About this Course
This course gives you easy access to the invaluable learning techniques used by experts in art, music, literature, math, science, sports, and many other disciplines. We’ll learn about the how the brain uses two very different learning modes and how it encapsulates (“chunks”) information. We’ll also cover illusions of learning, memory techniques, dealing with procrastination, and best practices shown by research to be most effective in helping you master tough subjects. Using these approaches, no matter what your skill levels in topics you would like to master, you can change your thinking and change your life. If you’re already an expert, this peep under the mental hood will give you ideas for: turbocharging successful learning, including counter-intuitive test-taking tips and insights that will help you make the best use of your time on homework and problem sets. If you’re struggling, you’ll see a structured treasure trove of practical techniques that walk you through what you need to do to get on track. If you’ve ever wanted to become better at anything, this course will help serve as your guide. This course can be taken independent of, concurrent with, or prior to, its companion course, Mindshift. (Learning How to Learn is more learning focused, and Mindshift is more career focused.) To join the fully translated Portuguese version of the course, visit: https://www.coursera.org/learn/aprender To join the fully translated Spanish version of the course, visit: https://www.coursera.org/learn/aprendiendo-a-aprender To join the fully translated Chinese version of the course, visit: https://www.coursera.org/learn/ruhe-xuexi

100% online courses

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.

Approx. 11 hours to complete

Suggested: about 3 hours of video, 3 hours of exercises, 3 hours of bonus material
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Subtitles: English, Tamil, Arabic, French, Bengali, Ukrainian, Portuguese (European), Serbian, Chinese (Simplified), Greek, Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Vietnamese, Dutch, Estonian, German, Russian, Thai, Spanish, Romanian, Persian, Polish

Skills you will gain

PlanningSelf-MotivationManagementSoftware Testing

100% online courses

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.

Approx. 11 hours to complete

Suggested: about 3 hours of video, 3 hours of exercises, 3 hours of bonus material
Comment Dots


Subtitles: English, Tamil, Arabic, French, Bengali, Ukrainian, Portuguese (European), Serbian, Chinese (Simplified), Greek, Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Vietnamese, Dutch, Estonian, German, Russian, Thai, Spanish, Romanian, Persian, Polish

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course


5 hours to complete

What is Learning?

Although living brains are very complex, this module uses metaphor and analogy to help simplify matters. You will discover several fundamentally different modes of thinking, and how you can use these modes to improve your learning. You will also be introduced to a tool for tackling procrastination, be given some practical information about memory, and discover surprisingly useful insights about learning and sleep. <br><br>(Please note that this module should only take about an hour--the extra time quoted relates to purely optional activities.)...
14 videos (Total 109 min), 4 readings, 3 quizzes
Video14 videos
Terrence Sejnowski and Barbara Oakley--Introduction to the Course Structure2m
Using the Focused and Diffuse Modes--Or, a Little Dali will do You4m
What is Learning?5m
A Procrastination Preview2m
Practice Makes Permanent6m
Introduction to Memory4m
The Importance of Sleep in Learning3m
Interview with Dr. Terrence Sejnowski14m
Summary video for Module 14m
Excitement About Whats Next! MaryAnne Nestor Gives Special Hints1m
Optional Interview with "Benny the Irish Polyglot" about Learning Languages19m
Optional Interview with Dr. Robert Bilder on Creativity and Problem Solving15m
Optional Interview with Writing Coach Daphne Gray-Grant18m
Reading4 readings
Welcome and Course Information10m
Get to Know Your Classmates10m
Reading: Focused versus Diffuse Thinking0m
A Posting about Anxiety, Depression and PTSD from a learner in Learning How to learn0m
Quiz2 practice exercises
Introductory Quiz (Lots of fun and useful info!)40m
What is Learning?28m


2 hours to complete


In this module, we’re going to be talking about chunks. Chunks are compact packages of information that your mind can easily access. We’ll talk about how you can form chunks, how you can use them to improve your understanding and creativity with the material, and how chunks can help you to do better on tests. We’ll also explore illusions of competence in learning, the challenges of overlearning, and the advantages of interleaving....
11 videos (Total 77 min), 1 reading, 3 quizzes
Video11 videos
What is a Chunk?6m
How to Form a Chunk - Part 15m
How to Form a Chunk - Part 27m
Illusions of Competence8m
What Motivates You?5m
The Value of a Library of Chunks5m
Overlearning, Choking, Einstellung, and Interleaving8m
Summary for Module 23m
Optional Interview with Dr. Norman Fortenberry - Learning at MIT10m
Optional Interview with Scott Young, a "Marco Polo" of Learning16m
Reading1 readings
Reading: Chunking0m
Quiz3 practice exercises
Retrieval Practice10m
Retrieval Practice12m


5 hours to complete

Procrastination and Memory

In this module, we talk about two intimately connected ideas—procrastination and memory. Building solid chunks in long term memory--chunks that are easily accessible by your short term memory—takes time. This is why learning to handle procrastination is so important. Finally, we talk about some of the best ways to access your brain’s most powerful long term memory systems....
14 videos (Total 106 min), 1 reading, 4 quizzes
Video14 videos
Tackling Procrastination - It is Easier, and More Valuable, Than You Think6m
Zombies Everywhere3m
Surf is Up: Process Versus Product4m
Harnessing Your Zombies to Help You5m
Juggling Life and Learning5m
Summing Up Procrastination1m
Diving Deeper into Memory6m
What is Long Term Memory?5m
Creating Meaningful Groups and the Memory Palace Technique6m
Summing Up Memory3m
Optional Interview with 4 Time US Memory Champion Nelson Dellis23m
Optional Interview with Dr. Robert Gamache, an Award-winning Bilingual Scientist14m
Optional Interview with Keith Devlin from Stanford, the NPR "Math Guy"20m
Reading1 readings
Reading: Procrastination and Memory0m
Quiz3 practice exercises
Retrieval Practice12m
Retrieval Practice10m
Procrastination and Memory28m


4 hours to complete

Renaissance Learning and Unlocking Your Potential

In this module we’re going to talk more about important ideas and techniques that will enhance your ability to learn. You’ll also discover how to more profitably interact with fellow learners, how to recognize your own strengths, and how to avoid the “imposter syndrome.” Fighter pilots and surgeons use checklists to help them with their critical duties—you can use a similar checklist to help you prepare for tests. Ultimately, you will learn more about the joys of living a life filled with learning!...
16 videos (Total 140 min), 3 readings, 3 quizzes
Video16 videos
Introduction to Renaissance Learning and Unlocking Your Potential1m
Create a Lively Visual Metaphor or Analogy3m
No Need for Genius Envy6m
Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life6m
The Value of Teamwork6m
A Test Checklist3m
Hard Start - Jump to Easy4m
Final Helpful Hints for Tests5m
Summary for Module 43m
Wrapup to the Course by Terrence Sejnowski and Barbara Oakley2m
Optional: Part 1: How NOT to Take a Test, Interview with Dr. Richard Felder and Dr. Rebecca Brent11m
Optional: Part 2: Learning Something New, Interview with Dr. Richard Felder and Dr. Rebecca Brent9m
Optional: Part 3: The Imposter Syndrome and Dealing with Procrastination, Interview with Dr. Richard Felder and Dr. Rebecca Brent9m
Optional: Writer John Maguire (readablewriting.com) on the Importance of Putting Objects in Your Writing20m
Optional Interview with William Craig Rice on learning in the humanities40m
Reading3 readings
Please Rate this Course on Class Central10m
Reading: Renaissance Learning and Unlocking Your Potential0m
Farewell and Hello!1m
Quiz3 practice exercises
Retrieval Practice8m
Retrieval Practice12m
Direction Signs


started a new career after completing these courses


got a tangible career benefit from this course

Top Reviews

By AKAug 18th 2017

It was a wonderful journey of learning how to learn. Simple and effective. Wish i had come across something like this a little early in life. But better late than never. Keep up the good work. Thanks.

By GGSep 10th 2016

This is a course which I enjoyed. It gave a good insight of the learning methodologies which we have often heard of but not given due importance. Also, the brain facts is cool :) My 5/5 to this course



Dr. Barbara Oakley

Ramón y Cajal Distinguished Scholar of Global Digital Learning, McMaster University

Dr. Terrence Sejnowski

Francis Crick Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies

About McMaster University

Founded in 1887, McMaster University is committed to creativity, innovation, and excellence by inspiring critical thinking, personal growth, and a passion for learning. Ranked amongst the Top 100 universities in the world, McMaster pioneered a learner-centred, problem-based, interdisciplinary approach to learning that is now known worldwide as the “McMaster Model”. ...

About University of California San Diego

UC San Diego is an academic powerhouse and economic engine, recognized as one of the top 10 public universities by U.S. News and World Report. Innovation is central to who we are and what we do. Here, students learn that knowledge isn't just acquired in the classroom—life is their laboratory....

Frequently Asked Questions

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