The benefits of on-demand learning are clear: flexible schedule and access, diverse content, personalized learning paths, and multiple modalities. But along with the positives, there are stumbling blocks for learners. On-demand programs require participants to be more proactive and persistent, and those unfamiliar with self-directed learning may struggle not only to succeed but to complete programs. If you’re planning on pursuing on-demand learning options, here are some tips to keep you on track.
Know Your Long-Term GoalAs you start to consider on-demand learning courses, think about what goals you’re trying to achieve. Are you seeking a specific credential that’s necessary to accelerate your career? Is your organization encouraging you to pursue a specific certificate? Are trying to deepen your expertise in a subject you already know something about? Do you need a refresher in critical skills for your profession? Are you planning to take on a new role and need to upskill?
With answers to these questions and input from peers, you’re ready to pinpoint the course you need. For example, ATD’s catalog of on demand education courses includes certificate programs like the Virtual Instructional Design Certificate On Demand for professionals looking to boost their credentials or courses like The ADDIE Model for Instructional Design and Needs Assessment for Instructional Design for those who want to bridge specific skills gaps.
Become Familiar With the Format and TechnologyA characteristic of on-demand learning is its variability in format and technology. Most are structured like traditional courses, though, with specific readings each week, recorded lectures, assignments and assessments, and communication tools. This variety is intended to engage participants, but it can prove problematic if you’re unprepared and have a looming deadline. Before you even start the course, make sure you familiarize yourself with the platform that’s being used to deliver the course, as well as any types of communication tools like discussion boards and backchannel chat groups. Comfort with the tech will make it easier to progress through the content you’re trying to learn.
Establish a Schedule and Stick to ItMost people choose on-demand courses because they must juggle competing priorities and need to be flexible with their time. But just because you have anytime, anywhere access to content doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep to a schedule. How many hours per week will you dedicate to the course? Will you study during the day, in the evenings, or on weekends? Do you need to stop other activities to free up time for learning?
Establish a weekly routine. Set aside a specific time to read content, watch lectures and other learning videos, and complete assignments. Plan to participate in online discussions on the same day each week. Keep a regular study time. You don’t have to engage in learning every day, but you need a consistent schedule that enables you to keep up with the course materials. Additionally, let others around you know your schedule and that you’re unavailable during those time.
Set MilestonesIf you treat your on-demand course like a hobby, you’ll quickly fall behind. Instead, pursue your course like you would your job and set up a few short-term goals. Once you sign up for the course, review all the expectations, assignments, materials, and so on. Break up your workload into chunks and establish milestones for completion. Create some reminders to complete those tasks, and treat these milestones as seriously as you would work performance goals or a face-to-face course.
It’s up to you to ensure you’ve allotted enough time to complete the work so you’re not starting an assignment the day before it’s due. If you’re having trouble holding yourself accountable, pair up with a fellow learner or enlist the help of a spouse or friend to check in on how you’re doing.