Learn to Learn, better (part III)

When we’re not working on Udemy, we (Udemy staff), are lifelong learners, just like you.  All of us here have gone through the challenges (and thrills) of learning new things.  As the final post of this series, some of us at Udemy describe what helps us learn better.


Audrey Heinesen, Ed.D., Director for Teaching and Learning:

Ever since I could remember, it’s always been easiest for me to learn something new if I could visualize it and immediately put it into practice.

Recently, my moped (my daily driver) was having issues so I dove into online forums and videos to help me troubleshoot. Reviewing the online videos and articles helped me visualize which parts I needed to learn to fix, and working on the physical bike put what I learned into practice.

Whenever I can apply new learnings in a real-world, practical way, I learn it and it and stays with me.

Dinesh Thiru, VP of Marketing:

I am constantly learning new things and I’ve found that rhythm and consistency are key for learning fast.

Whenever I’ve tried to learn new skills (e.g., spanish, SQL, crossfit, SEO, golf, etc.), I always learn them way faster if I practice at least 2 – 3 times per week.  If I stop practicing for 2 weeks, I lose my flow and it’s almost impossible to get back into the rhythm.

To help this, I set calendar reminders, email reminders, tell my wife and friends to ask me about – whatever it takes to stay on track. I know that if I can stay on the wagon for 6 weeks or so…well, then I actually end up learning something.


Frank Visciano, Director of Content Partnerships:

As I look back on way too many years of expensive school, the one thing I realize is that, for me, the most efficient and enduring path to learning was…teaching.

I never really understood trigonometry until I had to explain it to my little brother.

I never really understood bond math until I had to simplify it for my new intern.

Finally, I never really became an expert in energy finance until I was forced to condense the entire market landscape into a 30 minute lecture.

Gokce Cozen, Business Intelligence Analyst:

It’s so easy to get lost when you’re trying to learn a new skill. When I want to learn something, I start by finding a wide variety of learning materials from a variety of sources.

For example, two years ago, I wanted to learn more about email marketing. I did some quick research on the internet and identified the top 3 resources to learn email marketing.

I found a great book, a comprehensive online course and a blog written by one of the industry’s well-known experts.

I learn best from a variety of people and resources.  This helps me get a broader perspective on the topic.

Danielle Leslie, Business Development:

I never really thought of myself as a copywriter, but I’m starting to realize it’s a core skill I use everyday. I’ve never taken a copywriting course, attended a copywriting webinar, or consumed any lengthy instructional material on it.

So, how did I learn? I learned by observing and then doing. I subscribed to several email lists belonging to people I admire with huge followings and thriving businesses.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I studied their email subjects, copy structure, tone, and calls to action. I learned how to produce an email that gets people to pay attention and take action then I tried sending emails to a small list I had at the time.

Learning from example and learning by doing has been a winning combination for me to master one of the core skills I rely on everyday.

Dianne deGuzman, Email Marketing Manager:

I don’t have the best short term memory so when it comes to learning a new skill, I have to increase the difficulty, incrementally.

When I was learning Ukelele, I learned the basics of chords, then did strumming patterns, then applied them to really simple structured songs.


The first song I learned was a 15 second theme song. From that I applied the chords I knew to learn a full but simple 4 chord song. Then I learned another song with the same notes + additional chords, and so on. Each time I get progressively better and faster. It took me about a month to learn the theme song but I’m now able to learn songs in about 2-3 sessions.

Taking the learning on in small manageable bits helps me get over the “growing pains”.

Alex Mozes, Instructor Community Manager:

When I was in 3rd grade, I had to learn how to multiply.

The concept of addition is just simple enough for a 3rd grader to understand, but multiplication is a bit trickier.  So in my class we had a timed test of a randomized 10×10 multiplication table that had to be completed in 5 minutes.  We all knew record was under 3 minutes, and the first to do it in 2 minutes would win a prize (I forget what is was, almost certainly candy).

It seemed so impossible at the start, but after hitting the flashcards and practice tests numerous times, you quickly got better (and more motivated).  The key for me, when I’m learning, is slowly improving through practice.  Once I start to see some learning and improvement, I’m hungry to improve even more.


John Plonk, Instructor Community/Support:

I have found one way that really helps me to learn is to associate the things that I am learning with a physical space. This really helps with memorization.

For example, when trying to memorize the roles/functions of certain parts of the brain for an introductory neuroscience course earlier this Spring, I actually did so by connecting each function to a certain location on campus. For example, all of the functions of the Hippocampus would be associated with rooms that I had visited in Henry Hall.


This way, I could simply walk through campus in my mind and use something that I knew very well (rooms of my friends) to retrieve more difficult concepts from my mind. These abstract connections actually proved to be incredibly useful. I guess the overarching idea was that associating difficult material with material that you could recite in your sleep will make the new information exponentially easier to remember.

Shannon Hughes, Senior Director of Instructor Marketing:

I haven’t had to memorize anything for a while… until recently. My daughter, 8, started playing the violin last year, and she is learns using the Suzuki method- a style of instruction that requires her to memorize the songs. I learned to play the violin as a child using the same method as my daughter, so I join her for group lessons.

During these sessions, we play a mix of songs I already know from the Suzuki songbook as well as songs that are new to me. I’m sure those who study human memory can easily explain this phenomenon, but I was surprised how quickly I recalled songs I learned decades ago on an instrument untouched for over 10 years. The flip side was that I found it extremely difficult to memorize new songs.

What finally worked is putting myself in the mind frame of my child/adolescent self and quieting the distractions of my adult life. I started to practice in a room that is removed from the rest of the house- and… my to-do list.

I practice toward the end of the day, when my brain doesn’t have as much energy to race around and my children are sleeping. During my morning commute or other times when I find my mind wandering, I try to drift toward thinking of song fingerings. I find that this mix of active time in a controlled environment coupled with passive, no pressure, mind wandering time has helped me recall the new sounds.


Other posts in this series

Part I summarizes several top learning strategies from experts and bloggers.

Part II covers a sample learning strategies that our most active Udemy students use.