For Teachers

Speed Reading Techniques to Improve Online Learning

By The Room 241 Team October 31, 2012

Have you ever thought about improving your reading speed and comprehension to enhance your online learning experience? Many working teachers enrolled in a master of education degree program have discovered that enhancing reading and study habits can bolster the quality of their coursework, increase their GPA and help them study more efficiently.

Several speed-reading and comprehension programs are available via software packages, book or manuals, and online or in-class seminars. While research shows that the average adult reads at a rate of about 250 words per minute with 70 percent comprehension, speed-reading programs promise a realistic rate increase to 500 WPM with better comprehension. (It’s interesting to note that the fastest readers claim to read at 1,000-2,000 WPM with over 50 percent comprehension!)

What is ‘speed-reading?’

From early military research in the 1940s and the use of the tachistoscope machine to improve word identification, to the “Reading Dynamics” course created by Evelyn Wood in the late 1950s, the concept of speed reading has evolved into a valid discipline for aiding student performance. Today’s software and online programs emphasize rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) techniques for more efficient eye movement and focus. Dozens of books online offer diverse methods for improving reading ability and study habits.

Identifying slow reading habits

These common habits often prevent reading efficiency:

  • Sub-vocalization: This means pronouncing words as you read them, which takes extra time and detracts from overall reading speed.
  • Reading word-by-word: This can slow your comprehension of concepts and is less efficient than “chunking” words together into blocks of ideas.
  • Slow or inefficient eye motion: This is typical for those who tend to read word-by-word. The eye of the average reader can “see” about 1.5 inches at a time, which normally encompasses several words at once.
  • Regression, or needless rereading of material: This interrupts the flow of the passage you’re reading and reduces your comprehension.
  • Poor concentration: This is a common problem in this age of multitasking.

Practice techniques to improve reading speed

Try a few of these acknowledged methods for building your reading speed and comprehension:

  • Avoid vocalizing: Work on not saying or pronouncing words as you read them.
  • Bunch it up: Try to read chunks or phrases of words at a time, rather than word-by-word.
  • Take it easy: “Soften” your gaze and relax your eyes so that you expand your focus point to take in more words at once.
  • Scan for key words: Practice skimming to identify the most salient points of a sentence, paragraph or page; this can reduce overall comprehension, but it allows you to focus on the most relevant information.
  • Zero in: Improve your concentration by eliminating distractions; this is probably the simplest yet most effective tool for improving your reading skills.

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