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Last Updated on December 22, 2020

How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way Possible

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How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way Possible

The world of work is changing rapidly when it comes to professional development. It’s common for professionals to be expected to do more with fewer resources. This is why it’s so important to be able to learn at work in a way that is efficient and effective, as it will help you avoid stress and overwhelm.

At work, especially when starting a new job, not only do you need to perform tasks on hand, but you also need to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge to sustain your career, advance, and improve your work performance. When you feel too busy to upgrade your skills, how do you make time to learn at work?

Continuous learning impacts your employability. It is essential to show employers your willingness to stay updated or even ahead of trends in your work life. Your ability to think critically, be agile from learning, and consistently apply what you learn is critical in a constantly changing economy.

In this article, you will discover how to learn at work effectively.

1. Identify Your Learning Goals

Here are a few questions to help you think about your learning goals:

  • Why do you want to learn?
  • What do you want to learn?
  • What knowledge or skills can help advance your career?
  • What knowledge or skills can help enhance your work performance?
  • What do you need in order to grow in your career and as a person?

Consider feedback or comments from your peers, managers, and stakeholders. There is no limit to what you can learn. The learning can range from technical skills to interpersonal skills.

2. Take Concrete Action

You need to take control. If you’re not invested in your own learning, no one else will be. This means you’ll need to take steps to realize your learning.

Taking action comes in different forms for different learners. For example, asking your manager to be considered for a project or seeking advice from your mentor can be good steps.

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People learn more when they take the initiative. When you show others that you’re a continuous and willing learner, they will likely see your growth and be more likely to invest their time and resources in you.

3. Make Learning a Habit

Set realistic and achievable learning goals. Select one to a maximum of three learning goals.

Commit to your goal like you would to eating healthy foods or exercise. You may want to find an accountability partner or inform your manager so that you have a supportive network to keep you on track for each learning opportunity.

Take a look at this article and learn how to do so: How to Develop a Lifelong Learning Habit

4. Budget Time to Learn at Work

You need to make a conscious effort to learn at work. This means intentionally making time and space to do so.

Make sure that you learn in bite-sized pieces so that it’s sustainable over the long-run. This could mean blocking off 15 minutes daily in your calendar or whatever suits your learning style. For example, if you learn one new word daily, you will learn 365 words in a year.

We all know that life happens, and you may feel too busy to learn. However, by being mindful of why learning is important to you and making it a priority in your calendar, you are reminded to turn a learning habit into a routine.

5. Learn on-the-Job

A common perception is that the majority of learning happens in the classroom. However, 30 years of research in leadership development has proven that 70% of learning happens on-the-job. Here’s the breakdown of effective leadership development learning experiences:[1]

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  • 70% challenging assignments
  • 20% developmental relationships
  • 10% course work

The 70-20-10 Rule for Leadership Development & Learning

    Here are 7 specific ways to learn on-the-job:

    Stretch Assignments

    Once you’ve identified your learning objective, you can find stretch assignments or projects that can facilitate your learning.

    For example, if you’ve identified that building relationships is a skill that you’d like to enhance, you may want to seek projects that involve multiple stakeholders.

    Create New Experiences

    Whatever knowledge base you’re trying to expand, try to get out of your routine and find new experiences related to your learning goal. Sometimes, in order for you to learn at work, you’ll need to create new experiences.

    Review the strategic direction of your organization for development ideas. New experiences can entail activities such as new client opportunities, more cross-functional partnerships, job shadowing, job rotations, or volunteer work.

    Learn From Others

    Learning from others is a simple and easy way to pick up quick tips.

    Heighten Your Observation Skills

    The next time you’re sitting in a meeting, what do you notice about the presenter? What do you see in their body language? What do you notice about the participants in the meeting? What lessons did you learn from the meeting that you can apply the next time you run one?

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    Observe Someone Who Inspires You

    Maybe this person is an effective project developer or seems to navigate workplace conflict with ease. What is it about this person that inspires you? What leadership behaviors does this person show, and how do they act on a daily basis?

    Learn From Your Manager

    We’ve all had managers that were remarkable and those that are unforgivable. What qualities do you want to exhibit? What qualities are better left behind?

    Learn From Your Peers

    Notice the strengths of every peer on your team. What do they do well? How do they contribute to the team?

    Ask Questions

    There is a lot to learn in any organization. Learn at work by being curious and asking questions.

    When you ask questions, you are clarifying and seeking to better understand the situation and people involved. The information you gather expands your mind and knowledge base.

    Try asking more open-ended questions so that you can get a more descriptive narrative from the other party.

    Find a Mentor or Trusted Advisor

    We all need someone who we can talk things out with in order to learn at work. A mentor or trusted advisor can provide you with a safe space to express your feelings without being judged.

    Be very specific about what you need from your mentor: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

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    What efforts have you made to enhance your knowledge and skills? Share with your mentor the actions you have taken. This is a great starting point to show your mentor that you have experimented with a few options and would now like to have a discussion on how to move forward. This approach will likely be better received than just asking your mentor for advice.

    Remember that your mentor’s time is valuable. Show him/her that you have invested in yourself and tried to make improvements on your own first.

    Get Support

    Let your manager know that you welcome opportunities for learning. S/he will likely have exposure to on-the-job opportunities that are aligned with your learning needs and the organization’s goals.

    Keeping them updated on your learning progress can also support your performance goals. This will give you an opportunity to tweak your learning goals based on your career aspirations and their observations of your performance.

    Ask to be Introduced to New a Colleague

    Building positive relationships across the organization can help increase your cross-functional knowledge and learn at work.

    Speaking with people outside of your department can help you better understand different perspectives as you work towards team and organizational goals. Furthermore, employers recognize collaboration as a key skill to build organizational capacity and influence without authority.

    The Bottom Line

    You need to be very intentional about your own learning.

    The most effective way to learn at work is on-the-job. This means you need to identify your learning goals, create a learning habit, and identify on-the-job experiences that will effectively facilitate your learning.

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    No one can take knowledge away from you. It’s in your own interest to continue to grow and develop yourself. Learn with a beginner’s mindset, stay curious, and keep your assumptions at bay to gain new perspectives.

    More to Help You Learn at Work

    Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Center for Creative Leadership: The 70-20-10 Rule for Leadership Development

    More by this author

    Ami Au-Yeung

    Workplace Strategist | Career Coach | Workshop Facilitator | Writer | Speaker | Past Business Professor

    Is People Management the Right Career Path for You? Signs You Need a Career Change at 30 (And How to Make It Successful) How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way Possible 9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career How to Recon Like a “Spy” to Manage Conflicts in the Workplace

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    Last Updated on August 11, 2021

    23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

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    23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

    Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless. Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent, free online education awaits on the following 23 sites.

    1. Coursera

    Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

    Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

    Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups. However, the free courses are now quite limited, so you’ll have to

    2. Khan Academy

    Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well-organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

    Among the more well-known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly user-friendly, which may make it easier to keep learning goals. If you’re looking for a free online education, you can’t go wrong with Khan Academy.

    3. Open Culture Online Courses

    If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos, and podcasts from universities around the world.

    The site features a lot of material found only on universities’ private sites, all in easy-to-browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses without having to visit and search each university’s site.

    Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales, and many state universities around the United States. It’s a very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

    4. Udemy 

    Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

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    Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top-quality content. This is another site, however, that mixes free and paid content.

    5. Lifehack Fast Track Class

    Lifehack believes in skills that multiply your time, energy, and overall quality of life.

    In this rapidly changing world, traditional education skills just don’t cut it anymore. You can’t afford to take years learning a skill you’ll never really practice. Besides offering some paid courses that will help you become a better self, it offers a list of free courses which aim to train some of the Core Life Multipliers including:

    These are cross-functional skills that work across many aspects of life.

    6. Academic Earth

    Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

    Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

    7. edX

    Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics from universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley, meaning a high-quality, free online education is entirely possible here.

    8. Alison

    Unlike the previous sites on this list, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

    It’s a great option if users need a professional certificate for their learning, as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

    9. iTunesU Free Courses

    A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

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    Desktop users can access iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

    Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including by genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos and paid content.

    iTunesU does include courses on a variety of topics, but it does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

    10. Stanford Online

    Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session-based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

    Stanford Online is a great site for high-quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school. If you’re looking for free courses, make sure to mark the “free” option on the left-hand side.

    11. Open Yale Courses

    Open Yale Courses echoes Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses but learn better by watching than by reading.

    12. UC Berkeley Class Central

    Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but it includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts, and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

    13. MIT OpenCourseWare

    Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, and it includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

    14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

    Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list. However, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics, but for the topics that are covered, impressive, in-depth material is available.

    15. Codecademy

    Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

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    The courses at Codecademy are well-written and easy to follow, and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, and it organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

    16. Code

    Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high-quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

    In addition to kid-friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics, and Javascript.

    Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

    17. University of Oxford Podcasts

    The University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

    The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. This is another great site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

    18. BBC Podcasts

    For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

    Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

    19. TED-Ed

    Another great destination for more general learning and free online education is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all-encompassing, motivational web series comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

    Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, but it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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    20. LessonPaths

    LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high-quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

    21. Memrise

    Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

    Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

    22. National Geographic Kids

    The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid-friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keep kids interested on this site.

    National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

    23. Fun Brain

    Fun Brain is another great option for kids looking for free online education, as it focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game-based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

    Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and it is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

    The Bottom Line

    With so many amazing free online education resources, everyone has the ability to boost their skills and knowledge. Whether you’re interested in picking up some interesting trivia for your next party, improve your resume with some coding or business skills, or become a more well-rounded person, these resources are perfect for you.

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