In 2020 remote learning became a way of life for both students and professionals as we were no longer able to attend the institutions or organisations that we used to attend for formal learning.
As remote work and online learning became a part of life for many, we observed an increased use of online course platforms and learning management systems.
We know that to maintain competitive advantage and competence in a professional context, a commitment to lifelong learning is imperative. Formal, structured learning through face-to-face or online courses is considered a standard component of professional development. Fortunately even in times of lockdown, online education through the likes of Lynda, Udemy and even universities like Harvard has made learning accessible to all — irrespective of distance or other limitations.
Maybe not as much as we think.
In my seven years of university, I retained the most information when I was simultaneously interning, working in the industry or was able to apply in real-time the things I had learnt in lectures or tutorials. Outside of this, the rest of my time at university amounted to little more than a large HECS debt!
Stated plainly by Rubi Ho in an article for Forbes, ‘Learning without application is a waste of time when it comes to company ROI.’
The same is true for online learning. As we explored in our article, The Importance of Experiential Learning and the 70:20:10 Model, without active, concurrent application of knowledge (through the completion of daily tasks, resolving issues, regular practice), the courses we take and things we learn will have limited impact or cognitive retention.
So how can we optimise our online learning, apply knowledge from courses and form lifelong habits?
According to Marianne Stenger for Open Colleges, collaborative learning promotes in-course engagement and long-term knowledge retention. Face-to-face courses are of course conducive to collaboration, with interaction between teachers and students, or peer-to-peer collaboration creating an effective and engaging social learning environment.
At times like these when face-to-face courses are replaced with online learning, we can still undertake collaborative learning to enhance our knowledge retention.
Finding a mentor or partner who is undertaking the same training will increase accountability whilst also providing a sounding board to explore ideas and problem solve challenges.
When it is not possible to meet in person, online platforms like myhaventime facilitate remote collaboration and collective learning. myhaventime teams provides a platform for peers to work towards a shared purpose, ideate, collaborate and create.
Cha Tekeli writes for Forbes, “Eighty percent of training dollars are wasted annually when continuity training programs are not put in place. Sustenance coaching helps organizations and employees by giving them the means to develop and support the formation of critical, self-sustaining habits. It takes time to implement what you've learned.”
Consider how you can be your own sustenance coach.
Create an action plan for learning which includes a SMART goal and improvement metrics. This may begin with a brainstorming session of your current position and your learning goal.
For example, your goal may look like: Accomplish Level 3 (professional working proficiency) language proficiency by May 2023 in anticipation of a corporate transfer to Hong Kong.
What are the tangible steps needed to take you from A (no proficiency) to B (professional working proficiency) within two years?
This may include undertaking online language studies through a university or language school and an app like Duolingo. Beyond formal education, plan how you can action your learning through real-life experience. How can you move this language into your daily life (labelling every object in the house, watching foreign films or making friends with foreign speakers)?
Map each step into your personal action plan in order to grow, retain and sustain the knowledge you are learning.
In her article for Open Colleges, Marianne Stenger writes “Another way to facilitate the transfer of learning to new contexts is to use as many different learning media as possible, from text and imagery to video and audio.” She continues, “Research shows that using pictures, narration, and text can help prevent your cognitive resources from becoming overloaded and improve learning transfer.”
With extensive educational resources available to us through the internet, we can diversify and supplement our learnings from formal online courses with mixed media resources.
This could include watching a TED Talk, undertaking an instructional Udemy course, reading journal articles, following the work of thought leaders — anything that pertains to the topic of your course and solidifies your learning experience.
Looking for a place to collate your diverse learning resources? As a mindful mutli-media platform, myhaventime provides a space to store your ideas, resources, experiences and notes, each uploadable in any format.
As we continue to learn remotely and undertake online courses for professional development, we must also find ways to codify and retain this knowledge. Whether we optimise our learning through collaboration, action plans or mixed-media resources, unless we actively apply our learnings through real-time experience, the profusion of learning opportunities will remain untapped. In order to have impactful learning outcomes we must apply our knowledge meaningfully to our work or everyday life.