Tools for Online Learning

There are countless places you can go to learn online: Lynda, Udemy, Coursera, among many others. But what about tools that you should be using in order to learn online effectively?

No matter where you decide to learn online, there are some tools that can help you make the most of your investment of time and/or financial resources.

There are three major types that you should have at your disposal when you’re learning online:

  1. Tools to help you learn actively
  2. Tools to help you create an optimal learning environment
  3. Tools to help you plan and track your progress


Active Learning Tools 

Quizlet. The act of creating your own flashcards can be extremely useful — think of it as creating your own test questions.

Google Docs. Keep a running document of summaries of what you’re learning in each module.

Versal. Develop your own mini-lessons that are the ultimate demonstration of your understanding of a new concept.

Voice recorder. Record yourself asking questions or commenting about the content.

Old-fashioned notebook. There’s nothing wrong with combining old-school notetaking tools with modern ones.


Tools to Create an Optimal Learning Environment

StayFocusd. A Chrome extension that blocks time-wasting websites so you can focus on learning.

Cold Turkey. Because you don’t only spend time on websites — apps can kill your productivity, too.

Spotify. If you like to listen to music when you learn, choose a playlist that will help you focus. Check out this article on what music to choose.


Tools to Plan and Track Your Progress 

Asana. I have a whole post about how to use Asana to make and keep track of learning goals.

Strides. Make concrete goals (like how many times a week you’ll study, or how many minutes per day) and keep track of them in one app.

Padlet. Make all kinds of “padlets” that can help you plan and keep track of what you’re learning. You can use these for idea boards, a way to compile all of your notes, projects, etc., mindmapping — whatever you want!

Google sheets. I’m a big fan of using a simple Google sheet to keep track of what I’m doing and when.

Tomato Timer. Based on the Pomodoro Method of working in 25-minute hyper-productive increments, this simple timer will help you stay focused.


Not all of these will be for everyone, and that’s OK. And, as I always warn anyone who spends any amount of time on a computer: be careful that these solutions don’t take up more time than they are meant to save. Searching for “just the right” tool can be a huge time-suck, and more often than not there is no one perfect tool for any given situation. Choose some tools and stick with them for a while to see what works and what doesn’t work. If a new solution actually ends up making a problem even more complicated, then don’t feel guilty about ditching it.

What tools do you use to make sure you’re learning the most that you possibly can?