Learn to Learn, better (part II)

We reached out to several active Udemy students with the question: “What helps you learn better?”

We received a variety of strategies, tactics, and tips that we hope you’ll find helpful for your own learning pursuits.


Larry Boufford – learning Photography, Java and C programming:

The first and foremost strategy for learning about anything is to have a desire to learn. If your heart’s not in it, then it’s a waste of time.

Besides that, I recommend:

1. Set a Strategy. Why are you doing it? Job? Personal Interest? Growth?

2. Work at it. Set some goals. Set times to learn and do not bunch it all together in one session. Think about and/or use the information before proceeding to the next lesson.

3. Test Yourself. Think outside of the “9 dots” to see where you can apply the new knowledge if needed. Be creative and never be afraid to experiment [within reason of course].

4. If you have to go back and listen to the lesson again and follow thru with the next steps, that is OK. You are doing it for you!!

David Jimenez – learning mobile app development, advanced PHP development skills, object-oriented programming, Git and the Mac OSX terminal:

I am mostly self taught on technologies I use in my career as a front-end web designer & developer so something that works great for me is to reverse engineer something similar to what I am trying to build. I have been doing this for years and it works really well for me.

shutterstock_124758646Scott Nelson – learning Growth hacking, web analytics, SEO, and SEM:

While I’m listening/watching the course, I take good notes in bullet-point fashion on Evernote with the intention of not only using it in the future, but perhaps teaching the subject matter at some point.

David Fergin:

For me, the key is repetition. I’ll put hundreds of hours into the same training.

Grant Barton – learning Web Development, Digital Marketing, and Excel:

One of the things that helps me is listening to the lectures when I’m driving, on the train, or walking my dog. I save the lectures for offline use on the iPhone app to do this. If I don’t understand a lecture, I mark it as incomplete, watch it later at home, and take meticulous notes on it.


Marcel Veltkamp – 3rd place in May’s Never Stop Learning Contest:

I keep my focus on my target / goals to stay motivated. Learning comes from discipline and focus. I like the quote by Japanese monk T. Deshimaru. He said in his book Zen and the martial art: “Kyu Shin Ryu”. Translated into English: School of the focused mind – freely translated as “keeping focused to accomplish your final goals.

Vikram Narayan – learning about programming and fitness:

I use the tactics that Scott Young suggests:


1. Reading

2. Pretend like you’re lecturing what you’ve learned in a way that is understandable to a five year old

3. Revisiting sections that I’m still not clear on

While pretend lecturing, I use the following:

1. Visceralization

2. Metaphors

3. Exploration

Debbie Samuels:

The key for me is to study in a quiet and undisturbed environment.


Liam Merlyn – learning HTML, PHP, Motion Graphics including Adobe After Effects, Facebook marketing, and Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator:

I’ve tried a number of methods through the years of learning independently. I found video lectures to be more helpful than anything else.

I’ve bought countless books but there are no annotations, little hints and tips from the mentor that can help with any encountered issues.

I tried self-teaching through software exploration, with no help, books etc. but it took forever and I was only learning how features work on their own, instead of in conjunction with other features.

Videos are key. Learning from both audio and visual feedback and instructions, I was rapidly able to get to grips with software and could powerhouse through a whole course in less than a week and was straight-away able to implement these new-found skills into my personal projects.

I suggest you keep trying different mediums until you find the one that works for you. Don’t stop experimenting!

John Anderson – learning Adobe CS6:

The key for me is using two screens and good note taking on Evernote.

I watch the course on my iPad while I am duplicating the instructor’s actions on my laptop. I pause the course frequently and/or back up to go over sections in order to make sure that I’ve understood the concepts.

Along the way, I capture short “how to” notes in Evernote tagged with, for example, “Photoshop” and full-text searchable for any techniques that I know I want to remember and reuse.

Julian Onions:

You have to find material that is at the right level. If it’s too simple, you’ll get bored. Too complex and you won’t keep up and could get discouraged. It has to be an interesting topic to keep you motivated too – especially when you’re on your own. One thing that did help me on a recent quantum mechanics course was writing out the questions fully in LaTeX document markup using the free writelatex.com site. I would write out the derivations for the answers in painful detail on there.

1. I could read it back – which isn’t always possible with my handwriting

2. I could see all the steps

3. I found it fun to hunt for all the maths symbols, and anything that makes a topic fun is good.

4. It’s safe in the cloud!

I’ve tried highlighting, spider diagrams, note taking, writing out lists and pinning them to the wall. None of these work for me. So as for tips – I only really have anti-tips. Find and do what works for you.

Other posts in this series

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

Part III features Udemy staff telling what helps them learn best.