If you’re a true learner, then at some point you’re going to think about the idea of “learning how to learn”.  In other words, you’re going to want to learn about the learning process itself and figure out the best learning techniques for you.  In this article we’ll look at some of the techniques that a learner can implement to maximize the efficiency of the learning process both in a traditional and e-learning setting.

Use the 80/20 Model of Learning

rememberRecently, in a post which I wrote for eLearningindustry, I talked about the concept of the “80/20 Model of Learning” as it applied to instructional design.  When designing a course, an instructional designer can pace the course so that in a particular learning period, 80% of the material is new while 20% of the material is review.

So, for example, in an e-learning course, 80% of a learning module would be devoted to new material while 20% of the module would be devoted to reviewing something from a previous module.  And experience has shown me that this gives the learner a better chance to remember what he or she previously learned.

When I personally use this process in trying to learn something new, I can almost “feel” the new material linking with the old material in my mind.  And as a result, the new material doesn’t wind up feeling so new.

Connect so that you won’t forget

connectionsAnother one of the best learning techniques that I use is to continually make connections.  When you learn a new concept, actually ask yourself, “How does this relate to something that I already know?”  and “How is this different from something that I already know?”  Making connections with material that I’ve seen before helps me to better understand the newer material.  And, it helps me to remember it as well.

And whether the learning takes place in a traditional or e-learning environment, the key to making connections is being able to step back from the material so that you can see the “forest through the trees”.

If you’re using a traditional textbook, then skim through it, and look at the topics.  And, if you’re learning online through the help of an e-learning platform, then quickly click through the links of the course’s webpages to get a big-picture sense of the material. In either case, when you’ve finished, think about the larger chunks and compare and contrast them in your mind.

Find your own material

When I was a college student back in the early 1990’s B.G. (Before Google), I would always go to the library and find alternative textbooks based on the topics that I was studying.  And, after finding a different source for the material,  I would read through concepts that I didn’t understand.  Though it was time consuming, it was definitely worth it.

online searchToday’s learner has it much easier and has no excuse to not look for additional material.  A simple Google search, and you’ll be able to find a library’s worth of new ways to look at the concepts that you’re studying.

And, if you’re a learner in a traditional course, why not find a free online course to enhance your understanding?  Online tutorials and forums, are a great way that you can incorporate some type of e-learning into the learning process.


Another one of my favorite learning techniques is the use of flashcards.  And, regardless of the topic, flashcards can be one of the best learning techniques if used correctly.  It doesn’t matter whether your flashcards are traditional index cards, or if you use a website such as Online Flashcards to create a personalized e-learning experience.   What’s more important is what you put on the flashcards.

First, you should have a set of flashcards with the basic vocabulary of what you’re studying.  If you don’t know what things mean, you won’t get very far.  Second, if you’re using the flashcards for a problem-based course, then for each concept you can create a flashcard with an easy, medium, and difficult problem.  Memorizing some problems and their solutions gives your mind something to latch onto when it’s presented with something that’s new.

Then, carry the flashcards with you, going through 5 or so at a time.  If you know the back side of the flashcard immediately, then move it to the “I know this pile”.  If you didn’t know it at all, then be sure to take some time with the flashcard and study it.  These cards should then go immediately back in your “I don’t know this pile”.

Finally, if you only “kind of” knew what was on the back of the card, I would look at it later in the day and just try again.  If you’re successful, then put it in the “I know this pile”.  If not, then shuffle it back in with the rest of the concepts.


Any serious learner should pay attention to the learning process so that they can be as efficient as possible with their studies.  Above, I’ve listed some of the best learning techniques that I’ve personally used to be successful.

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