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A Better Way to Learning Online

Author: Carl Heaton
He is our senior instructor and originally from Manchester UK. Carl teaches our Web Design and Online Marketing Courses.
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Do you learn online? Have you ever taken a course via the internet or a DVD set? Did it answer all your questions? Did it take into consideration what type of learner you are? The answer is probably no which is why Online Learning Is Hard.

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I personally find learning online very difficult. It is okay for the odd Photoshop tutorial but if you need to learn something like web design, graphic design or online marketing it can be very hard to connect with a screen rather than a person.  I want to discuss a better way of learning than just online. Lets take a look at some of the challenges with Online Learning.

Is This What I really Need To Learn?

Even choosing what you need to learn is a hard challenge to over come. Do you need to know Dreamweaver in order to be a web designer? Well a lot of people will say yes as it is the tool for making websites, however will knowing which button to press tell you how to give your users what they want in order they do what you need? Will knowing where the attach stylesheet button tell you that negative space is important in design to give your site a simple and uncluttered feel, the answer is no.

When you are learning everything I find it important to put everything into perspective and answer they question “is that what I need to learn in order to do X and Y”? That question can only be answered correctly by a person (in my opinion) because it takes a person to listen to a trainees needs and translate them into learning solutions. If you don’t know what you need to learn how can you choose?

How To Know What You Need To Learn

  • Plan what you want to achieve, what are the actual deliverables e.g. a website for your resort, a book cover for your next publication or the ability to make money online.
  • Now you can extrapolate and think of the stages that are involved. Not to mention putting this into Google “the steps to making a website” or “steps to creating a killer book cover”. I am sure you will get more than enough resources on the millions of how-to-blogs arround the world.
  • Once you find a quality page explaining the steps look at what you need to do e.g. “Open Photoshop and start a new document” will tell you that finding some Photoshop tutorials will get you closer to what you need to learn to enable to you bring ideas to life.
  • Move onto the next thing you need to do “Save for web and use this as a banner for your new about us page”. This tells you that you need to learn how to insert images.
  • Go through the process, it will be shaky at first as you have never done it but keep in mind that you are becoming your own teacher by taking yourself through the stages.

The Future is More Blended Learning

What is blended learning? Well my definition is using a mixture of methods to teach any given subject. This maybe how the teacher has you use your computers as well as pen and paper to plan out HTML code, or it maybe learning why you Dreamweaver in class and how to use it at home via a screencast tutorial. I believe getting this mix right really improves learning, which has always been our aim at WCB!

When we designed the courses for WCB we want to ensure that the three types of learners were taken care of. Those are:
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  • Audio Learners – people who can literally listen to you explain a concept and they understand it. We give presentations at the beginner of each of classes so that we give enough explanation verbally about what we will be covering and our learning aims.
  • Visual Learners – firstly this is me, so I must admit to favouring this method a lot. I also find that most of what we teach in web and graphic design has to be visual. Showing the trainees what they will be able to create is a vital part of giving them a sense of direction throughout the course. I also find that getting things down onto paper really helps me personally understand things and by doing so I can connect up the dots much easier.
  • Kinaesthetic Learners – essentially these people to like to learn by doing. In learning web design it is important to make a finished site, this is the doing part so all the audio and visual elements come together in the blend to give a full learning experience.

With these learning styles in mind I feel that all learning should be done in a blended manner. Just watching a video will not give the audio learners the full spectrum of learning and copying a moving picture will leave the Kinaesthetic learners feeling like they just went through the motions but never really did anything.

We have so many resources with our courses including teacher lead classes (both group and private), worksheets, video tutorials, links and lots of interactive support through Skype, e-mail and phone. We like to learn in this blended manner so we teach in the same manner.

How Online Learning Lacks

Carl Heaton teaching Web Design

Essentially the lack of interaction is where the online methods fail. We have video conferencing and messaging but there is not that important human interaction missing.

Thing about it, go back to when you was at school / university and everyone has a teacher that really changed their lives, that inspired them or just the way they explained things seemed to make sense. Well now think if you have ever had that connection with a moving picture on a monitor, or a username on a chat screen? That is my point, that online learning lacks the human interaction of student and teacher in reality.

I love teaching and I enjoy that connection one has with a student who wants to learn. Teaching someone hungry for knowledge is one of the most satisfying things I have ever done. Seeing that Ahaa moment in someone’s eye is why I founded Web Courses and I will continue to always teach in person as to keep that connection with my trainees.

Online learning can take you far along a path, but if you want to get onto the path of mastery, then you will need a teacher you can trust, see, hear and shake hands with once you achieve your goals.

My Best Advise on Learning

I have been a teacher almost as long as I have been a web designer and time and time again I see the same issue with how people learn. They want to know what is needed and do it before they have even gone through the motions. For me I need to practice and apply to personal projects in order to make sense of the new thing I am learning.

This was so very evident when I launched Web Courses Bangkok, I read a lot on how to run a school and a business but nothing came close to teaching me what I really needed to know. The best way is to try, fail, improve and repeat. It is really that simple.

No matter what you want to learn do some research before believing the first resource you stumble on, ask your friends how they did it and if you don’t have a friend there are plenty to be found on Twitter, Facebook and websites on any given topic.

Once you know what you want to learn then find  teacher to take you through the basics, someone who can share his/her experience of learning the same thing. They will be able to tell you what is important to learn and from there you can go ahead and start learning online. This may even be meeting your teacher online like we do with some courses so just be sure to make the most out of your time with your teacher!

So What Is The Best Way of Learning Online?

By starting off with a instructor lead course and then using online resources / learning to further home in and learn new things. It is that instructors ability to bring together what is important to learn, even if it is a collection of online resources like NetTuts or Smashing Mag, that helps you understand the basics and where to go. Also he or she can respond to your questions and how you learn (hopefully enabling the instructor to adapt the delivery to suit you).

Once you are comfortable with the concepts and what is involed then head online for some specific learning and resources.

Carl Wishes You All The Best

Carl Teaching Web Design

I just want to wish you all the best for your learning experience be it here at Web Courses Bangkok or another web design school. Bringing life to your creativity and growing your ideas online has always been our aim so good luck!

For more information on all our courses, just follow this link.

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