Learning new skills is tough. Doing it online is even tougher.
Course enrolments globally are at an all time high, but completion rates are still low. What’s going wrong? Why are students not able to focus?
Let’s find out and look at strategies you can use to avoid the traps and become an effective learner.
Have you heard about Leonardo Da Vinci? The guy who painted the Mona Lisa.
Did you know that he’s not only a master artist but also:
What’s crazy is that he never received formal education beyond basic reading, writing and arithmetic, but continued to learn much more himself.
Let’s time travel back to his time, in the late 1400s. No on-demand courses. No Google. No Youtube tutorials. No access to experts with the click of a button. I can imagine learning to be extremely hard, only pursued by the incredibly motivated.
Leonardo was one of them. The ultimate doer and learner. From flying machines and paintings to dissection, his creativity and imagination knew no bounds.
Compare that to a young adult in our generation. We have access to the best resources at our fingertips. Free online courses by the likes of Harvard and Yale, unlimited books on Amazon on almost every subject, and the ability to hire a teacher anywhere in the world.
But we still struggle with learning.
How many online courses are you enrolled in? How many have you finished?
It’s easier to learn in structured institutes like schools or colleges, there are exercises you can follow, teachers who will guide you, and a well-made path from A to Z. The hard part is just showing up to school every day.
Based on our experience studying ourselves and teaching thousands of students, learning gets hard because:
The first step is to understand that Learning happens over time. Leonardo didn’t wake up one morning knowing the entire anatomy of the human body. It took years of experimentation and questioning.
Here are 5 strategies to level up your learning:
Do courses that help you create a tangible outcome.
It could be creating a video or a website, writing a blog post, or building a working portfolio.
Projects enforce learning by doing.
Practising what you're learning helps you retain 75% of the knowledge while just passively consuming video lectures only leads to 5% retention.
Learn and improve on skills you are already pretty good at.
This helps you stay engaged in a course and retain knowledge faster, making you more confident to take on other challenging programs and become an expert in a domain you are already good at.
For example, I know I am a good communicator and presenter but I don’t like working with numbers. So instead of doing a Data Analyst course, I might start to do a public speaking course or a Scrum Master course.
Once I improve my proficiency in communicating, I can move on to learning about data and numbers if my work requires it.
The effectiveness of 1 on 1 learning cannot be challenged. Find a coach or a teacher and take private classes. This is much more effective than doing a self-paced MOOC.
1 on 1 learning can be expensive. But there are tons of cohort-based courses where you can learn alongside a group of committed peers, seek help and grow together.
When you start learning, not having specific deadlines can stretch the learning process further on. Studying alone can also feel dreadful at times and you are more likely to skip classes or miss your streak.
Having self-imposed deadlines and penalties for missing the deadline can help immensely. I also suggest having a study buddy. You may be learning different things but it helps to track how you are doing and keep yourself motivated.
Many years ago, I was asked to be the technical co-founder for a startup my friends and I wanted to start. At the time, I didn’t really know how to code. We were in an accelerator, so every Monday we met up with our ‘coach’ who would basically check in on our startup and see what our plan was. I told him and my team, that I would learn to code and build a demo by the next coaching session (which was in 1 week's time). I really respected our coach and honestly, part of me made that promise because I knew I didn’t want to let him down.
That weekend I locked myself in a room, finished an entire ‘Full Stack Development’ program on Udemy and then started building a really crude prototype of our platform. By the end of that week, it wasn’t perfect but I had something and it worked.
Creating that deadline and having that accountability buddy (my co-founders and the coach) really helped me push through. In hindsight, it was probably way too short of a timeframe and stressful but it goes to show the power accountability can have for learning.
- Ajay Prakash, EntryLevel CEO and Founder
One of the most effective ways of retaining what you learn is teaching others. Find excuses to teach others whenever you can.
How do you teach if you’re still a beginner?
Simple, find someone who is even junior to you in that field and teach them. You can organize a free webinar or seminar, record tutorials for YouTube or answer technical questions in public forums.
When learning a new domain, don’t worry if you feel stupid. Be honest about what you know and ask a lot of questions, however basic they might seem.
Leonardo had other not-so-famous paintings before he created the Mona Lisa. Michael Jordan did not become a champion instantly, he spent many years training hard for it.
You know how to become a better learner now. Go get started!
Did you learn a new strategy today? What's a strategy that has drastically improved your ability to learn? Let us know in the comments on this LinkedIn post.
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