Succeeding in an Online Course

Read Actively and Take Notes

There will be a lot of reading in an online course, not just in your textbook but also on the Web. It is important that you read actively in order to help you better understand the material.

Reading actively doesn't mean just taking notes while you are reading; it also involves developing a mental strategy for reading. The following is a strategy you can use while reading your textbook.

  1. Prior to reading, recall the main ideas of the topic you just finished studying. When you look at the topic you are about to read, try to predict what you think you will learn.
  2. Preview the reading. Scan for, and read, headings, subheadings, bolded text, definitions, graphs, illustrations, and diagrams. Based on your preview, revise your predictions if necessary. Also, create a list of questions you want answered in the reading.
  3. Read carefully. Go back to the beginning, and start reading. While doing so, make a mental note each time one of your predictions was addressed and one of your questions was answered.
  4. Determine the most important sections of the reading, and summarize them. Keep your summaries short and write them in your own words. If you are a more visual learner, create your own visual aids by writing key points and connecting the relationships among them with lines or arrows. You can even draw pictures that represent points.
  5. If you are sure that the content of the reading is going to show up on a test, you might want to take more detailed notes, probably in an outline format. Prior to doing this, most students like to mark their books. If you mark your books, don't mark everything; try to decipher the most important words, phrases, and sentences, and mark those.
  6. Connect graphics to text. For example, after reading a section that has an accompanying diagram, study that diagram until you fully understand the section.
  7. Review your notes carefully.
  8. If you have questions on anything you didn't understand in the reading, ask your instructor or your classmates.