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 BIU Online learning tips

Online Learning for Adults & Professionals.

Tips for effective home study.


Online learning tips


Bircham International University offers a series of concise yet effective online learning tips that can help to improve intellectual performance. You are invited to adapt these online learning tips in what you consider best fit your usual home study habits.


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The pillars of any effective online learning are: reading, comprehension, and memorization.



Improve reading - Online learning tips



1. What is reading speed?
To explain the interaction between reading and the mind, let us look at the example of driving. If we accelerate the car from 45 to 90 M.P.H., the brain is forced to adapt to this new speed and tend to assimilate the information faster. If later, we slow down to 60 M.P.H., the brain makes our senses believe that we are actually going much slower. This is because when we speed up, the brain is forced to process more information in less time; therefore when we slow down, the brain still has extra time to perceive greater amounts of details. This example can be applied to reading: when reading speed is increased, the brain, adapting to it, actually can assimilate more information in shorter periods of time. The average reading speed of a university student is 200 words per minute (w.p.m.), but with fast reading training, the same student can read up to 800 or even to 1,000 w.p.m.

2. Reading speed: Practices
Seeing the value and power of speed-reading, one feels motivated to get rid of poor reading habits and develop new and more efficient ones. The basic rule of mastering proper reading habits is: practice, practice, and more practice! We should set up training sessions where the focus will be on increasing reading speed as opposed to remembering. We are looking for the same effect that acceleration has on the brain while driving.

3. Choosing the best reading speed depends on the reading purpose:

* Home study-paced reading (150-250 w.p.m.):
This is the speed to ensure comprehension, to face complex issues or new vocabulary.

* Fast reading (400-800 w.p.m.):
This is the ideal speed for reviews, reports, summaries, and previously read texts.

* Exploratory reading (500-1000 w.p.m.):
This is the right speed for the first recognition of a text. It allows identification of the topic, the main points, and the principal details in a short period of time. Most important of all, it prepares the reader for a good content assimilation. When exploring a text for the first time, determine its length and structure and pinpoint major ideas. Then, when ready to study the text, one can get straight to the heart of the matter. Exploratory reading as a time-saving technique is extremely important if a book is to be studied chapter by chapter because the faster reading pace allows for exploring previous and following chapters, increasing learning capacity and the ability to cover the main points and answer potential questions.

4. Why does the majority of people read slower than they could?
Unfortunately, this phenomena is rooted in the poor reading habits children acquire during their early childhood development. A habit is developed if an activity is repeated regularly over a period of time. The way we read is a habit. The good news is that modifying reading habits is a simple process that can be accomplished over a relatively short period of time, depending on individual personality characteristics and how much effort is put into it. Again the key to success is practice, practice, and more practice.

Here are some benefits of gaining reading speed:
* Gaining time in identifying what is important and discarding what is secondary.
* Assimilating essential points of a text faster and more effortlessly.
* Understanding with greater clarity allows for a more effective store in memory.
* Having more time to study specific topics in depth.

5. Correcting common reading habits:

Uniform reading speed: The complexity of different texts is not the same. Therefore, learn to adapt the reading speed to the level of text difficulty and to the purpose of reading in each concrete case.

Low speed: Reading slowly fragments the reading material and limits perception. Reading fast allows greater clarity in the assimilation of concepts and ideas.

Inefficient eye movement: While reading, the eyes tend to go back and read the same line again. Also, when passing to the next line the eyes are tempted to wonder aimlessly for few minutes before focusing directly on the first word in the following line.

Low eye perception range: When the eyes are fixed on a text, they usually perceive between 3-4 words. This quite low eye perception range results from poor childhood reading habits where children are taught to read word by word. The eyes can be trained through practice to see up to 12 words every time they are fixed on a text.

Sub-vocalization: This habit is also known as auditory reaffirmation and it described pronouncing each word, to one-self or aloud, as the eyes are fixed on it. Similar to low eye perception rate; this habit is rooted in those early school days, when teachers made pupils read aloud to ensure the connection between letters and sound is established. It is beneficial to eradicate this habit as soon as possible because it limits the reading speed to talking speed, which is usually much slower.

Distractions: Both internal and external distractions affect our reading comprehension because they break our concentration and oblige us to repeat the text several times in order to assimilate it.



Improve comprehension - Online learning tips



Intelligence is the faculty that allows us to assimilate new concepts and find relationships between different ideas and to adapt to new situations by resorting to our cognitive skills, such as reading, calculating, memorizing, imagining, and so on. Establishing associations, relating ideas, and assimilating concepts are much more important than pure memory work. If we first develop these cognitive skills, piecing together memories by associating ideas becomes easier.

1. Tip for better understanding texts
The majority of texts are organized according to several structural patterns. In order to understand and remember what we read; first we need to recognize the organization of the information in the text. The best way to achieve this is to identify the structural pattern of the text at hand. This will be also of great help in the development and presentation of any academic work. When we are reading to comprehend, assimilate, and remember concepts; we need to organize ideas in a structured way, or otherwise; we will probably end up with a cluster of disorganized ideas.

2. The most common structures of text organization:

* Problem / Solution.
Problem: In need more money.
Effects: Expenses are higher than my income.
Cause: Unemployment.
Solution: Find a job, enlist in the army, etc...

* Opinion.
Opinion: The next president should be a woman.
Reasons: Women are better managers, they are less inclined to begin a war, and are more sympathetic to other people.
Conclusion: Vote for the female candidate.

* Thesis / Research.
Thesis: Alcoholism is caused by...
Research and experimental data: Recent laboratory experiments...
Conclusion: How to prevent alcoholism in adults.

* Description.
Purpose: To inform.
Presentation: Summary of the main points.

* Instructions.
Setting the purpose: To have a hard-boiled egg...
First step: Place an egg in a container filled with cold water.
Second step: Put the container on the stove.
Third step: Bring it to a boil.
Reaching the objective: In ten minutes, you will have a hard-boiled egg.

3. The comprehension process:

* Description: To present the characteristics of a concept, idea, etc.
* Definition: To specify its main elements and characteristics.
* Classification: To identify the different categories, groups, and subgroups of concept, idea, or object.
* Comparison: To discover similarities and differences between two or more things.
* Induction: To establish a general rule by studying specifics
* Deduction: To arrive at a conclusion based on initial premises after carrying out a series of logical operations.
* Analysis: To separate the different elements that make up a structure.
* Synthesis: To extract the most elemental aspects of a whole, and, in general, to understand the different relationships that exist among things; i.e. "be a part of," "depend on," "be caused by," etc.



Improve memory - Online learning tips



1. Do not confuse assimilation with memorizing
When you are home studying, you might feel quite comfortable as you are easily understanding and assimilating your readings. But after several hours, you might realize that you have nearly forgotten what you have thought you had mastered. The human brain has an infinite capacity of understanding and assimilation but its memorization capacity is extremely limited. As a consequence, your memory should be administered efficiently, unless you wish to devote extra time to absorb more concepts.

2. Try not to allocate more than 3 hours for home studying
While endeavoring to optimize studying (understanding and retaining at the same time), keep in mind that when you are learning, your memory's capacity gradually drops down to 50% after two hours of home study, down to a 30% after three hours, and so on. Therefore, you should not study over two or three hours a day.

3. Use strategic breaks to improve performance
If the list of topics you have to study at home requires more than three hours a day, you have to allow your mind strategic breaks. If this is not done, the brain will force those breaks on you and you may suddenly find yourself thinking about completely unrelated things; it becomes harder and harder to concentrate on the subject. This dissipation of the mind is used by our brain to get some rest.

TIP: If for every 30-40 minutes of home study you rest between 5 and 10 minutes, your mind will be able to recover the initial levels of memorization. Please note that taking a good break does not mean having a snack, making a phone call and such. It means doing mental relaxation exercises such as deep breathing or napping.

4. Allow yourself regular long term reviews
There is another important factor that is usually disregarded by most students and professionals: short-term and long-term memory. Reviewing is a very important part of the process of studying, since 80% of what we have studied will be lost after 24 hours.

TIP: To capitalize on reviewing after studying a chapter, book or topic, carry out a strategic 10-minute review in the following two days. Repeat this review session after one week, then after a month, and then after six months of having first studied it. After these quick reviews, you will realize that you only need 10 minutes every year to review the concepts and remember them.

5. Improve your memory by good nutrition
The first mental faculty to deteriorate with time is memory. In an average adult, this deterioration begins at the age of 30. To alter behavior, develop abilities, and energize your life after this time depends very much on your ability of storing information in your long-term memory and being able to retrieve it. If this ability declines, you become an automaton, incapable of learning new things, repeating habits and recalling memories that seem increasingly distant in time. The amount of neurotransmitters substances that allow the exchange of information among neurons, determines how certain information is going to be stored in your memory. If this amount of neurotransmitters is insufficient, the stored data distorts.



No matter what technology supports the education process, learning occurs only as a result of the active processing by our biological brain. More info...


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