3 Ways to Ruin Your Online Learning Experience (and Their Alternatives)

Interpreters like to learn. Good thing, too, considering all the skills an interpreter needs in order to make it as a professional. Formal learning opportunities for interpreters tend to take place in classrooms and conferences. A growing number of courses are becoming available online, which is wonderful in terms of accessibility. Online learning, however, can sometimes go off course if the learner (a.k.a. participant, student, etc.) isn’t careful to avoid certain temptations and pitfalls. If not careful, learners can ruin their own learning experience, even when the content is relevant and well presented. These are a few ways students steer their online learning experience off course, and – more importantly – ways to avoid doing so.

Number 1 – Passively watch slides go by. With any luck you’ll be asked to engage at some point – participating in a poll, submitting comment in the text chat box, or something that makes you perk up. Those are fine engagements, usually designed to give the facilitator information about those in attendance. Nothing wrong with that. But don’t wait to engage until requested to do so.

Instead, make a point to actively engage throughout the learning experience. It’s easy to do:

  • Take notes. Handwritten, on your own paper. This will help you to capture, retain, and (here’s the best part) act on the information and skills that you are building during the course. Resist the urge to request a copy of the slide deck, which you’ll file away and never look at again.
  • Take screenshots of the most important content for you, and make notes on them so that you remember what you wanted to research more or practice more after the class. It might be a screenshot of a slide, video frame, worksheet, etc. Grab it and make it yours.
  • For live online learning, communicate your questions and comments via text chat. Again, don’t wait until requested to do this. Take the initiative right away. Doing this gives you an outlet to engage with the learning content; it keeps you from just passively sitting and listening.  Most online learning platforms recorded and save the text chat, so (as a bonus) it’s also a way to verify your participation in the event.

Number 2 – Double book your learning slot. You’ll know you’ve done this if you think to yourself I’ll attend this course while I [insert any other activity]. Unless you’ve been gifted with bi-concentration, you should avoid doing other things while engaged in online learning. That holds true for an on-site learning experience, too, but for some reason, there is a particularly irresistible temptation to do other things when participating in an online learning experience. If you wouldn’t fold your laundry, pay your bills, or catch up on your favorite show during an in-person learning experience, then you probably shouldn’t do that online either. It’s hard to dedicate the brainpower you’ll need to make the most of the learning event if your attention is pinging between subjects.

Instead, schedule a learning date for yourself, and give your full attention to the class. And while you’re at it, do what you can to avoid unsolicited distractions and interruptions. Close your email, social alerts, office door, etc.  

Number 3 – Attend just for the CE of it. There’s nothing wrong with attending an online course because you are working on earning your CE credits. Earning CE credits should not, however, be the only reason you are taking the course.  Taking a course on something you have already mastered just to get the CE credit will not do much to advance your professional performance. The whole point of requiring CEs for recertification is to ensure that interpreters continue to grow their professional skills.

Instead, take courses that will help you grow your professional skills. Remember that for a course to qualify for recertification, it has to align with the skills of medical (healthcare) interpreters.12 There are a lot of skills that interpreters need – everything from knowledge of specific medical topics to interpersonal skills. Keep this in mind when signing up for classes. (Hint: This of course applies to on-site learning as much as it does to on-line learning.) 

What do you do to make sure you get the most out of your online learning experience?

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Posted on March 19, 2015 and filed under Interpreter.