Monday, April 15, 2024

How To Get The Most Out Of An Online Course

I invest a lot in taking online courses. Some are a few hundred dollars, and some are a few thousand dollars! I love them because it's an opportunity to learn from an expert—with YEARS of experience—who took the time to analyze their craft, organize it in a digestible way, and then methodically teach it.

I know that I could search online for answers or learn through the school of hard knocks, but beyond the time investment, it's hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. I like having an expert tell me what's essential and in an order that builds on itself. Plus, most free resources don't go as deep—they don't provide the exact samples, scripts, models, etc.

Taking online courses is one of the highest ROIs I know.

I've taken courses on writingplaying bass guitarmaking videossyndicationsdelegating, and land flipping - to list a few.

But you can't just watch them like a TV show. After taking many courses, I've devised a method that works well for me. If I spend time and money on a course, I must get the most out of it.

I'll get to my exact steps, but first, let's talk about video games.

Mastering Video Games

Growing up, I mastered video games by following a specific method:

  • I'd play the game, experiment, and eventually figure out the controls. My brother and I were usually evenly matched, and often, he picked up skills faster than me.
  • Then I'd read the game manual cover to cover. Because I had the context of the game, the instructions would stick, and I'd learn the advanced skills of the game.
  • I'd leapfrog my brother. If it were a fighting or sports game, I'd demolish him.
  • Eventually, I'd teach him what I learned, he'd improve, and we'd become competitive again.

It's a bit of a ready-fire-aim strategy: try something (and flail), then learn how to do it properly, try again with much better results, and then teach someone else to cement the concepts. Then, keep practicing while re-reading the instructions to learn specific parts as needed.

So, when I'm considering an online course, it's because I've been trying something and feel like I'm flailing. Or it's because I have knowledge gaps that searching online doesn't fill, and I want an expert to fill those in for me.

Let's get into my process.

Step 0: Read The Book

Before I buy a course, I'll read the creator's work. If they have a book, I'll read it. If not, I'll download their "free tool/report" and subscribe to their emails. I want to sample their teaching style and expertise. Ideally, it's something paid that took effort to create (like a book) because they're not trying to sell me anymore; they're in teaching mode.

It has several benefits: 1) It's a cheap way to sample the course beyond their sales pitch. 2) I can try implementing what I learn to see how effective it is, setting me up for the lessons to sink in deeper. And 3) It often gives me a solid overview of the scope of the course.

If I don't have time (or interest) to read the book, tool, or report, I shouldn't take the course.

Step 1: Binge Watch Everything

I start a course with many questions and find it difficult to focus on the current lesson until I know my specific questions will be answered. So, my solution is to binge-watch everything. I don't take any notes or try to remember anything. Instead, I let the entire thing wash over me.

I aim to get the lay of the land and answer my burning questions. My experience is that there can sometimes be a lot of filler or things I already know, and binging helps me figure out where to dive deep in step 2.

But despite speed running through it, I still have TONS of ah-ha moments because I already have specific questions.

Step 2: Do The Exercises and Rewatch Lessons

Once I finish the course, I start over. But this time, I do the exercises and then rewatch the lessons on subjects I want to sink in. I'll also take notes and apply what I've learned. Doing the exercises before rewatching helps me identify gaps and know where to pay attention when I rewatch the lesson.

I usually find that I spend half as much time on this step as on the bring-watching. Part of the reason is that I don't rewatch everything (like intro videos)—I'm only diving deep into my knowledge gaps.

Doing the exercises is critical because I learn best when I try it. I even do those that seem trivial because A) I start with the assumption that the expert added it for a reason, and B) I often pick up a couple of knowledge bits from doing it.

For example, one exercise involved identifying good investment markets. I already knew how to do it, but forcing myself to do it revealed some areas for improvement.

Step 3: Refresher

I don't always do this, but sometimes I'll go back 6-12 months later and rewatch parts of a course. This is especially true for newer skills because I know there were nuggets of knowledge I wasn't ready to receive.

For example, when I learned to play bass guitar, I got proficient enough to play in my church's worship band but still had gaps. So, after playing for a few months, I rewatched some of the lessons and picked up skills I missed the first time.

Also, once a month, I'll pick one or two lessons from a course and rewatch them. I'll pick ones that feel relevant to whatever I'm working on. I'm not trying to learn anything specific - I'm simply trying to re-steep myself in the concept. And often, I have an "oh yeah… I remember that now" moment.

So that's my process. Online courses are one of the best investments you can make. For $200 - $2,000, you can learn from an expert in an organized, comprehensive course at your own pace. It's incredible.