Study techniques

I thought a thread about learning techniques and app recommendations might be useful.

What techniques do you use to actually learn this material? Some videos have a huge amount of information and just watching them is interesting but I forget things straight away. So far this is what I do (only with the most interesting topics since it takes a lot of time!):

  1. Watch the video
  2. Write a quick note recalling what I remember from it
  3. Download the pdf of the course notes and load it into an app called Polar (
  4. Make highlights of important things in Polar and edit the sentences to make them independent of the context, eg. adding a bit of context like “In glacier formation, [highlighted sentence]”
  5. Make Anki flashcards ( out of the highlights, with cloze deletions and sometimes screenshots from the video

Any other ideas or useful apps?


Hi Kristin - I do a couple of things, both of which are time consuming but I find them helpful (I’m older, so memory is a bit of a struggle).

First, I pretty much copy the entire course - transcripts, selected screen images, quizzes, any readings - into a document (msword in my case) so I have it in searchable form. Then, a year (or three)from now, when I vaguely recall there was something about accumulation zones of glaciers, or I want to find the title of the book by John Snow about the Stoney view of mountains, or the first painting of a glacier, I’ll be able to find it. It also helps to reinforce the lectures, since I have a tendency to “listen without listening”.

Second, I create a flashcard set (I used Cerego instead of Anki, but I should check out other systems). This does a lot of things: first, I have to sort out what i want to retain, and organize it in a way that fits the Cerego system (multiple choice, sequence, passage, etc). Second, the spaced recall feature keeps it in mind during the course, and keeps reminding me of it afterward. Right now I’m coming up on yearly review of courses I took two or three years ago, and while I don’t remember everything (the spaced recall is a little too generous for me, but it is what it is), it’s always fun to get that “Oh, yeah, I remember that!”. You can access my set at The standard for personalized learning | Cerego if you wish.

In this course, these conversations also help, just to reinforce certain aspects; I think I’ll remember enjoying Hamish’s research and the info David posts in response to questions, even if I forget the details!

The basic thing is that the more I interact with the material, in different ways, the better it sticks.


Both those approaches sound great but quite time-consuming. Totally worth it, but what I find most effective with less time invested is simply to handwrite notes as I watch the videos. Sometimes I’ll pause and look back at the transcript, but by focusing only on the video (not multi-tasking which is a pitfall of mine…) and limiting to just a few terms I can usually keep up. I normally don’t go back to my notes - it’s the process of writing them that helps cement the information - but in this class I’ve been revisiting them for the “favorite bits” posts that are also a memory assist. I’m loving this study group!!!


Yes, it is very time consuming! i’ve read that taking notes by hand does help with learning, so that might be all you need! Whatever works for you is the best method.


If I have will power, the one thing I try to do is take the final quiz of the week on a different day so I am forced to look back at the material. Sometimes its easy to watch the videos and immediately do the quiz.


I take some pretty rough notes from the videos, pausing the videos sometimes to reflect and see how it fits in to other things I have learnt before. With this course, some of it reinforces what I learnt on a recent futurelearn course called Extreme Geological Events. Often I’ll find a short article that is similar to the main thrust of the lecture, as reading like this helps make the main points stick.

After this, I’ll think about it all and almost always some points or facts will nag away at my curiosity, so I’ll explore these more deeply. Normally, I’ll print out an article or two and note them, which will be enough. If the story seems more compelling, then I’ll post about it on the forum as this gets me to go a bit deeper with researching, which I love, particularly if it is related to history, literature or climate change. For week 9, the Banff Spring snails and Humboldt stuck out. For the snails, I read this and this, and am still a bit curious as to why he swam there. For Humboldt and his maps, I read this, and this and this, which help me understand the significance of the maps.
Sometimes, as with the avalanches and exploding lungs, I can’t find the answer, although I do learn some interesting things while searching, such as the fact that flying too close to wind turbines can make bats’ lungs explode.


Great discussion topic! I kind of do a mix of these. I agree that the essential thing is engaging with the material in spaced out intervals, and in different forms.

Ideally, I like to watch the video with full attention on the video and not taking notes even if I want to. Then I go through the transcript and hand write notes in my own words of the things discussed that I want to remember. Sometimes it helps to watch all videos first then take notes so it’s spaced out, or wait a day or two between finishing the video and writing notes.

Since we are going quickly, I don’t do much backtracking now other than taking a gap between watching the video and writing notes, but at the end of the course I will likely revisit all these notes as I compile them into a digital format to review whenever I want.


I love this! Thanks for always sharing your outside research. It definitely reinforces the material by giving it more to attach to.

I’m still staying tuned to see if anyone can find an answer about avalanche powder clouds and lungs!


Hi @jacqulynj - Sorry, I didn’t answer that question directly. The technical term is ‘barotrauma’ - which is an injury caused by a pressure change. It can damage ears, sinuses, teeth, lungs, stomach, intestines - anywhere in your body where there is a sinus or cavity with air.

Here is a link to the US CDC guide:

The human body can survive relatively high blast overpressure without experiencing barotrauma. A 5 psi blast overpressure will rupture eardrums in about 1% of subjects, and a 45 psi overpressure will cause eardrum rupture in about 99% of all subjects. The threshold for lung damage occurs at about 15 psi blast overpressure. A 35-45 psi overpressure may cause 1% fatalities, and 55 to 65 psi overpressure may cause 99% fatalities

Typical Injuries Sustained in Barotrauma Typical Injuries Sustained in Barotrauma - RCEMLearning India

It can happen underwater too:


Thank you @DavidHik ! I was actually catching up on posts and didn’t see the content you shared in response until after I posted (rookie study group mistake, oops!) but I do appreciate this explanation in addition to the articles and fascinating videos.

Crazy to think avanlaches can cause blasts like bombs or explosions.


Yes I also try to avoid doing the quiz straight after watching the videos, so I can use the quiz as recall practice and not just to pass the course. It’s good that you get three chances on each quiz on this course so it’s not too high stakes, otherwise I might have been tempted to take the shortcut of going straight to the quiz while it’s fresh in my mind.


I also used to take notes but now I find I focus better by forcing myself not to write anything down. If I miss something I can always watch that bit again or read the transcript. It is interesting that different things work for different people and I guess any method that makes you engage with the material is likely to make it stick better.

I like “outsourcing” getting things into my long-term memory to flashcard software because that way I know the important bits will keep coming up so I will remember them. Previously, I have only used flashcards for language learning, I am only just learning to create cards for other subjects now, by doing it for this course.


Here is my way to study the material.

  1. Day 1: I watch the videos lectures with great focus, taking pauses between the videos to relax my brain
    The lectures are very well done allowing for a great learning experience: beautiful landscape video’s, dynamic diagrams explaining the concepts, highlighting the concepts, …
    I particularly like the in-video questions, they let you think and reflect on possible answers, later in the lecture, the answers are explained confirming or correcting your thoughts, providing an immediate feedback cycle.
  2. Day 2: Do the quiz, I perceive the questions as of the right difficulty level, challenging but do-able. After finishing the quiz I review the answers in detail, especially the questions I answered wrong (2nd feedback cycle). Occasionally (happened once so far) I redo the quiz if didn’t reach the passing grade (yet another feedback cycle)
  3. Day 3: Read the course notes, these are well-done and contain all the main concepts of the lectures and have the answers to the quiz questions, a final feedback cycle

The structure of the lectures is extremely well done, enabling an excellent learning experience. Kudos to David & Zac. This is an example where every instructor of online and/or classroom courses can learn from.


@ronnydw Totally agree - this course design is outstanding. At first I thought it was the production company but, having taken other courses produced by them, I now know it is David and Zac’s doing. This mooc is a work of art :mount_fuji:


You are very generous @Beth but it really was a team effort to create Mountains 101.


In case there are any other Anki users on here who want to learn some of the facts from the Mountain World Map, I made an Anki deck with the map locations, photos and some of the information given on there.

You can download it here:

You can edit it to suit your needs (eg. I find it easy to remember numbers so some cards ask for elevations but if you are not interested in those, just type “@” when you see the card and it will be suspended).


Thanks for this link @Kristina!