Prioritizing your time, planning ahead, and relying on your community can help you successfully manage a fast-paced learning experience.

Fast-Paced Learning - Udacity

It’s one thing to know going in that a Nanodegree program is all about focused learning. It’s another thing altogether to actually experience firsthand what fast-paced learning is really like.

When we talk about our programs being compact, efficient, and effective, we mean that every minute of your classroom time is optimized for maximum learning. It’s what makes skills acquisition at this level possible, and it’s why you enrolled. But the realities can be intense. Things move fast, the projects can be difficult, and you are challenged at every point to do your very best work.

When it’s all over and done and you’ve successfully graduated, your skills will be at a whole new level, as will your confidence. But while you’re in progress, you may feel overwhelmed. The following tips can help you successfully contend with a fast-paced learning environment.

Tip #1 Set a high level of prioritization for your learning time

To succeed, you’re going to need time. Regular, consistent, time. Put your learning time on your calendar, and make sure anyone with influence over your calendar knows about it. Most importantly, place your learning time as high in a hierarchy of importance as you can, and stick to that hierarchy. Daughter’s birthday party? Yes, you can give up your learning time on that day. Big soccer match on TV? Nope. Learning time is more important. This kind of prioritization is critical for success in a fast-paced learning program, because you cannot afford to fall behind; even missing one learning session can put you at a disadvantage.

Tip #2 Make preparing for your next learning session part of the agenda for your current learning session

To make the most out of every learning session, you need to set realistic goals ahead of time for what you plan to accomplish during the session. This helps keep you on track, and it’s a confidence boost. It feels great to accomplish what you set out to accomplish. But in a fast-paced learning program, the next challenge is always right around the corner. So when you set your goals, give yourself an extra block of time at the end of your session to look ahead at what’s coming next, so you can make sure you’ll be ready. You may even gift yourself some extra time!

For example, let’s say your next project requires that you download some new software, that you watch an interview, and that you read a particular article, all before you actually start building the project. That’s good to know! You can download the software while you’re having breakfast, and save yourself those minutes. You can download the video ahead of time, and watch it offline on the subway. That’s a few more minutes saved. And you can read the article while you wait in the dentist’s office. More minutes saved. When it’s time for your next learning session, you’ll be ahead of schedule!

Tip #3 Rely on your community

The faster you learn, the more quickly you face new challenges. Just as soon as you overcome one issue, the next one is right in front of you. So you need to get strategically adept at finding the right information, quickly. More often than not, crowdsourcing answers from your learning community is the quickest and most efficient way to get the information you need. Why? Because you don’t just need answers, you need the right answers, and you need them in context. Your context. When was the last time you googled something, and got exactly what you wanted on your first try? Going to your learning community for support, resources, and answers is like going to a search engine that’s been pre-optimized and personalized just for you. We recently launched our new Student Hub at Udacity, and among the research findings we shared, was that students who regularly interact with mentors and fellow classmates complete projects on average 20% faster than those who don’t. The lesson is clear—community-powered learning is faster, and more efficient.

Managing a fast-paced learning experience isn’t easy. Almost by definition, you can’t really “get ahead”—success is keeping the pace. In this kind of scenario, falling behind has real consequences, and it gets exponentially more difficult to catch up if you do slip off track. But by deploying and relying on some simple, straightforward strategies like the ones above, you can keep the pace, and reap the rewards that come with accelerated learning—rapid acquisition of valuable skills, increased exposure to new opportunities, and a significant competitive advantage when it comes to vying for those opportunities. Best of all, with every new learning experience, you add weight to your record of accomplishment, and reinforce your reputation as a true lifelong learner.

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