Ongoing learning is key to future proofing yourself and your career. It enables you to stay up to date and might even differentiate you from another job applicant. Pause for a moment now and ask yourself:
- What new article have I read recently that gave me fresh insights?
- Listened to any interesting podcasts?
- Attended a talk, event or conference?
- Completed a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)?
- Shared your learnings with connections via a LinkedIn article or blogpost, to help them?
Hopefully you’ll all be responding with thumbs up to these questions, but if you’re not and work / life / family…whatever, has got in the way of your learning then let’s change that now. When I’m coaching I often find myself suggesting that clients could take a course to develop their skills or interests, build their confidence and add this evidence of proactive learning to their CVs and LinkedIn profiles. I’m always looking for easy, free ways to learn so have been recommending Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs as they are known for a while now. Occurred to me that I should try a few out myself, “test drive” them for you and then share my learnings.
Bit of background first. MOOCs were developed about 10 years ago by a number of international universities capitalising on developments in online technology as a way of offering low cost interactive courses to large global audiences. Frequently they offer a greater learning experience than traditional face to face training. MOOCs are often completed over a relatively short period of time (6-8 weeks), many with flexible start dates. Coursera, one provider that partners with universities, offers over 2000 courses in over 20 languages and to date more than 4 million individuals have enrolled.
So, where to start? If you’re job searching, seek feedback about whether you have any skills gaps that could be filled with a MOOC. You’ll find ones on soft skills such as coaching, mentoring and leadership as well as technical ones for updating your IT, finance or business management skills. Use Class Central’s search engine to find the right MOOC for you and read reviews there from other MOOC takers.
Alternatively consider what you are interested in…what would you like to find out about? What didn’t you get the chance to study at school or university? Psychology? Archaeology? Astrophysics? I put all these search terms into Class Central and came out with lots of options for you! My sons during the summer even did some “MOOCing” with one following Global History (Coursera) and the other Maths Puzzles (FutureLearn). All good practice for independent learning as well as useful to include in university applications and CVs.
My own personal search took me to “Learning how to learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects” offered via Coursera, with 2253 x 5-star ratings! My thinking was that this would be a useful starting MOOC to progress onto trickier material going forward like Astrophysics (?!) and I also thought it might provide learning tools which I could share with my two teenage sons as well as with you.
The MOOC is delivered via a series of pre-recorded animated videos – most no longer than 10 minutes each – featuring, in the main, my new academic hero Professor Barbara Oakley. In between, there are mini-quizzes to reinforce learning, reflective exercises as well as an online forum to interact with a global cohort of participants. I loved it! Why? Mostly because of Prof Oakley, or Barb, as she calls herself in her videos. She has the most engaging style and you genuinely feel she is sharing her top learning tips with you alone. She’s a polymath – former linguist in Russian with the US military turned Engineering Professor who then morphed into a MOOC creator. She is very open about her learning journey and its challenges which is why this MOOC feels rooted in practical advice as well as scientific and theoretical insights. It also starts and ends with jolly jingles of “Cheery Greetings” as well as a weekly email of suggested great related reading.
Don’t want to give too much away about the content in case you take “Learning how to Learn” but here are a few of the key nuggets:
- Tools to tackle procrastination – one of the key things that gets in the way of learning. Buy yourself a Tomato timer (I have..), set it for 25 minutes and try the Pomodoro (Tomato) Technique http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/the-pomodoro-technique-is-it-right-for-you.html
- How to use Metaphors, Analogies and Visual prompts to help remember challenging ideas or include them in training material you are delivering
- Create new brain neurons via exercise, doing something difficult every day (brush your teeth with your opposite hand for instance).
- Focus on practicing the hardest parts of what you’re learning and use mini-tests to avoid the assumption that you know something just because you’ve read the article or book
- Shift from focused (deep concentration) to diffused thinking modes regularly throughout the day. Factor in time when your brain can relax – do something totally different – and you’ll find yourself being more creative, making links you hadn’t seen when you return to focus mode
In her more recent MOOC, “Mindshift: Break through Obstacles to learning and Discover your Hidden Potential” (902 x 5-star ratings via Coursera), which I’ve also completed because I just wanted to learn more from “Barb” we actually see her learning her art of MOOC delivery. More sophisticated graphics now and loads of relevant material for career management and job searchers. Let’s make that the topic of the next of these articles!
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