The internet provides many resources and many distractions. Of the resources, some are higher quality than others. A learner, seeking understanding, is in a similar position to a ship's captain - aiming to reach a certain goal, but without necessarily having accurate charts to plot the route, weather forecasts to predict disturbances to their route, and possibly without much idea of how the rudder works, or from where they are starting.
If we model the progress of a learner through the seascape, they have, at first sight, a relatively trivial task. To get from point A to point B they can take the 'shortest route'. But in many learning scenarios, the starting point is not well known, so let's have a look at that first.
I think that an approach to determining where you are in the context of your learning which can help many (and have the potential benefit of being 'machine readable') is to take key words from a module outline and use a graphical tool to position them with respect to each other. Place those which you are less clear about 'further away' near the top of the page, and those which you feel you have a good grasp of nearer to the bottom of the page. Then move them to represent how close each of the concepts are to each other in your view. Now, examining the picture you have before you, see if any of the closer concepts look likely to provide stepping stones to the further ones. If they do, move them so that they are en route to the further concepts.
OK, so now you have a bunch of words which represent some familiar concepts near the bottom of the page, and some less familiar ones near the top. In the case of a module, presumably your goal will be to learn all about all the concepts, yes? OK, probably not, many will be hoping to know enough to get 50% in an exam. But either way, it is possible to prioritise the concepts if you want to - just bear in mind that if a far concept can be reached more easily by learning about a near concept first, the near concept almost certainly has a higher priority than the far one.
If you are feeling brave, it is likely that other people who have also created similar maps will have a different starting position, and a different view of what links to what. It is probably worth getting together with others at this stage to see how your maps compare. Bear in mind that you almost certainly don't want to make any major changes to your map, unless you realise that you have completely misinterpreted a word - your map represents your reflection on where you are in this learning journey. But looking at other people's maps might help you see where you can use each others experience to help you get to your goals, including seeing potential for stepping stones which you hadn't realised were there.
So, you now have a rough idea of where you are, and a rougher idea of where you are headed. But how are you going to get there? You will need access to resources, which may be lecture notes, content from the Web, seminars or conversations with other people (to name but a few).
Grabbing a different coloured pen, you can start to put some of the resources which will help you in the journey on your map. If lecture notes are available online, it is probably best to put the URL of the notes which relate to a specific concept near them. But 'content' resources aren't the only ones available to you - you can put things like Scholar.Google.Com on there too, or the library, or lecturers, or parents, or friends, or coffee.
Now, things like lecture notes almost certainly come with some sort of inherent chronology - i.e. they will be designed to be used in some order, and will have hard copy provided when you go the relevant lecture. So you can build a bit of a timeline in to your map, showing when resources become available, and when you have to have mastered the material. This gives you an idea of how fast you will be travelling through the seascape.
So, you look set to begin the journey. You know roughly where you are, roughly how long it will take, and have some idea of where you will be stopping off for supplies on the way. But so far we haven't looked at the potential for bad weather, whirlpools and other distractions to take you off course - or even to offer you new learning opportunities. Everytime you have a connection with other people, there is the chance (and risk) of something new grabbing your attention. Now, this can lead to serendipitous opportunities to learn something new, that can help you get to your goals (a bit like lading on a ladder in snakes and ladders). But it can also lead you down a slippery snake, either in terms of a straight distraction, or by leading down a false avenue to something which looks promising but which turns out to be unproductive (at least in the time available).
How do you control the Good Ship Learning to stay on course? You don't know what is on (or under!) the real seascape - you only have a map, or model, of what you expect to find. Because of the myriad connections you make on a day to day basis with other people, you cannot know what you will find as you navigate the seascape of learning. So you need to be able to see the local conditions, and steer your course appropriately.
Although you won't know exactly what will crop up, there are people around who will have better experience of the part of the seascape you are in. Other learners may have already visited this area and be able to give guidance on what the local learning weather is like, and tutors can have a better view of the terrain from their lofty ivory towers. Identify where you are, and where you are trying to get to, and recruit these 'local experts' to give you pointers about how to make this part of the journey.
Cybernetics is named after Kybernetes, and is the science of communication and control in man, machine and animal. One of the things which allows a steady course to be steered is control, which requires feedback. Imagine trying to learn something if you never found out if what you thought was wrong? Never going to work. So make sure you get feedback (in some cases, you may need to rely on canvassing opinions from your peer group rather than local experts for this, as they are not always good at providing it) but more importantly, make sure you use it. To be effective, you need to use any feedback you have quickly, before you head off down the wrong route. If you pass a sign telling you you have gone the wrong way, or you don't recognise any of the landmarks be a girl and ask for directions! (Stereotypically, males are poor at asking for directions...). But also make a note of the wrong turn - there was a reason you got there, and it may be because there were signals leading you there. Knowing how you end up making wrong turns lets you recognise them better in future, and also starts to qualify you as a local expert.
Time spent helping others understand something is seldom wasted. Not only is it a lovely socially responsible thing to do, but you gain better understanding yourself. Obviously, if you aren't sure of the route someone else should take, don't mislead them, but explain how you found your way around that part of the landscape. Were there any landmarks to head for? What pitfalls were there which you found, and how did you get out of them?
I mentioned 'machine readable' earlier. If you produce and maintain your maps using a tool like CMaps (a concept mapping tool) you can add in the relationships between the concepts on your map. So, for instance, the notes you have access to on integration could be linked to the concept Integration with a 'explains how to' link. If you share maps produced this way on a web space somewhere (our uni provides web space for its students), you can put in links to other people's maps. So someone else's map can become a resource on yours (although you might want to make sure they keep that version, and put updated ones elsewhere, in case they change it to the extent that you no longer find it useful). You will probably also find that you can usefully link your own maps together.
At some point, we should be able to start making tools which can interrogate the maps to help find where there are gaps in understanding, and give recommendation on how to fill them. This could be material which someone else has highlighted in their map, or a person, or a particular training programme which can help you get from one stepping stone to another.
Of course, maintaining this map may take up a bit of time - but would you set out to cross the Atlantic in a dinghy without at least making sure you knew where you were setting out from, and that you had the supplies and navigation tools to help you get there?