design your learning experience.

I never found the perfect online course. Something was always missing. Either it was too easy or too difficult. Too theoretical without practices or too shallow without deeper understanding. I never had a great learning experience.

Who is to blame? Who should take on the responsibility? Something should change.

Most online courses might seem boring. They are just too content- and knowledge-focused and less action- and experience-focused. This means you learn a lot of facts but don’t get to use them. You build up knowledge you never use, and never build an experience that matters.

We are blindly-consuming learners. We just consume content that is presented.

But we shouldn’t blame the online course creators — I really appreciate all their effort, all the awesome content and the sharing of their knowledge. Without all of the online course creators, we couldn’t learn so many interesting things. Instead of complaining and blaming them, we can focus on ourselves and take on responsibility for our own learning.

To answer the questions. Who is to blame? No one. Who should take on responsibility? We.

Online learning and self-learning are not missing content. They are missing meaning. Meaning that matters to you. You should make use of the excellent content out there and design your learning yourself to make it meaningful.

Only you can make it meaningful to yourself.

You know how to motivate yourself.

You know what your curiosities and interests are.

You can find the right level of challenge for yourself.

You can plan, distribute and time your learning best.

Transform the typical, boring, one-size-fits-all learning experience into a meaningful one. Here are 5 steps on how you might achieve it.

One. Define and research. Define what you want to learn, why you want to learn it, and what sparks your curiosity about the topic. Research multiple resources, materials, and courses that you could use to achieve your learning goal. Research multiple courses because you might find yourself in a situation where you want to switch the course — more on this later.

Two. Learning project. Most online courses are missing practices and projects that are meaningful to you. It seems like you just have to do a bunch of uninteresting practices. To fix this, define your own learning project. Something that fits into your learning goal. Something you are curious about.

Your personal learning project is an individual challenge, you get the chance to apply what you learn, you take on responsibility and you make realistic decisions. You are practising and building meaningful experiences. Most importantly a learning project adds a playful element to an otherwise strict online curriculum.

Your learning project can also act as a curiosity constraint. If you get easily distracted by new topics and content, a learning project might help to avoid these distractions. Let your learning project be a north star. Follow questions and curiosities that are directed towards your project. Watch content that is within these constraints.

Three. Take time. Take the time you need. Don’t strictly listen to the proposed material length or weekly plan. See it as a suggestion. But take the time you need. Plan for your schedule. They don’t know it. You do. Take time to listen, understand, apply. These are crucial steps that just need time. Take even time for breaks if you need them.

Taking time also help you be forgiving. Don’t judge yourself if you don’t understand things immediately. Don’t judge yourself if you make mistakes while applying concepts you learnt in your learning project. Take the time you need. You will feel frustrated and annoyed but this is part of learning. Don’t give up.

Four. Allow flexibility. You don’t have to follow the materials in an online course rigorously. Be flexible. Allow yourself to skip materials. Even allow yourself to abandon a course and switch to a new one.

Typical online courses have a strict plan for us to follow. They ignore our questions and curiosities. But, they can’t know them. Even we don’t know them. We just stumble over them while learning. Allow yourself to follow your curiosities, questions, and learning project. Maybe you don’t need certain insights, topics or skills for your learning project. Great — skip them. You might come back once the topic is relevant and matters to you.

Five. Iterate. At each point of your learning, after a new topic, after a new material, after applying what you learn, stop. Reflect on the learning materials and on your learning. Track your progress. You are responsible for the chosen content, for tasks in your project, for activities to understand insights. Reflect on what you learn and on how you learn. How can you improve? Where are your weaknesses? Do you have any gaps in your understanding? What are your strengths?

Let’s take on the responsibility for our own learning. Let’s appreciate the great content and use it to our advantage. I hope these 5 steps above can help you design a learning experience that is great and meaningful. Don’t wait. Design your own learning experience.

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