We are lucky to live in a time where we have access to so much information. Any time we’re curious about something, we can just type it into a phone or computer and we have more answers than we have time to read. We don’t even need to type it in thanks to Alexa, Siri and Google. There are so many courses, books, videos and podcasts available that we could be acquiring knowledge every minute of every day. But, what’s the difference between consuming all this content and actually learning?
Learning should be deliberate
In the context of language, acquisition is unconscious. We acquire our mother tongue without making the effort to learn it. We hear how our parents or caregivers speak and model our speech on that. Learning a language on the other hand is very deliberate. We consciously learn words, phrases, verbs and tenses, often through repetition. It’s the same in other contexts as well. We can acquire knowledge just by having a podcast on in the background or half-listening to a webinar whilst replying to emails. However, for real learning to take place, we need to be more deliberate about it.
Set a Purpose
Before learning anything, it is useful to define your purpose. What is it specifically that you’d like to learn and to what extent do you need to understand it or be able to do something? If you need help with this, read this blog post. Why do you want to learn about that topic? Knowing why you’re learning will help to keep you motivated and help you avoid any rabbit holes.
Some other useful questions to ask yourself before you start learning are:
Why did I choose this course / resource?
When do I want to finish it?
When will I work on it? Where?
What other support or materials do I need?
What might stop me?
How will I stay motivated to keep learning?
As you progress through your learning plan, make plenty of notes. Keep asking questions and note them down as you think of them. Note down the answers as you find out or make time at the end of each section to research your outstanding questions. You might find this micro-course useful for learning how to learn.
After you’ve worked through the course or your learning plan, take time to reflect on what you learned. Don’t just file your notes away in a drawer! Spend some time thinking about what the most interesting or useful elements of the course were. How will you make sure you remember what you’ve learned? How will you make sure you apply what you’ve learned? Also take some time to review the material that you used. What did you like about it? What would have made it better? This will help you make better decisions when it comes to choosing courses or resources next time.
If you’re guilty of consuming content without really learning it, you might enjoy this free micro-course which walks you through how to learn more effectively.