Not every student needs the deep and broad education provided by a degree program. If you are comfortable in your professional space and eager to accrue additional knowledge and skill to improve your performance, you might benefit more acutely from an educational program with a narrower focus and a shorter time commitment — in other words, you might need a short course.
Short courses are learning programs that provide students with prolonged exposure to a field of study but require less commitment in terms of time or tuition than a traditional degree program. Most short courses last a number of weeks and have expectations from students such as attending lectures, completing projects and taking exams. You can find online short courses led by some of the world’s leading experts from the most prestigious universities, and you can use your experience in short courses as credentials to improve your career in various ways.
However, it is not enough to merely enroll in a short course. You also need to gain knowledge and skill during your time as a student. Here are a few ways you can make the most of your short courses and learn as much as possible to achieve your goals.
Take Better Notes
Your notes are among your most important study materials, as they summarize the information provided to you in lectures, literature and other resources related to your course. It is your notes that you will return to during study sessions before exams, and it is your notes that you will retain after your course concludes. Thus, if your notes are ineffective at distilling important information from your class, you are less likely to learn the skills and concepts you need.
Fortunately, it is possible to hone your note-taking skills and become an expert note-taker. There are many different strategies for note-taking, and you might experiment with different methods to determine which works best for you. Among the most widely touted note-taking systems is the Cornell Method, which is highly structured to quickly and effectively communicate the core concepts of the course content.
You might not be interested in revolutionizing your note-taking method, but there are still a few ways you can slightly alter how you take notes to improve their efficacy at helping you learn and remember. Some key tips include:
Take notes with pen on paper. Because it takes more time to transcribe notes by hand, your brain has more time to linger on key concepts, improving your retention.
Write notes in your own words. The act of translating information into your own words helps you break down and understand difficult concepts.
Practice consistency. Every page of your notes should follow the same pattern, so you can scan your notes and find information you need with ease.
Ignore grammar. Your notes are not the place for complete sentences. Phrases, abbreviations and symbols will save space while communicating valuable information.
Maintain a Better Study Schedule
Many students enroll in short courses as a means of continuing their education amidst other life and work responsibilities. Still, it is incredibly important that you make studying for your course a priority, which means setting an immutable study schedule that keeps you on the path to success.
As with note-taking, you should experiment with different study schedules to determine the frequency and duration of study that provides you an optimal work-life-school balance. However, most study experts loudly advocate for a study method called distributed practice, which involves a larger number of short and spaced-out study sessions. As you become more familiar with your study material, you can increase the time between your study sessions, which will test your retention and improve your comprehension.
Additionally, during your allotted time for studying, you should be actively engaging with your study materials. For most people, reading and re-reading is not an efficient way to remember complex information; instead, you should alternate amongst different study practices during your sessions to exercise your brain. Some examples of active study practices include:
Create practice quizzes. Using your study materials, you should ask yourself questions and write complete answers, relying on your understanding and memory.
Play teacher. As if you were instructing a class, you can recite key information out loud. If it helps, you might recruit a friend, family member or work colleague to serve as a “student.”
Relate concepts to your experiences. Whenever you can, you should apply what you are learning in your course to your ongoing work and life.
Just because you are not enrolled in a degree program does not mean you can neglect to take your short course seriously. By consciously improving the way you take notes and study, you can gain even more from your short course than many students do from years of formal study at university.