About Succeeding with Online Courses

Choosing the perfect online course for you is half the battle. The other half is ensuring that you stay engaged and motivated so you can complete the course and get as much out of it as possible. Learn all about how you can be proactive and smart about your course to maximize your odds of success.

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In part one of this two-parter we talked about three important factors to consider when selecting an online course for your music learning. As well as the things you’ve probably always considered, like price, convenience, the format of the material, the trustworthiness and expertise of the provider, and so on, I suggested that you should also think carefully about:

  • Whether the course is truly aligned with the musical goal you care most about. So that you’re not tempted by a course that looks cool but won’t really advance you in a way that matters, and you’re not distracted into things you think you “should” do but don’t really want to.
  • Whether the course is flexible, so that if you get stuck at a certain stage that doesn’t mean your learning has to stop. This might mean a course that’s modular, or not forcing completion or mastery of one lesson before moving on to the next, or which allows you to progress at your own pace rather than being on a timetable – or ideally all three.
  • And whether the course offers great support – meaning proactive support that will help you solve problems before you notice them, rather than relying on you to get stuck and frustrated, then have the clarity and confidence to reach out and ask for help.

And we talked about the value of finding a provider who ticks all these boxes and has a range of training so you’re not starting from scratch in this process each time you want to learn a new thing.

With all that said, let’s assume you’ve found a course that fits the bill. You’re excited to get started! What can you do to maximise your chances of succeeding?

Well, the good news is that by selecting a course in the way we’ve discussed you’ve already boosted your odds of success dramatically. But of course things can still go wrong.

From what I’ve seen, in my own experience, with people I know in real life, and with the many thousands of musicians we’ve helped at Musical U, I’ve found there are two most likely causes of you not completing the course:

  1. You stop spending time working on it – you just fizzle out.
  2. You hit a sticking point and aren’t able to move forwards.

Do those sound familiar?

Now we could unpack the reasons why these things happen, and maybe that’s a topic for a future episode. But for now I’ll just say that the course selection process we’ve discussed will reduce the chances of these two happening, and let’s talk about what to do about the fact that they’re still a possibility.

Fizzling out

The first one, fizzling out, meaning you just stop spending time on it – and of course if you’re not spending any time on it you’re not going to be learning and progressing through the course.

Fortunately this one is actually pretty simple to solve. And it comes back to something David Asher Brown said in the interview which inspired this episode: That there is huge power in a simple daily habit of putting the time in.

I won’t discuss this at length – I’m going to point you to our previous episode on having a good Music Habit. But the crucial thing to know is that you need a training habit.

When you buy an online course your enthusiasm is at its maximum. You spend a ton of time, you’re really excited, everything’s great. Without a habit, what will almost certainly happen is that on day two you’re a bit less enthusiastic and spend a bit less time. On day three a bit less. And so on.

If things go incredibly well and everything proceeds smoothly then maybe you’re able to maintain enough enthusiasm to keep putting in enough time to eventually get through the whole course. But this almost never happens.

So what can you do? It’s simple. Commit to spending the time. It can literally be just 15 minutes per day. If you commit to doing that then the learning will follow. Especially if you’ve selected a suitable course and you apply what I’m about to say about the second problem, getting stuck.

Getting Stuck

We’ve all been there. Things were going great and we felt we were learning consistently – and then BAM, we hit a wall. Something doesn’t make sense, or something’s not clicking, or our ears or our fingers just don’t seem to be getting the hang of what they’re meant to.

While there is some repetition necessary for learning, you can also easily end up bashing your head against a brick wall.

What’s the solution? Again, it’s simple: get help.

Now if you’ve selected a course with proactive support, hopefully you’ll barely need to think about this. By using the training system and sharing a little about how it’s going, you’ll probably find your sticking points get solved before they even become real frustrations. But if not, don’t be shy! The best thing you can do is be willing to ask for help.

And that doesn’t mean you need to understand why you’re stuck. It certainly doesn’t mean you need to somehow justify or explain why you haven’t been able to learn the thing. That’s up to the support team to do. If your course offers good support, then literally all you should need to do is raise a hand and say “I’m stuck!” and the team will help walk you through getting unstuck. It’s funny, at Musical U one of our most popular features is a simple link in the sidebar of every page that says “Feeling stuck? Get unstuck” and it links to a discussion where literally the sole purpose is to help people who just feel stuck. It works really well. And it actually illustrates vividly the fact that every person taking a course is different and will get stuck in different ways at different points. Coming back to that point from earlier about needing a course that’s flexible.

Because neither one alone is enough. Your course needs to be flexible, and you need support to get unstuck. The two together have proven to be an amazing way to keep you moving forwards in your learning.

So those are the two big risk factors, even if you’ve selected a course that’s well-aligned with your goals, flexible, and provides great proactive support: You might stop spending time on it, or you might get stuck. If you follow the advice of implementing a habit, ideally a daily one, and committing to putting that time in. And asking for help when you start feeling stuck, even if you’re not sure how to explain it or quite what’s wrong – then you’re going to maximise your odds of success.

I hope you’ll take those two ideas on board, along with the course selection criteria we talked about in the last episode. It can really make the difference between struggle and frustration and not learning – and having an online learning experience that’s effective and actually fun too.

As with the first part of this two-parter, there’s a bunch of other stuff we could cover, like the benefits of being part of a community for motivation, or using streaks or accountability partners to create and maintain momentum, or various other things we’ve found can increase your odds of success in learning online. But we’ll wrap this one here for now. If you want to hear that part three, let us know via the contact page at musicalitypodcast.com!

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