My 5 tips to get the best out of your Udacity course

I took my first my first Udacity course in May 2016, since then I haven’t stopped learning. By the current time, I am taking my fourth Nanodegree program (self-driving cars). During this time, I have developed some techniques that have helped me to get the best of the courses. I want to share them with you.

1. Plan ahead

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Finally, you find a course that is for you. You start the lessons, but soon you realize that there is a lot of content; maybe it is not really for you. Do not panic! It is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed at first. Planning is the best you can do to achieve your final goal.

Planning may not be easy at first. Perhaps you are very optimistic, so you set plan that is very ambitious, but that may lead you to a stressful situation or even worse, frustration. In the other hand, you set a plan that is loose, does not put enough pressure, and takes forever. Udacity gives you an approximation of the length of the course, make a plan based on that.

Define which days of the week you will spend in the course, even better define which lessons you will take on which days (Udacity also gives you an estimation of the time per lesson). If you follow your plan, soon you will realize that you are on the right path.

2. Take notes

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At first, one might think “why bother taking notes if the content is there anyway? I can access it at any time, anywhere.” Well, in classic education schemes, the content is there too (books, slides, textbooks), but that does not stop you from taking notes in the classroom. Taking notes has other benefits including capturing key concepts (even though Udacity’s content is quite concise), and it gives you the opportunity to express some ideas in your own words. If you feel stuck and do not find the words you need, there is no shame in using the same expressions of the instructors.

If taking notes is not your thing, you can bookmark the lesson’s item that you consider important. Make sure to assign a meaningful names or descriptions to the bookmarks.

3. Stop and slow down speed of videos

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When learning new things, it is not easy to understand the new ideas or concepts. Usually, if you did not get something the first time, you watch the video again, and again, and again, until you finally get it. That is a valid approach. However, I have found that slowing down and stopping the videos give better and faster results (you don’t believe me? try it). It is not necessary to do this for every video; with practice, you will be able to identify the videos that need to be slowed down.

Also, do not be afraid of turning on subtitles, especially if English is not your native language. Just be aware that, occasionally, the subtitles have mistakes.

4. Review the extra material

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The extra material is there for a reason. In some cases it gives more information about a topic, in other cases, it offers you stories related to the lesson. They are not mandatory, and you do not have to review it right away. Sure some of this material is extensive, nonetheless, find some time to check it, it is worthy.

But do not stop there, find more information about the topic in books, blogs, forums, etc.

5. Participate in forums

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Usually, when you are struggling with something, Google it is your best friend. However, Udacity provides a set of forums specifically for their courses. It is likely someone else has experienced your same problem and has found a solution there.

If you do not find a solution for your problem, do not hesitate on asking a new question, someone will help you. Just remember to be as specific as possible, provide details including screen shots, code snippets, logs, etc. If possible try to answer other’s questions, it helps you to reinforce your knowledge.

Bonus for Nanodegree programs: Do not underestimate the career lessons

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The career lessons are not mandatory in order to graduate from a Nanodegree program, but they are as good as the core lessons. They are not very long and worth every second. Be sure to take them as soon as they are suggested, follow their recommendations, and do the exercises.

The same is true for elective lessons, even though they may be longer than the former ones, they pay off. If you are anxious for getting graduate, you can review that content later.

These tips have helped me to get the best of Udacity courses, and have given me a more delightful e-learning experience. Despite they have been described for that specific platform, I am sure some of them can be used in other MOOC systems.

Is there any tip that has helped you? Do not be shy and share it.