Ninja Skills: Why the Unit Outline Matters.

If you don’t know what a “unit outline” is in the context of our course, I can forgive you. It’s not the first thing you might notice when you go to a course. It’s almost certainly not even in the top ten. Suffice it to say, it’s what I promised to talk about last week, then promised to talk about this week, and it’s pretty darn useful. So here we are.

Let’s look at a course; I’ll choose Existentialism, because it’s just that kind of Wednesday — but what follows applies to all of our courses. Scroll past the Purpose of CourseCourse InformationLearning Outcomes, and Course Requirements. There it is, tucked just below the units.

Top part of Existentialism course page

See the link ‘Show‘? Click it. (In real life…not here.)

Expanded Unit Outline

See? a no-nonsense outline of unit, sub-unit, and sub-sub-unit titles. The text is blue, though; each one is a link to a page anchor. Click on one to go to that part of the course (we’ll wait).

Cool? But its only unit 1. Just above the unit outline, select “All Units”

All units

Once again, click ‘Show’. Now the expanded outline will allow you to go anywhere in the course.

So what? It’s a fair question…here are a couple things I do with it:

Create a notebook

(1) Open up a new document in your favorite word processing program. Without implying any specific endorsement, I’m going to use a Google Doc, because…well, because I do. I use a browser extension that makes this literally a one-click process.

(2) Copy and paste the linked outline into your doc. If you use CTRL + V (CMD + V on a Mac), it should look something like the image on the left. If you use CTRL + SHIFT + V*, it should look something like the image on the right. The first one keeps hyperlinks, and the second doesn’t. It’s your call, but either way you’ll probably want to clean it up a bit.

Unit Outline V1 UnitOutline_v2

(3) You now have an editable outline of the course — you can take notes right in this outline and know exactly where you left off.

Track your progress

Wherever you leave off for the day in your course (and if you’re taking notes in an outline you’ll know exactly where that is), copy and save the link to that sub-unit somewhere (as a bookmark, or, like me, drop it right in your notes).

Right-click on the link (or use CTRL + Left-click*), then choose “Copy link address” or whatever’s closest to that phrase. Then do as you will. When you’re ready to pick up your studies again, you know exactly where you left off.

Like so:

Unit Outline Hyperlink

That’s about it. It’s kind of obvious, and kind of not, just like some of the very best ninja I  know. If you know of better, smarter, other, funner, or just otherwise radical tricks for squeezing the last drop of excellence out of your online learning, let me know, or better yet, offer to write about it!

*Ninja skill.