There’s a fair amount of research (e.g. from Peter Browns book Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning) telling us that when students read a skript or a textbook chapter, they don’t really progress their learning. Yet still, we’re using pdfs, textbook chapters or more recently, ebooks in online learning courses. That doesn’t make much sense and is a terrible way to learn or create more permanent memories. Using active learning strategies – like quizzing, flashcards, diagramming and games – is much more effective.
Receiving and retrieving information by quizzing, either using questions or making up own questions, or try relating the principles to something you already know about (for instance from work experience), is what actually produces more robust learning and memories. Even though we’re aware of that, we still don’t apply this knowledge. Also diagrams, visual models or flowcharts are basically never used in online learning courses in higher ed. Instead of diagrams (e.g. flow of classical conditioning) we upload texts.
Especially in online learning environments we should create active learning and generate understanding. That is far more effective in terms of retention than merely reading texts. The learner needs to become more involved and more engaged, and less passive. Flashcards are another excellent way of doing this.
In a typical Austrian online course, students cover one topic after another. This is just mass presentation. They never go back and recycle or reconsider the materials. The key for a successful learning progress is to reuse the materials days or weeks later. There are several ways you can do this, e.g. with quizzes, flashcards or games. It can be done in exercises as well, because sprinkling in questions on content that was covered two or three weeks ago is really good for retention.