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Published on January 6, 2020

How to Educate Yourself and Be an Effective Self-Learner

How to Educate Yourself and Be an Effective Self-Learner

Innovation and automation are everywhere in the many industries of the world. It’s a wonder watching it but, with it stems some problems with more and more people being replaced with robots and having to re-train or enter another field.

In order for people to do those things, most people often turn to go back to school rather than considering other options. While going back to school could be helpful, you can always consider learning how to educate yourself instead.

Maybe a long time ago that option wasn’t a reality, but with good quality information and other factors, educating yourself now is well worth considering. Even if you’re not in the market for a new job.

What Does It Mean to Educate Yourself?

What it means to educate yourself is a matter of having a series of habits that promote how to educate yourself. Going into finer details, these habits comprise of a system to help you stay up on relevant topics that you are passionate about.

As I mentioned earlier, this method has only sprung up in recent years as a valid option. The reason that’s the case was that information wasn’t readily available. Several decades ago, our information came from newspapers, radio, and television.

But now, information is being created every single day by the thousands through blog posts run by professionals or large businesses.

The quality of the information and the quantity of it has increased thanks to the Internet and further expansion of it. It’s to the point what it means to educate yourself is leveraging the information on the Internet.

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Can You Self-Educate without Going to College?

Since the internet is the best way to gather information, it’s totally possible to self-educate ourselves without going to college. Here are some ways to start off:

1. Stay Current on Industry News

Not just the news of the industry you’re in, but also in other areas you have an interest in.

As I said, the industries are changing because there is always something happening. One way on how to educate yourself is being aware of what’s going on in the industry.

The only thing to keep in mind with this is there are many ways to stay caught up in the industry. You don’t need to pay for subscriptions to several papers or magazines to stay caught up. Turn to social media and search for relevant hashtags or keywords, or sign up to news outlets mailing lists. There are plenty of free options.

2. Sign Up for Online Courses

Information has become so abundant that there are all kinds of courses available. Online learning is also a really effective way to learn these days. Some options you can turn to are sites like Udemy or Skillshare which have thousands of courses available. Here’re more sites for self-learning: 25 Killer Sites For Online Education

Some universities have even opened up courses online for free. One example of a site providing that is edX which has courses from MIT, Harvard, Berkeley University and others. And at Lifehack, we offer some free classes too.

3. Get a Mentor

Every industry has skilled individuals who are willing to teach others. Backed by years of experience in the field, they can pass down valuable lessons that no other classroom could teach you.

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This is another strong method because a mentor is likely to stay ahead of the curve. Their years of experience and understanding of the industry can lead to more specific advice. After all, traditional colleges and universities tend to focus on widespread information rather than what you really need to know.

A mentor is another way to get a personalized experience. Here’re some tips on finding a mentor that suits you: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

4. Take Up an Arts Class

While some people think that arts of any sort are a waste of time or a joke, it’s worth considering it seriously these days.

Recall that innovation stems from people’s ability to look at a problem and create creative solutions. Don’t you think that requires some creative thinking?

While you might not want to be an industry trendsetter, being artsy or creative can provide other benefits. Benefits that come to mind are:

  • You can do this solo. Done by yourself and taught by yourself has perks to it.
  • It is cheap to do. Want to be a better writer? Open up a document on your computer and start typing. You can do the same with any other device as well. Even if you’re looking to draw or paint art supplies aren’t that costly and you can pace yourself as much as you’d like.
  • You could meet other people. There are other writers, artists, singers and more in your town. It’s a matter of looking around for them.
  • You will learn new skills. All of these mediums provide various skills when you look at them. Not only that but you can also learn about yourself through this medium too.

5. Start Journalling

Even if the art stuff isn’t something you’re keen on, I’d at least suggest taking up journaling. Specifically journalling for the sake of reflecting.

This doesn’t mean you have to journal about your day, but rather focus on the information that you learned that day — personal or otherwise. This is important because information only stays as relevant to us as long as we recall it and retain that information.

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With this in mind, you can use the journal to jot down big lessons that day, quotes, or other little tidbits of information you want to remember. After that, be sure to check that journal once a week to go over what you’ve learned.

Try one of these 15 Inspiring Journal Ideas to Kickstart Journaling.

6. Always Be Looking Stuff Up

Google and Wikipedia are powerful sources of information. Make a point of using it every day at some capacity, especially if you’ve got a smartphone or you’re around a computer.

One other alternative to look at is bringing a dictionary or encyclopedia with you. The idea with this is to look up a new word and try to make a reference of it over the course of the day.

How to Learn Effectively as a Self-Learner

It’s one thing to know how to educate yourself but it’s another to be effective at it. Some strategies can be focusing on one of the activities above and spending only 15 minutes a day on that. However, there are other methods to consider to be an effective self-learner.

Use the Sandbox Method

The first method I’ll suggest is the Sandbox Method.[1] It’s an ongoing process for self-education and is based on how we learn and process information.

This method recognizes that we don’t always need to memorize facts, formulas, or other specific bits of information. Instead, the method helps us to develop a deep understanding of the skills we’re using and expose ourselves to a lot of information around that topic. We can then use that information to improve ourselves and to encourage further learning.

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Here is a breakdown of the method:

  1. Build the sandbox. What this means is determining where you’re getting the information, and what the information is about. Your sandbox by the end should be cheap or free to do, have low-stakes, and have some public element to it.
  2. Do the research. Start off with how-to’s and general information about the area you are learning. These get you to practicing your skills which give us a better grasp of the topic.
  3. Implement and practice. Once you’ve done the skill on your own, the next thing is to make it more public. For example, if you are wanting to learn how to bake, start baking goods for guests or for a party.
  4. Get feedback. Once you’ve done something, go back and do some more research. Keep filling in gaps of knowledge. Create your feedback loop. Maybe there is a better method to baking a pie? Or perhaps your form was off when lifting weights? Whatever the case is, you want to be certain you’re doing it right or finding ways to improve your current performance.

Take Up These Learning Habits

While the sandbox method is a great method, there are other alternatives. Namely strong habits that while alone may do little, but with many can give you a well-rounded learning experience.

Here are some ideas that come to mind:

  • Having a studying environment. You don’t have a classroom, so the next best thing is making a place you frequently go a place of study. It could be a library, a room in your home, or a cafe. Regardless, have a place where you can study and learn with purpose.
  • Highlight information. If you’re the type to buy books or e-books, make use of highlighters. You can also consider other note-taking apps where you can store specific bits of information. Apps like Evernote or OneNote are great for that.
  • Learning from various mediums. There are 7 styles of learning we can use though we prefer only one or two of these methods most. Figure out which ones you like and challenge yourself to learn in a different way.
  • Set goals. To get into learning as a lifestyle, it’s important to keep up the habit. Goals are a good way of staying on track of the habits you want to have.
  • Consider tutoring. Not only can you get paid to tutor people, but this also reinforces things you learn as well. Tutoring is also a way to validate and reassure what you are learning is sticking with you too.

Final Thoughts

Being a self-learner is all about adopting and embracing various methods on how to educate yourself. While going to university are still valid options, the sheer amount of information available allows any person to learn about anything.

So save yourself the massive time and money sink to go to university and consider these habits. These habits can pay off in big ways over time.

More Tips for Self-Learners

Featured photo credit: Cassidy Kelley via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on March 31, 2020

How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?

How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?

One of the biggest realizations I had as a kid is that teaching in school could be hit or miss for students. We all have our own different types of learning styles. Even when I was in study groups, we all had our own ways of uncovering solutions to questions.

It wasn’t only until later in my life did I realize how important it is to know your own learning style. As soon as you know how you learn and the best way to learn, you can better retain information. This information could be crucial to your job, future promotions, and overall excelling in life.

Best of all about this information is that, it’s not hard to figure out what works best for you. There are broad categories of learning styles, so it’s a matter of finding which one we gravitate towards most.

What Are the Types of Learning Styles?

Before we get into the types of learning styles, there’s one thing to know:

We all learn through repetition.

No matter how old you are, studies show that repetition allows us to retain and learn new information.[1] The big question now is what kind of repetition is needed. After all, we all learn and process information differently.

This is where the types of learning styles come in. There are eight in total and there is one or two that we prefer over others. This is important because when reading these learning styles, you’ll feel like you’d prefer a mixture of these styles.

That’s because we do prefer a combination. Though there will be one style that will be more predominate over the others. The key is finding which one it is.

Visual Learning

A visual learner (also known as the spatial learner) excels at deciphering anything visual – typically maps and graphs.

If you are this type of learner, you likely excelled at geometry in math class but struggled with arithmetic and numbers. To this day, you might also struggle with reading and writing to a degree.

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While visual learners are described as “late bloomers,” they are highly imaginative. They also process what they see much faster than what they hear.

Verbal Learning

Verbal learning, on the other hand, is learning through what’s spoken. Verbal learners excel in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Because of that, they are likely the ones to find thrills in tongue twists, word games, and puns.

They also thoroughly enjoy drama, writing, and speech classes. But give them maps, or challenge them to think outside of the box and they’ll struggle a bit.

Logical Learning

Not to be confused with visual learners, these learners are good at math and logic puzzles. Anything involving numbers or other abstract visual information is where they excel.

They can also analyze cause and effect relationships quite well. Part of that is due to their thinking process being linear.

Another big difference is their need to quantify everything. These people love grouping information, creating specific lists, agendas or itineraries.

They also have a love for strategy games and making calculations in their heads.

Auditory Learning

Similar to verbal learning, this type of learning style focuses on sounds on a deeper level. These people think chronologically and excel more in the step-by-step methods. These are likely the people who will watch Youtube videos to learn or do something the most.

These learners also have a great memory of conversations and love debates and discussions. Chances are likely these people excel at anything oral.

Also as the name suggests, these individuals have great musical talents. They can decern notes, instruments, rhythms and tones. That being said, they will have a tough time interpreting body language, expressions and gestures. This also applies to charts, maps and graphs.

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Social Learning

Otherwise known as the interpersonal learner, their skills are really unique. They don’t particularly excel in classrooms but rather through talking to other people.

These are the people who are excited for group conversations or group projects. Mainly because they are gifted with coming up with ideas and discussing them.

They also have a good understanding of people’s emotions, facial expressions, and relationship dynamics. They are also likely the first people to point out the root causes of communication issues.

Intrapersonal Learning

The reverse of interpersonal learning, these people prefer learning alone. These are the people who love self-study and working alone. Typically, intrapersonal learners are deeply in tune with themselves meaning they know who they are, their feelings, and their own capabilities.

This type of learning style means you love learning something on your own and typically every day. You also have innate skills in managing yourself and indulging in self-reflection.

Physical Learning

Also known as kinesthetic learning, these people love doing things with their hands. These are people who loved pottery or shop class. If you’re a physical learner, you’ll find you have a huge preference in using your body in order to learn.

This means not just pottery or shop class you enjoyed. You may also have loved sports or any other art medium like painting or woodwork. Anything that involved you learning through physical manipulation you enjoyed and excelled at.

Though this doesn’t just apply to direct physical activities. A physical learner may also find that they learn well when both reading on any subject and pacing or bouncing your leg at the same time.

Naturalistic Learning

The final learning style is naturalistic. These are people who process information through patterns in nature. They also apply scientific reasoning in order to understand living creatures.

Not many people may be connected to this one out of the types of learning styles primarily because of those facts. Furthermore, those who excel in this learning end up being farmers, naturalists or scientists.

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These are the people who love everything with nature. They appreciate plants, animals, and rural settings deeply compared to others.

How to Know Which One(s) Suit You Better?

So now that you have an idea of all the types of learning styles we have another question:

Which one(s) are best for you?

As a reminder, all of us learn through a combination of these learning styles. This makes pinpointing these styles difficult since our learning is likely a fusion of two or more of those styles.

Fortunately, there are all kinds of methods to narrow down which learner you are. Let’s explore the most popular one: the VARK model.

VARK Model

Developed by Neil Fleming and David Baume, the VARK model is basically a conversation starter for teachers and learners.[2] It takes the eight types of learning styles above and condenses them into four categories:

  • Visual – those who learn from sight.
  • Auditory – those who learn from hearing.
  • Reading/writing – those who learn from reading and writing.
  • Kinesthetic – those who learn from doing and moving.

As you can probably tell, VARK comes from the first letter of each style.

But why use this particular model?

This model was created not only for discussion purposes but for learners to know a few key things — namely understanding how they learn.

Because our school system is focusing on a one-size-fits-all model, there are many of us who struggle learning in school. While we may no longer go to school, these behaviors persisted into our adult lives regardless. While we aren’t learning about algebra or science, we may be learning new things about our job or industry. Knowing how to best retain that information for the future helps in so many ways.

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As such, it can be frustrating when we’re in a classroom setting and aren’t understanding anything. That or maybe we’re listening to a speech or reading a book and have no clue what’s going on.

This is where VARK comes back in. To quote Fleming and Baume:

“VARK above all is designed to be a starting place for a conversation among teachers and learners about learning. It can also be a catalyst for staff development- thinking about strategies for teaching different groups can lead to more, and appropriate, variety of learning and teaching.”

Getting into the specifics, this is what’s known as metacognition.[3] It helps you to understand how you learn and who you are. Think of it as a higher order of thinking that takes control over how you learn. It’s impossible to not use this while learning.

But because of that metacognition, we can pinpoint the different types of learning styles that we use. More importantly, what style we prefer over others.

Ask These Questions

One other method that I’ll mention is the research that’s done at the University of Waterloo.[4] If you don’t want to be using a lot of brainpower to pinpoint, consider this method.

The idea with this method is to answer a few questions. Since our learning is a combination of styles, you’ll find yourself leaning to one side over the other with these questions:

  • The active/reflective scale: How do you prefer to process information?
  • The sensing/intuitive scale: How do you prefer to take in information?
  • The visual/verbal scale: How do you prefer information to be presented?
  • The sequential/global scale: How do you prefer to organize information?

This can narrow down how you learn and provide some other practical tips for enhancing your learning experience.

Final Thoughts

Even though we have a preferred style of learning and knowing what that is is beneficial, learning isn’t about restriction. Our learning style shouldn’t be the sole learning style we rely on all the time.

Our brain is made of various parts and whatever style we learn activates certain parts of the brain. Because of this fact, it would be wise to consider other methods of learning and to give them a try.

Each method I mentioned has its merits and there’s not one dominate or superior method. What method we like is entirely up to our preferences. So be flexible with those preferences and uncover what style works best for you.

More About Learning

Featured photo credit: Anna Earl via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] BrainScape: Repetition is the mother of all learning
[2] Neil Fleming and David Baume: VARKing Up the Right Tree
[3] ERIC: Metacognition: An Overview
[4] University of Waterloo: Understanding Your Learning Style

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