works very well for me.
also for me !!
Userlevel 4
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Taking handwritten notes works very well for me.also for me !!

@Iris_Soliman Welcome to the New Platform. You have been following the launch of this platform very attentively right from inception.
Userlevel 5
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Great tips are shared here, I would like to add what I learnt on my very first course on Coursera, Know Thyself, it is 3 minutes of bamboo breathing at the beginning of any work. You can say it is a short meditation. Idea is to break free of any thought you have been entertaining at that moment.
I will suggest an easier version, that I came across recently, it is called 3 by 3 method.
Look /identify 3 objects in your surrounding, for example, a fan, a chair, a curtain. Now in your mind say "this is a fan" and take a deep breath and exhale. Next, in your mind say "this is a chair" take a deep breath and exhale. Next, in your mind say "this is a curtain" take a deep breath and exhale. Repeat it 3 times. You will instantly feel free to start your work, here it is learning. This technique is helpful in taking away subconscious anxiety/ dialogues, that holds us, also useful before an important meeting/ presentation.
Thereafter apply any study tip you choose and feel the difference.
Give it a try and share your experience.
Userlevel 5
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I've been thinking about this some more and in addition to my earlier reply:

I think it is important to try learning from multiple different types of resources, e.g. videos, books, articles.

By considering multiple resources when learning you get a better understanding of a topic and you can put more ideas together, see the full picture. It also helps you make judgements about how reliable the resources you are learning from actually are.

But also using multiple different methods, e.g. taking notes, doing online courses, taking on new projects, discussions with colleagues, trying to present what you have already learnt and getting others to ask you questions about it.

Different people learn in different ways so by doing this you can work out how you learn best.
I would say what has worked for me is taking (handwritten) notes of the material and then reviewing those notes frequently. I like the Cornell note-taking system where you leave a wide left hand margin on your notepaper and then take your notes on the rest of the page. Then, as soon as possible after you have taken the notes, go through and use that wide left margin to put in questions about the material in the notes or keywords about it (I find that questions are the best study aid). The next time you review the material, write a summary of what is on the page at the top. This helps not only to index your notes for further review, but forces you to concisely state what you have learned. I used to skip the summary, but found, once I tried it a few times, that it was an invaluable tool to reinforce learning. Then keep making time to review your notes periodically as you progress through the class. You will find that things that didn't make much sense at first will become clearer as you delve deeper into the material.
I like doing the discussion prompts that are built into some classes, for much the same reason, it forces me to consider what I have just learned and concisely discuss it. It does not matter whether or not anyone else replies, or for that matter even sees my response, I got the benefit of clarifying my thinking from the doing.
And the same goes for peer reviewed assignments. I may not ever submit the assignment as I am not usually going for a certificate, but I find doing the assignment and then reviewing it myself a few days later helps to consolidate my learning.
Userlevel 2
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My study tip (especially for online courses) is:

"Finish what you start!"

That is the spirit on how to really complete a course for me, especially since this is a self-learning course.
@desmaster I think this is an excellent tip! But what ahppens if you just don’t like the course? It wasn’t what you expected? Do you still continue or do you drop out?
Userlevel 3
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I like the advice that Tony Buzan (inventor of mindmaps and more) gives. Review material after 10 minutes, 24 hours, 1 week, 1 month. That's hard during a course, but can be adapted. It is likely that the teacher will have included a 10 minute review as part of the lecture. If not, tidying up notes can give that review. Watch the lecture again the next day, making fresh notes, gives the 24 hour review.

For making notes I much prefer paper and (colored) pencils to using a computer. I like hearing some lecturers ban laptops from their lectures. You pay attention much better when not using another computer for note-taking.

Then imagine you are going to teach the material to colleagues and try to prepare for doing so. It'll tell you what you don't know.
Userlevel 3
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@Liz, I like your "learn from different kinds of resources". I'd add to it "Learn from a couple of different teachers". This is so possible today with lectures available on Youtube as well as MOOCs. As an example, while taking Andrew Ng's Deep Learning specialization, I also watched Andrej Karpathy teaching very closely related material in a Stanford course. The two teachers gave different perspectives on the material, which I found useful.
Userlevel 2
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@desmaster I think this is an excellent tip! But what ahppens if you just don’t like the course? It wasn’t what you expected? Do you still continue or do you drop out?
Normally I will still continue the course.. just like the proverb:
"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade"
Userlevel 5
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@desmaster I think this is not always the best way forward. It is better to be adaptable and agile. Sometimes I start learning from a certain resource/online course and later on realise it is not the best learning resource or it is not relevant to my end goal/a project I'm working on right now. In this situation it is best to be able to make a judgement. Will I gain anything from continuing to learn from this? Or am I just crawling down a rabbit hole?
@desmaster and @Liz , I posed this question because I had mixed feelings about it. It’s important to stick with things you have committed to, such as a course. Sometimes, when things become too challenging people quit rather than fight through it. In the end, you feel such personal pride if you have been able to conquer a challenge. However, there are times you might have gone in over your head and realize you don’t have the skills needed to continue. I have seen people take the Honors portion of the Mentor Course who have had no experience to draw on to respond well, or people who have a poor comand of the English language struggle to communicate. Stress should also play a large part in deciding whether or not to continue a course. If it is overwhelmingly stressful it’s not worth the struggle. There are times that the reality of a course is just not what you expected. I remember being so disappointed when I took a psychology course and all we studied were rats in a maze! A good Instructor will also make the difference whether you feel you could struggle through a course too.
Userlevel 5
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@Judith Yes, I agree with you. I was more referring to times where you take a course hoping to learn something that will help you with a specific project on which you are working. But later on realise that the course is either not very relevant, or outdated, or there is another better resource out there. To put this a bit more into context, a lot of the work I do involves programming which is a constantly evolving field, and it is important to keep up to date with the newest languages, packages, frameworks, changing syntax, etc.
@Liz , I so understand. Wasting your time to take a course that will not help you should be a consideration. It is so interesting to hear from someone with a totally different field like you. Thank you for your explanations.

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