Study Tips

How to Learn and Thrive with Osmosis

Osmosis Team
Published on Jun 30, 2022. Updated on Jun 30, 2022.

Learning is a word that is often used in routine discussions in a teaching environment. But learning comes with many definitions.

As Osmosis comes with a mission to empower the world’s clinicians and caregivers with the best learning experience possible, we define learning as the knowledge that will transform you as an individual.

To dive deeper into this topic, Omer, a fifth-year medical student, and Dr. Sean Tackett from John Hopkins University were part of a Q&A webinar event that defined learning. During the event, Omer and Sean offered the best tips on how to go about learning with Osmosis.

We’ve transformed the webinar into an easy-to-read FAQ-style blog.

Here are the questions:

What is learning?

Learning is not necessarily a straightforward process. Depending on the person and their experience, learning can come with many definitions. At Osmosis, we define learning as a set of skills, knowledge, and attitudes that generally change an individual.

As health professionals, learning is about doing your best in carrying out patient service. Everything that you do should lead to better healthcare. So, if learning is about doing the best you can, how do you do that?

The first step is to try something new and exciting.

This way, you won't have to keep doing the same thing over and over again. It's the best way to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Once you've found this new thing, reflect on it so you'll know the best ways to improve.

What are the different methods of learning?

Learning is not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are those who learn by reading books, others by watching videos, and some by listening to audio.

In this aspect, it's important to go for what works best for you because learning comes with its fair share of challenges. It helps to practice what you know, be proactive in seeking feedback, and find ways to better yourself.

Where does learning start, and where does it end?

If you've been trying to figure out where learning starts and where it ends, we are here to help you decipher that. We found out that learning starts in your sensory memory. Remember, our direct responses occur because of what we sense.

For instance, if you're comfortably sitting in a chair, you're taking in the environment around you. If someone suddenly taps you on the shoulder, you'll automatically turn around to find out who it is. In other words, you're sensing these things.

Once you pay attention to your sensory information, it will go into your working memory. Your working memory is the small amount of information that is held in the mind and helps in executing cognitive tasks.

Osmosis text saying: You don't want to stretch yourself out, but it does need to be somewhat difficult.

How does your memory boost learning?

Your working memory is limited because it can only hold a certain amount of information at a time. When a massive amount of information is dumped on you at once, you'll not retain it all. Granted, you may remember some of it, but a majority of the information will be long gone.

But when you retain things in your working memory, you'll hang on and even manipulate them in a way that suits you. There's nothing wrong with that. There will be an exchange between what is in your working memory and what will end up in your long-term memory.

Once things end up in your long-term memory, it will take you a while to remember. You generally do not retrieve this information that's tucked away all the time, but you know that it's there.


As you work in healthcare, you'll have different experiences, some of which end up in your long-term memory. This knowledge will help you make better decisions when caring for your patients.

What is the notion of transfer, and what does it have to do with learning?

The notion of transfer is the process of applying what you've learned to a new context or situation. As a healthcare worker, you cannot approach every situation in the same way. You'll always need to apply general and unique principles to your patients.

When you do this, you're practicing the notion of transfer. It boils down to greater focus, greater storage, greater retrieval, and greater application.

How does your brain function when learning takes place?

When learning takes place, you'll experience two types of brain circuitry. They include:

  • Focus task: This happens when you're paying attention and are well-aware of what you're doing.
  • Default mode: This takes place when you're not focused. Usually, you're daydreaming and the "electricity" in your brain flows in a totally different way. 

But in between focus task and default mode are spontaneous thoughts that result from creative thinking. During these moments, you may not have any control whatsoever. In reality, you can't be creative if you're spending all your time thinking of your goals. You'll need to set your mind free to tap into its creative side.

What are the most important evidence-based learning tips?

These are the most important evidence-based learning tips:

  • Testing: Testing comes after you've tried to learn something. It leads to a better learning and understanding experience. According to scientific research studies, testing increases learning. It also shows evidence of what you have learned.
  • Repetition: When combined with testing, repetition leads to better learning.
  • Interleaving: This is the process of grouping everything that you've learned together. In this case, it will be theory, testing, and repeating both of these acts to get better results. In other words, interleaving is mixing up different subjects. It is taking the knowledge that you have and elaborating it. Ideally, real-life examples will allow you to turn a complex concept into pointers that are easy to understand.

Is learning difficult?

Someone once said, "No pain, no gain." Learning is a desirable process. So, if it's feeling uncomfortable and you don't look forward to your next lesson, then you're not getting much out of it.

It's all about stretching yourself out so you can retain as much as you can. It's about excitement; the possibility of trying new things, and being a little uncomfortable in a good way.

You'll fail at learning sometimes but will excel at the end when you put in the right effort. There are times when you'll want to rest, but this doesn't mean that you're not learning anymore. Learning also takes place when you're resting.

Essentially, this means that learning doesn't happen in a fixed period. Always leave time for rest as you cannot study all the time.

How do you use evidence-based learning tips in daily practices?

The best way is to create a learning schedule, revise, and then rest while digesting what you've learned. It doesn't matter how complicated your learning subject is, find time to pause, take a break, and replenish your energy. Rest is another step to learning.

As an Osmosis Prime member, you'll choose your appropriate subjects. It's best to create a weekly or monthly schedule. Interleaving will work well here. Once this is done, go over your syllabus so you'll know what to expect in the long run.

Osmosis illustration of a medical student with study schedule, flashcards and a computer in the back.

This way, you'll know how long your syllabus will run for and the topics that you'll cover. There are many ways to create your schedule.

For instance, Microsoft Excel works best if you prefer a virtual point of reference. You can even print the schedule out if you'd like to put it up on your wall. If a group of friends wants to share the syllabus, simply turn on the sharing options so everyone can take a peek.

What are some important learning techniques?

Drawing out stuff may seem overrated, but it's a good way to learn. Drawing out what you see will give you a better understanding of the subject matter. It's a great way to memorize places and events.

Flashcards also come in handy in the learning process. They carry quizzes that have an estimated completion timeframe. This will sharpen your thinking. Even better is the fact that you can complete the questions in half the estimated time. This leaves you with sufficient time to do other things during the day.

Osmosis also provides videos that are a great learning resource. Whenever you watch a video, you're bound to learn something.

For instance, if patient care is your subject matter, you'll learn everything about it in a single video or one that is divided into short sub-sections. But as with the learning process, you may understand, then forget, and you'll need to watch the video again to remember. This is a normal part of the learning process.

Finally, jotting down notes is also a great way to learn and remember. When your notes are in summary form, then it's easy to go through them whenever you need to.

Do good discussions help the learning process?

The answer to this is YES.

When other people are involved, they make the process fun and easy. Studying in groups with other students, colleagues, and faculty will go a long way in helping you remember. In these study settings, don't be afraid to get the answer wrong as you cannot always be right every time.

When you say what you're thinking out loud, then you'll always remember the correction that was made. This is equally a great way to learn. You'll also get some helpful tips from your group mates as they will most likely share the techniques that they use to get the answers right.

Listening to others also plays a significant role in the learning process. Most importantly, keep your learning techniques simple. Do not invest in 20-step learning techniques; make things as easy as getting to the point in three simple steps.

Is there a way to create a connection for all the information that you're gathering?

It's expected that you've come across a whole lot of medical facts and information over the years. To make understanding easier, you'll want to bring all the information that you learn together under one roof.

The best way to do this is to be patient; this kind of learning takes time. As there is a lot of information, connecting the dots will take time. Usually, the opportunities to correlate all your information come in the form of case-based type of questions that may describe a pattern that brings together similar thoughts, such as vital signs and how to conduct physical exams.

These signs and processes may be similar for a number of conditions. You know what they say, practice makes perfect. The more you learn, the easier it will be to arrive at these conclusions.

How can Osmosis help you with learning?

Within your Osmosis account, you'll come across different learning subsections that will make the process generally easy. First, click on the events page and scroll through it. You'll come across a number of study schedules as well as a workspace that will make studying easier.

The best way to use Osmosis study schedules is to first set your goal. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish once your study session is over. For instance, if you have a short-term goal like studying to pass your exams, then you should be studying towards it and using resources that will help you accomplish this.

Other times, you may have long-term learning goals; in this case, broad reading and interleaving are the way to go.

Knowing your goals is the best way to come up with an effective learning strategy. It will also point you to the right resources. Needless to say, finding and choosing the right resources is a challenge in itself. Therefore, having a learning goal will always point you in the right direction.

Summary

There you go! That's everything you need to know about learning—the Osmosis way! Learning is deeper than memorizing and good recall. It's about deep understanding, relating different ideas, and making connections between new and prior knowledge.

It also involves critical thinking, so you can transfer this knowledge in different contexts. This way, you'll never forget what you learn, not because you memorized it, but because you gained a deeper understanding of it. As a medical student, learning will always take place in your environment.

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Are you a current or future clinician who wants to focus, learn, retain, and thrive? Osmosis is here to help!
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