For a long while I’ve been an advocate of individuals taking responsibility for their own learning and not leaving this to the discretion of their employer.

The Internet is the biggest global free university, with online accelerated learning and a wealth of free e-courses at your fingertips, many of which offer high-end value content and teaching. Over the last few years we’ve seen a rapid rise and return to learning the old crafts. Subjects like knitting, crafts and weaving are returning to mainstream programmes in our universities and colleges. Online personal development courses are on tap as experts offer free online courses as a way of engaging you with what other courses they have to sell. If you want to become a more inspired learner in 2015 then you’ll need to set aside a bit of time to research courses and learning experiences as well as scheduling time in your diary to do any work associated with the learning.

Begin by clarifying your learning objectives prior to the start of any learning experience, whether formal or informal. What are you hoping to achieve?

Begin by clarifying your learning objectives prior to the start of any learning experience, whether formal or informal. What are you hoping to achieve? What will you learn to do differently? What will the experience reaffirm? Where and how will you record your lessons, insights and capture questions or queries about the experience? At the end of the course, workshop or learning opportunity reflect back and assess the experience. What did you learn? What impact or difference did it make? What actions are you now committed to doing? What do you need to know more about? On most courses the things most people comment on are the connections they’ve made. What connections did you make that you’d like to follow up? Once you’re clear on your learning expectations, be aware that not all your expectations will be met. If you’ve signed up for a public, in-person programme remember that other course participants will be at different learning points and have a range of different expectations and learning modalities. Consider your personal conduct. At a recent public author reading event a woman stormed out halfway through the interview shouting that she hadn’t come to listen to the interviewer but the author. It got me thinking about how supply far outweighs demand and that as consumers we have become more picky and volatile about our expected learning experiences. Our personal demeanor and attitude impacts on the quality of our learning experiences. Here are five tips to improve any learning experience:

  • Think about what personally contributes to a positive learning experience for you
  • What do you need to clear so you can be prepared, present and focused?
  • What’s your responsibility for ensuring you get the most from the learning?
  • What is your personal code of ethics for your personal conduct and behaviour?
  • Do your learning expectations match what is on offer?

Don’t expect to be spoon-fed. You will be disappointed. Modern society today has been socialized into the culture of the expert; of expecting to sit back and be told what to do. We have high expectations of becoming the expert quickly and therefore we bypass making valuable mistakes and learning through experience. I believe the best learning occurs when we give ourselves over to the learning experience, when we get curious, when we are willing to suspend judgment and remain open to what might interest us and hook us in. It makes sense to be better prepared as a learner so you can best maximize and reap the rewards of your investments in your learning experiences in 2015 with the knowledge that learning impacts positively on self-esteem, self-confidence and your overall well-being.