Thoughts on Online Learning

August 05, 2018

I believe the education space, especially software development, is the most accessible it has ever been. There are numerous online courses that anyone can take to learn about almost any topic.

However, the vast number of choices also come with some potential negative effects. One possible negative effect is that we may convince ourselves that passive learning is productive.

Do Not Learn for the Sake of Learning

I am guilty of this. I have dozens of courses on Udemy that I will probably never get to. I used to be in a phase where I was extremely "productive".

My down time consisted mainly of watching software development courses online. All those hours must have made be a better developer.

I have no doubt that I have improved my skills by spending that time watching courses but was it the best use of my time?

I am sure you have heard a phrase similar to "you lose what you do not use". This was exactly what happened in my case - I rarely remember concepts from those hours of "learning".

Yes, I understand that different people have different ways of learning. However, I believe that we need to apply what we learn for it to truly become learnt.

Even then, we must practice often in order to retain and sharpen our skills.

Focus on Goal Specific Learning

I find that having a goal in mind when learning a specific topic keeps me motivated and focused. For instance, if I want to build a mobile application, I will learn only what is necessary for the initial version instead of learning everything under the sun about mobile development.

Instead of learning about a broad topic in the hopes that the knowledge will serve you one day, learn the tools you need to build what you want in the present.

Nowadays, instead of learning X, I learn X to do Y.

Final Thoughts

While my thoughts on the topic may change, I currently believe that goal specific learning is ideal. I still use platforms like Udemy to get the basic understanding of a topic but then I expand my knowledge by building something on my own.

Also, Udemy is a great platform that always seem to have discounts but don't be suck into purchasing courses "for later"! A better approach may be to focus on a single course at a time.

Make sure that your learning is intentional and not just purposeless pacification.

Copyright © 2017 - 2018 David Tran