Online classes and the secret to accelerated learning

John Sherman

Bill Gates once said that if he could have just one superpower it would be to “be able to read super fast.” It’s easy to see why: researchers suggest that more than 30% of our working hours is spent reading. Imagine how much more you could accomplish if you sliced that time by half?


Mr. Gates’ choice of superpower is a perfect illustration of the idea that knowledge is power, and the ability to learn and adapt is one of the keys to adding quality and depth to our experiences throughout life.  There’s no question that learning a new language, discovering how to cook a new dish, or broadening your perspective through the study of history and philosophy will enrich your life. However, learning requires one resource that is in very short supply these days: time.

We live in an increasingly fast-paced world with more and more demands on our waking hours. We try to stay in shape. We try to raise our families. We try to advance in our careers and spend time enjoying our hobbies—and sometimes it’s quite hard to keep up! So when we want to acquire a new skill, it’s no wonder that we instinctively ask, “How am I going to find the time?

Online classes address this problem head-on

The first and most obvious advantage to online learning is the time saved—there’s no need to commute or hold your learning back to keep the pace of the other learners. You can go at your own speed and fit the classes into your own schedule. It’s efficient.

But there’s another—less obvious—advantage to online classes: accelerated learning.

Accelerated learning changes the game

Think about it: if someone told you that you could be conversationally fluent in a language within 3 months, you might be skeptical. But that’s exactly what learners are doing all over the world right now using online resources. The reason? Online classes give you the opportunity to eliminate everything that’s unnecessary and focus on the key details you need to actually put the language to use. Thanks to online learning you can find courses specifically built to get you “up and running” within the shortest amount of time.

The language learning content is already there and readily available, now all you have to do is focus on the few key grammar concepts and vocabulary lists you need. The rest is a matter of recall and repetition, which online courses are perfect for.

This brings us to another reason why online courses are perfect for accelerated learning: multimedia. Countless studies have shown that we learn the best when information is presented in multiple ways.

Multimedia helps you learn faster and recall more information

This is one reason why some medical students will use flash cards, quizzes, drawings, and even iPad applications as they study. When you need to process a large amount of technical data, scientific names and principles and then memorize them in a relatively short time, you need to use multiple approaches to reinforce what you’ve learned.

In this same way, the best online classes use 21st century tools as a part of their content delivery strategy so you can better recall and use what you’ve learned. Blogs, webinars, podcasts, online forums, social media, study groups and videos are all excellent tools that help the modern learner shorten “the learning curve.”

This multi-media approach is one reason why some people report learning more in a single month-long online course than they did in an entire semester in a traditional university. Colleges have been paying attention. Over the past decade, more and more universities across the world have embraced the online classroom because it’s both efficient and tremendously effective. Princeton, Harvard, and MIT, for example, all offer free and paid class options for distance learning.

Online classes are revolutionizing our ideas of education and how we learn in general. Accelerated learning is one of the greatest benefits to this exciting and relatively new platform that gives you more options than at any time in history. In fact, with the right tools, there’s really no limit to what you can learn and what skills you can develop.

Now, thanks to online classes, you can develop a level of proficiency in multiple skills in a fraction of the time that it would take you if you were using traditional learning methods. You now have more information at your fingertips than anyone has had at any time in history. The question is how will you choose to use it?



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