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Becoming a Successful Online Learner

One of the best things about life is we never have to stop learning. There are always new insights to gain and new skills to adopt. Those of us in the content marketing community know there’s no shortage of online learning opportunities to help boost our careers. You’ll find a large variety of classes, trainings, and webinars to choose from.

But this sudden shift from in-person to virtual work has some people wondering, “is an online format best for me?”

To get some answers, we went to Content Marketing University’s Kim Borden. As program manager, Kim describes what virtual courses entail, explores the benefits, and gives advice to help you determine if online training is right for you.

Key takeaways from the interview

  • The move to virtual environments during the pandemic has been dramatic for some.
  • Without in-person options, online learning can be a challenge. But there are advantages.
  • In our current world of constant distractions, online students have better opportunities to concentrate on materials.

Amanda Subler: Today, we’re talking about online learning. I am joined by Kim Borden who is on our CMI team. She – among many, many, many other things that she does for us – she’s in charge of CMI University, our online training platform and certification. Good afternoon, Kim! How are you?

Kim Borden: Good morning from a snowy, cold Cleveland!

AS: I see you sitting there all cozy by your little warm fire. I’m jealous.

KB: Well, I was trying to set the mood to get everybody in the holiday spirit and learn something.

AS: I know. We’re trying we’re trying to get in the holiday spirit here. I see we have people joining us from Atlanta, Kenya, Bangladesh. Thanks everybody for joining us today. San Francisco.

KB: Nice and sunny and warm places. Good vibes.

AS: As we get deeper into winter here, I’m like “why do I live in Cleveland again? I can’t remember.”

Let’s jump on in. We are talking about online learning. We’re talking about classes, webinars, and not necessarily conferences like Content Marketing World. That’s really the only option for many of us. How do you know if online learning is the right fit for you?

KB: I think now more than ever is the best time to experiment. There are many opportunities. Not just at Content Marketing Institute, but you only have to look to LinkedIn Learning or look to a YouTube video to get your feet wet on any kind of topic you want to. It doesn’t even have to be content marketing.

Why not? We’ve all reached the point in our stay-at-home whatever we’re doing. We’ve finished the purging through the closets and cleaning things out. Now’s a great time to learn a new skill, whatever the case may be.

We have an amazing set of industry leaders who are very generous with their time and talent to educate the content marketing community, whether it’s reading the blogs or attending our monthly webinars. It’s a great way to learn any new trade, whether you’re in content marketing or anything else. We’re at the right time to try something new.

AS: I also think that while yes, doing a live in-person training or classes you get the energy and that face-to-face connection. But also it’s really nice to be able to just learn from your couch and not have to get dressed and go out. It makes it easier to learn at your own pace. You have time to set aside to work on it. I think that’s also a huge benefit.

There’s many different companies or platforms out there that are offering all different types of online training that I don’t think that we’ve ever seen before. I think it’s really great to be able to do it right now.

Alright Kim. I think we all have this we have this Zoom fatigue, right? Everybody is tired of being online. I think that’s going to be for the foreseeable future. Do you think this shift to a largely virtual world makes online learning difficult? How do we stay focused and stay on our game when we’re when we’re trying to do this online learning all the time?

KB: That’s a really great question, Amanda. I think we have to look at what is our personal learning style. Are you a hands-on learner who wants to watch a video when you’re doing something? Or do you enjoy diving into the owner’s instruction manual of something that you want to learn? I think any company or any program that’s offering a program – you have to look at who your learners are and what their different styles are.

For example, we have a transcript available within our core modules as well as watching the videos. Or we provide the slide decks so that learners can download things and take a look at them. Sometimes we’re not doing the daily commute but maybe we are doing the walk around the park. You want to be able to listen to it, whether it’s in a podcast form or maybe you just have a couple minutes in the morning when you’re going through your coffee that you want to be able to take a highlighter to the transcript and kind of highlight little notes that you might want to go back and look at. I think you just have to be adaptable.

AS: Find yeah find out what works for you. Like you said, looking at the transcript or maybe it’s setting aside like a very specific time like, “I’m going to spend this whole hour on this class,” and cut out all the distractions whether it’s your phone or your email. You have to make it work for you and figure out what works best for you.

Kind of along those lines, when you’re talking what works best for you…what about notetaking? Like notetaking can be a little bit different when you’re at a live event, and everything’s moving fast and quick versus if you’re at home just sitting there. Do you have any tips on notetaking?

KB: I do. I think it kind of depends on the format as to how the classes that I’m trying to learn. If I’m in a live event or where I’m actively watching the speaker through a live podcast or a webinar, I like to take notes a little bit as I go through different things.

But I also like to have the opportunity to go back and review the video on-demand. That allows me to go back and say, “oh wait, I missed that part.”

Like you said, we all have to be able to close out the distractions of everything. A lot of times we don’t. It’s unforeseeable. We’re at home now. Undoubtedly, the doorbell is going to ring in the middle of trying to do something. The delivery person. The kids. I really feel for a lot of the parents who are trying to you know play those multiple roles of homeschooling their kids, and you really think you’re going to have 10 or 15 minutes to sit down, and you may not.

I always like to jot down notes. If I have a transcript of something, if it’s something I’ve already viewed, then I can go back and take a look at that specific section and kind of slice and dice things so that I can go back and look at them.

AS: I see Deborah here says on notetaking versus replay, lots of times she’ll just listen – I’m assuming like on your first pass, Deborah – and go back and maybe take notes the second time and replay it if possible.

Mary says online learning is a must for us. It has made our lives easier and helped us acquire knowledge at our own free time to figure out the best time and good concentration, with less distractions.

Yes, distractions are huge these days.

I do webinars, classes, LinkedIn Learning, which is a great resource. CMI has CMI University if you want to tell us a little bit more about that.

KB: Sure! Robert does an amazing job of developing our core modules. Each March, he goes through and updates them based on what the industry standards are and who the industry leaders are and what’s the most up-to-date and current knowledge that we have.

Along with some of Robert’s humor – if you’ve read the Weekly Wrap or participated in any of the other posts that Robert does – he has a great sense of humor and uses great examples to try and get his point across in a way that it doesn’t actually come across as he’s preaching or teaching. He’s enhancing the knowledge that you probably already have.

Each year in March, we update the core modules. From there, we take content from industry leaders throughout the rest of the year and add those to our electives. Those electives can cover a wide range of learning throughout. Robert’s focus is on the content strategy and then the additional modules that we add to that content and kind of reinforce whether it is adding to that knowledge or building on that knowledge that he’s already expanded whether it’s on content and promotion of it or distribution or maybe there’s analytics.

We have some amazing industry leaders who have been very generous with their time and their talent to provide us with information and modules that we can all learn from. Sometimes I think as you start through your process, you may focus on the content strategy and then you will build into that. Maybe later on within the year you’ll come back and you might review one or two of Robert’s modules and then pick up additional electives that you might want to focus on or build on as well. There’s many opportunities there.

I like the aspect that even if you’re just checking things out. A huge area that we like to tap into are college kids and or those who are starting out into the content marketing field. There are so many resources just within the Content Marketing Institute site itself that we direct student learners to or people who maybe have done some type of a shift in their career. And they’ve come back and said, “hey, I did this at one point in time. It’s been a while. What new resources might you have?” And between the many offerings that we have, whether it’s the webinars, the blog posts, the eBooks. There are many resources that are out there.

We’re also very lucky with the industry leaders that we have. If we particularly don’t have the knowledge, we usually have someone that they can then refer to, which is great about the content marketing community in itself.

Even with Twitter. There’s many times where somebody may point something out and say, “hey, anybody know about this?” and people are really quick to jump in and say, “I know so-and-so does this this and you should check them out.” I think we have to remember that you’re never in this solo little rowboat. You’re out there and everyone is so willing to help, which is great.

AS: Absolutely. I know Mary suggested LinkedIn Learning is another great resource if you’re looking for all kinds of different topics. That’s a good one as well. I think it depends on you researching. I think someone was looking for suggestions for writing. I’m interested in video production so I Iook for training in those specific areas. There’s so many out there now. You have to research and look for what you want and dive in.

Thank you, Kim, for joining me today. It was good to actually see you. Kim and I both live in Cleveland, probably 30 miles away from each other, and see each other maybe once or twice a year. And now zero times. So it’s great to chat with you, Kim.

Thank you to everyone who joined us today from all over the world. We really appreciate it. One of you who commented will win a CMI mug. Be sure to check your messages. I’m told that we’ve had several winners in the past couple weeks. We want to give you a free mug. Kim has to mail it out, I believe.

KB: Yes, I do! I mail it!

AS: Please check your messages from us. You can join us again next Monday, same time, same place for another livestream.

We hope you have a great day. Thanks for joining us! Bye Kim!

KB: Bye! Thanks everybody!

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