Online Learning: The New Normal

Lesson 1: The New Normal

The new normal

Learning redefined

The digitally-connected world has changed everything–from our social lives, to the way we do business, to the way we learn. COVID sped up this process, and our institutions have had to adapt. Schools went online, offices turned to remote work, and most importantly, our relationships to these things have forever been changed.

That’s because a lot of questions are now being raised about the nature of work and school. Many people are realizing that they want more of a work-life balance. Some of us are wondering if we really need a degree; these days, you can learn just about anything on the web!

Since the power is now in our hands, learning is being redefined. It isn’t something you simply do in a classroom. In fact, it’s often “self-directed”—and it certainly doesn’t have to be boring!

Self-directed learners

When you surf the web to find out more about the things you’re curious about, this is considered self-directed learning. For example, when you watch a YouTube tutorial, it might not feel like learning–but it’s an incredibly useful way to gather information.

We’ve seen an explosion in edutainment, too, or educational content that’s highly entertaining. There are also volunteers maintaining invaluable websites like Wikipedia, the most widely-read encyclopedia in history. People are coming together to learn and to share their knowledge with others through the internet.

So whether you’re researching a personal interest or you’re trying to gain a new skill, you can dive pretty deep into any subject and find the answers that you’re looking for. 

The challenges of self-directed learning

Having a steady stream of information at your fingertips allows you to keep asking questions. The potential to learn new things seems endless–and it’s amazing how you can simply do this on your own.

But when we’re searching for good content on the web, there are two main challenges we run into: (1) we’re constantly dealing with information overload, and (2) our time is limited. After all, we only have so many hours in a day! And it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of videos, articles, and websites we stumble across. 

This is why you might start exploring the group-based options which are available online. The information is gathered for you, and this can save you a lot of time. We’ll explore group-based formats in Lesson 3.

We all learn a little differently

Just remember: some people are visual learners who prefer watching videos. Some of us like listening to podcasts or audiobooks. And of course, some of us are old-fashioned readers. You might prefer working independently, or you might like interacting with other people.

All of these learning methods are possible in the world of online education. And chances are, you already have an idea of what works best for you. It’s something to keep in mind as you read (or skim, or watch!) the information in this tutorial.

Next up, we’ll help you to outline your learning goals and tap into your motivation.


  • The digitally-connected world has changed the way we view work and school.
  • Online learning can be self-directed, but this method isn’t without its challenges (including information overload and our time being limited).
  • It can be helpful to reflect on the ways that you learn best as you start exploring options in online education.