How to learn online

Alex Fenton & Aleksej Heinze

Alex Fenton, PhD, is a Doctor of Digital Business at The University of Salford Business School. His research is focused on how innovative digital technologies can improve business processes and impact positively on individuals. Prior to becoming an academic, he ran a digital development company and helped to get Manchester online with the Virtual Chamber in 1997. He also created a smartphone project for major sports clubs called Fan Fit, which helps fans to get active as an official club app. He also released a book in 2020 called Strategic Digital Transformation.


Aleksej Heinze is an Associate Professor in Digital Marketing at KEDGE Business School, Marseille Campus in France and received his doctorate in 2008 from Salford Business School, UK. His area of expertise is the use of digital transformation in education and marketing. Aleksej researched the use of blended learning which cobines online and offline elements of education and has lead production of a number of courses using these methods. He has a breadth of experience of leading multinational educational projects, most recently it is shared in the second edition of the Digtial and Social Media Marketing: results driven approack book, which explores the use of digital tools for marketers. A free online course is available here -

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With all schools, colleges and universities now closed, and thousands of workers at home with children to educate, people around the world are adapting to their new situations and exploring new opportunities for learning.

An Internet connection, a smartphone, tablet or a computer gives the ability to unlock an almost infinite world of learning opportunities and interaction. Here digital learning experts Dr Alex Fenton, from the University of Salford Business School and Dr Aleksej Heinze from Kedge Business School in France, give their top tips for maximising the opportunities for online learning.


  1. Make sure that you have the technology to engage in the learning process

This means a reliable Internet connection and using the best screen possible. If you know where in your home the WiFi hub is, position yourself closer to it. If you have a chance to use a wired connection, this can also give you the most stable and fastest Internet speeds in your home. If you have a choice between a smartphone or a tablet - choose a tablet with its bigger screen, which is also easier on your eyes. Make sure you take regular breaks from the screens - take some exercise and make a drink.

  1. Identify your learning objectives and study goals

Your attitude and motivation will largely determine your success and effectiveness of your learning process. Decide how much time you would like to devote to learning and what you would like to achieve.

  1. Build a study routine

When learning online, it is also important to have a study routine. Commit to certain goals each day and then take a break. Reward yourself - eat one of your favourite treats for example. It is important to experiment with which time of day works best for you. Some people are early birds and like to learn first thing in the morning when they are less distracted and have not connected to the world news, social media or other distractions. Others like to wind down with learning and do it before they go to sleep and forget about the daily worries. Reading offline or listening to audiobooks and podcasts as part of your routine will also break up screen time.

  1. Find learning buddies 

Learning together is more fun, better for learning and also helps you to overcome challenging times together. Many learning tools allow for interaction with the other learners and tutors. This is great if you are struggling with something and want someone to help you as well as making friends and developing existing relationships. Using audio or video conferencing technology and additional communication tools that are free such as Skype can help you to make the learning process more interactive.  

  1. Don’t give up!

Every time that we start something new it is a challenge. Online learning presents a number of these challenges such as connectivity, ability to follow the time management routine as well as following the learning instructions.

The biggest challenge for you is to motivate yourself and keep going and trying to understand if something does not work. For example, a number of tools might be expecting a certain version of a web browser or a certain Internet speed to connect and engage. Try things out, experiment and ask for help - the actual process of learning how to learn will be a great skill for your future. If you stick to these principles this could be a great way of maximising the opportunities available over the coming months.



Five educational resource ideas

Watch tutorials on video sharing platforms

If you like to go to a gym but it is closed, there are some great online resources that you could follow. For example, if you are missing your Metafit session - one of the High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), you could find a number of videos on YouTube, such as Joe Wicks, where you can join others and just follow them. Assuming of course that you have no medical conditions that prevent you from doing physical activity. 

Reading and online books

Your school, university or community library will have a variety of e-books that you can download and you can also find many low cost and free books to read through a Google search.  Project Gutenberg for example offers almost 60,000 free ebooks which are in the public domain as the copyright has expired.

Learning apps 

If you only have a smartphone and no computer or a smart TV, you can download and learn a number of things using smartphone apps. For example, you can learn new languages, history or geography for places you might want to visit once the confinement is over.  


MOOC’s are Massive Open Online Courses and cover a wide variety of courses at little or no cost. They work on a combination of recorded materials and support from the wider learning community and it is sometimes possible to get a certificate of completion for those that finish.

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