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23 Tricks To Learn Anything Better

23 Tricks To Learn Anything Better

For the original unedited article, visit Greatist.

Learning hacks — they’re a thing, and while the college kids are heading back to school, it’s a good time for all of us to rethink the ways we learn. Student, professional, or parent, we’re all learning every day — whether it’s how to play guitar, use new software, raise a child, or poach an egg, the mind is always soaking up new information. Make it easier with the following tips.

PRIME YOUR MIND — CREATING HABITS THAT OPTIMIZE LEARNING

With a little regular maintenance, the mind can become razor-sharp and ready to tackle any challenge and absorb new information. Keep the brain in tip-top shape by making regular habits out of the following activities.

1. Work Out

Lifting weights and doing cardio carry a host of physical benefits (see: almost everything on this site), but turns out exercise can also improve learning and memory. If your thoughts are muddled, try taking a brisk walk or heading to the gym. One study found that memory and cognitive processing (the ability to think clearly) improved after a single 15-minute exercise session.

2. Meditate

Regularly getting your om on isn’t just great for managing stress, it also improves memory, impulse control, and attention span.

3. Eat Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

PUFAs (particularly omega-3 fatty acids) are crucial for brain function and help control the brain’s learning and memory centers. Salmon is a famously terrific source of omega-3s, but other fish, such as herring and mackerel, contain a similar amount. Meat-free sources of PUFAs include walnuts, peanuts, and chia and pumpkin seeds.

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4. Sleep

When the crunch is on, people often sacrifice their Zzs in favor of more time to work or study. But the extra smidge of work that gets done isn’t worth the morning zombie eyes: Getting adequate sleep every night is absolutely crucial for brain function, good judgment, reaction time, and even using consistent grammarThe mind of a sensible sleeper will learn much faster, justifying the hours “lost” by getting an early night.

5. Drink Water

This tip might be a no brainer (pun intended), but dehydration is more widespread than you might think — if you’re thirsty, it’s already too late. Reaction times, responsiveness, and overall mental processing improve with hydration, so invest in a BPA-free water bottle and take it absolutely everywhere. Also remember that a lot of common foods, particularly fruits, are surprisingly good sources of water.

 

    6. Practice Yoga

    There’s an easy way to increase your brain’s grey matter: Do yoga. Yogis also report fewer cognitive failures, i.e., errors in perception, memory, and motor function.

    7. Take Up a Hobby

    It’s important to spend some time each day on activities other than work or studying. Not only does the brain need time to take stock of all the learning it’s done, but picking up unrelated hobbies can make you smarter . Try something that requires a lot of concentration and hand-eye coordination: One study found people who took up juggling classes demonstrated an increase in their grey matter (though it disappeared once they quit). That’s one more reason to never stop learning new things.

    8. Set an Agenda

    Success is often tied to the ability to implement structure in one’s life, so it’s a good idea to set goals and create realistic study schedules. By “realistic,” we don’t just mean allocating more than an hour for that 5,000 word report — it’s also important to schedule time to recover between bouts of intense work, whether it’s learning new software or how to drive stick. Scheduling in relaxation time for the brain is called “the spacing effect,” and it’s known to improve long-term recall.

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    9. Laugh

    Allocating time to relax is important to avoid burnout, but it’s even better to do so with people who make you giggle. The simple act of laughter has been shown to help with problem solving and creativity. Funny, right?

    10. Check Your Motivation

    Ask, the question, “Why am I learning this?” People learn better if information seems useful to them, and particularly if they believe it can have an impact on their community. Choose a course, hobby, or career (gulp) that’s important to you and gets you excited.

    LEARNING TO LEARN — HOW TO PRACTICE AND STUDY RIGHT

    Now that you’re ready to focus on learning new skills or information, try to be mindful of the following tips.

      11. Warm Up Your Brain

      Have a little fun before you begin work: Try mentally “warming up” for your brain workout with rhyming games or by uttering nonsense words. It’ll help you loosen up and become more receptive to learning. Sounds like a great excuse to finally take those scat lessons.

      12. Find a Friend

      If keeping yourself on task is an uphill battle, trying asking someone to join you. Learning in groups (be it a class, book club, or with a buddy) could be a good idea to help maintain focus and add some accountability to the process.

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      13. Check Your Surroundings

      The right learning environment is paramount. In general, it should be clean and quiet, but it’s also a great idea to add some novelty: Try working in a park, a café, or even just a different room in your home. Avoid lying in bed, though — while a study area should be comfortable, the bed is psychologically associated with sleep and relaxation. You’ll concentrate better elsewhere.

      14. Develop Metacognition

      This is the overarching theme in most literature about improving the learning process, and has been studied by teachers since Aristotle was lecturing in the 4th century, BC. The concept of metacognition emphasizes not just understanding material, but understanding how you understand it. Learn to step back from your first impression, question your own knowledge, and evaluate whether and how you’re digesting new material. Sometimes this is as simple as not reading so fast when the language is difficult, or developing a new system for taking notes. Most simply, metacognition is about being reflective about the learning process and making adjustments as needed.

      15. Do One Thing At a Time

      The ability to multitask might be lauded as an invaluable trait, but switching back and forth between tasks has been shown to increase the time it takes to complete them. Try to embody a different strength: single-mindedness.

      16. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

      A group study in Singapore found that people who tried to solve difficult math problems without any instruction or help were more likely to fail — but in the process, they came up with a lot of ideas about the nature of the problems and what solutions might look like, which helped them perform better with similar problems later on. This phenomenon is called “productive failure.” While it’s akin to the frustrating process of trial and error, it keeps the mind creative and flexible.

        17. Test Yourself

        Don’t wait until the week of the exam or the big piano recital — self-test regularly, or (even better) have a classmate or friend ask the questions. If it’s difficult to remember the answer fairly quickly, it’s best to look it up. Otherwise, you’re really learning the “error state” of drawing a blank when asked the question. While “productive failure” (see: #16) is useful for problem solving, repeatedly failing to recall something that requires rote memorization (e.g. History or Law) won’t improve your learning abilities.

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        18. Always Be Compressing (ABC)

        This was a cornerstone of Tim Ferriss’ bestselling guide to learning quickly, The 4 Hour Chef. Try as hard as possible to fit all of the necessary information into an easy one- or two- pager by using mnemonic devices like acronyms or rhymes. Better yet, try turning information into an image, such as a graphic, chart, or mind map.Visualizing knowledge in different ways helps to give it a stronger representation in your mind.

        19. Conditionalize the Information

        In other words, study up on the broader applications of whatever you’re learning (i.e., figure out why it matters). Textbooks (and bad teachers) often present facts and formulae without giving any attention to helping students learn the conditions under which they’re most useful. Working to understand when, where, and why the knowledge is important will help to solidify it in your mind.

        20. Use Multiple Media

        The more ways you experience information, the more likely you are to retain it. Different media activate different areas of the mind, and we recall things more quickly and retain knowledge better when multiple parts of the brain are working in concert. Try reading, listening to a podcast, watching YouTube videos, saying material out loud, and writing about it by hand (just not all at the same time)

        21. Connect With Existing Knowledge

        If you can tie what you’re learning to something you’ve learned before, it helps toimprove recall speed and promote new learning. For instance, if you’re learning about Macbeth, it might help to link the play with your knowledge of Shakespeare, Scotland, the Middle Ages, or your favorite Olsen twins movie, Double, Double, Toil and Trouble. Embed your studies within as much of your brain’s existing framework as possible.

        22. Establish Consequences

        A lot of people fall short of their goals because there are no ramifications if they quit.Remedy the issue by committing to negative incentives (such as doing your roommate’s laundry for a month) should you fail to stick with your goals. Or, sign up for StickK, an online service that holds money in escrow and donates it to an “anti-charity” of your choice if your goal isn’t met (think donating to the Democratic Party if you’re a Republican, the NRA if you’re anti-gun, etc.)

        23. Be Confident

        Lastly, be confident and know that you’ll do great. Not just because it’s the truth, but because simply believing in one’s intelligence has been shown to improve it. Don’t worry about a thing, friend. You’ve got this.

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        Last Updated on November 5, 2019

        5 Learning Management Systems (LMS) for Effective Learning

        5 Learning Management Systems (LMS) for Effective Learning

        Businesses rely on talent to generate and sell value. Without skilled people to create its products, manage its operations and execute its strategies, a business would inevitably fizzle out of the game and leave better-staffed competitors to take the field.

        This is the reason why ambitious companies go great lengths to attract top talent,[1] shelling out millions of dollars in the process and bending traditional work policies just to bring highly skilled but demanding candidates into the fold.

        Clearly, the contours of business are changing. But so are the demographics of work.

        Millennials have become the dominant generation in the job market in terms of population, and some have already transitioned into leadership roles. Most millennials consider opportunity to learn and grow more important than overall compensation.[2]

        Companies also today expect employees to come equipped with razor sharp business acumen.[3] Unfortunately, there is an alarming discrepancy between the actual skills businesses need and those currently possessed by job candidates.

        To stay in the game, employers need to continually upgrade their training and skills development strategies to cover the entire employee lifecycle.

        What are Learning Management Systems (LMS)?

        Learning management systems are software-based solutions for authoring, presenting, consuming, storing, and tracking educational content and training materials. These systems aim to centralize all instructional content (e.g., lessons, training modules, instructional videos, presentation slides, worksheets, online quizzes, ebooks, takeaway notes, etc.) in one place.

        LMS enable instructors to design and deliver learning experiences to students, with the added capability of evaluating the effectiveness of the instructional materials and grading the learning progress of students.

        On the other side of the equation, learners use LMS to develop skills and acquire new knowledge virtually anytime and anywhere via the different channels and content formats made possible by digital technology.

        Over the years, a wide range of features and technologies have been integrated into learning management systems to help enhance the experience of training designers, instructors, and learners. These include cloud and mobile technology, artificial intelligence, responsive design, scheduling, gamification, data analytics, and interoperability with other applications.

        5 Best All-Purpose Learning Management Systems

        There are dozens of LMS vendors catering to the general market or to specific segments such as K-12 learning, higher education, and corporate training.

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        With so many options available, selecting the right LMS solution for your needs can be complicated and costly, especially when you end up adopting a platform that doesn’t exactly match your goals or requirements.

        Short of conducting a comprehensive audit of your needs and finalizing a learning roadmap, the safest bet would be to adopt full-featured but affordable LMS solutions.

        Based on user reviews, here are the 5 best LMS to help people gain knowledge, build skills, and achieve mastery:

        1. Canvas Network

        Launched by Instructure as an open source software in 2011, Canvas is an end-to-end cloud-based service originally engineered for the education sector.

        Widely adopted for K-12 and Higher Ed learning, Canvas can be repurposed for anything that involves an instructor, a subject matter, and a student.

        Used around the world by people of all ages and organizations of all types, Canvas arguably has the largest learning and support community in its class. It works on desktop computers, tablets and mobile phones.

        To get a glimpse of the platform’s fresh interfaces, you can visit the Canvas Network, a learning community that provides educational and instructional materials created by colleges, universities, corporate businesses, independent course developers, and other knowledge-sharing entities around the world.

        Hosting hundreds of interesting topics from data science to horticulture, the learning network also serves as evidence to the scope, capabilities, and popularity of the Canvas LMS platform.

        Canvas is hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure, which enhances the platform’s reliability, speed, scalability, and overall online performance.

        Additionally, platform adopters enjoy a low-risk environment since cloud-based solutions require no hard stops for version updates, upgrades, or system migrations.

        The Canvas website does not show a price matrix but says the service adopts a simple formula for computing fees: a one-time implementation fee and an annual subscription fee based on total number of users. It also promises free basic services for teachers who want to use the platform.

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        In addition to Canvas, Instructure also offers Bridge (an LMS designed for corporate environments), Arc (a video platform for online learning), and Gauge (an assessment management system).

        Check out this video if you want to learn more about Canvas Network:

        2. Google Classroom

        This free service from Google aims to improve the teaching and learning process using cloud technology, web apps, workflow simplification, and seamless communication between students and instructors.

        Using Classroom, educators can easily create and schedule classes, distribute assignments, send feedback, and grade quizzes all in one place. By streamlining processes, Classroom helps teachers save time and organize classes more effectively. Both students and teachers can also work using any device anytime and anywhere.

        Classroom works perfectly with other Google tools, having been launched initially as part of Google’s G Suite for Education. This LMS solution taps Google Drive for content storage and distribution, as well as Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides for the creation and sharing of instructional materials. Meanwhile it integrates Google Calendar for scheduling and Gmail for communication.

        With G Suite, other communication channels such as chat messaging, video conferencing, and a dedicated website are enabled.

        Easy to set up and manage, Google Classroom is free to use. One of my very first courses was actually hosted on Google Classroom.

        Going beyond the classroom environment, Google offers G Suite Enterprise for Education for large institutions. This suite provides enhanced search and analytics capabilities as well as advanced tools for enterprise communications.

        3. Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment)

        If budget and capability equally top your list of LMS adoption criteria, then Moodle might just fit the bill. Which is to say there’s none (i.e., bill).

        Moodle is a free and open-source learning solution for distance education, workplace training, flipped classrooms, and other pedagogical environments.

        It is also a full-featured LMS supported by a robust community and a thriving developer ecosystem. Not surprisingly, Moodle is used in more than 15 million courses by more than 130 million users in 230+ countries.

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        Among other things, Moodle enables administrators and educators to create a dynamic and dedicated website to host organic, easily accessible, and highly customizable courses that can be experienced on desktops and mobile devices anytime and anywhere.

        Moodle provides a personalized and intuitive dashboard as well as a host of collaboration tools for content designers, teachers, and learners. A universal calendar, an efficient file management system, an automatic notification system, multimedia integration, and a progress tracking tool all come with the package.

        Check out this video if you want to learn more about Moodle:

        4. Absorb

        This platform recently bagged PC Magazine’s Editors’ Choice Award for Best LMS.

        Co-designed and built by former course authors, Absorb takes learning experience to the next level. This turnkey LMS solution is responsive, full-featured, and highly customizable for maximum impact.

        Course developers can orchestrate a wide range of experiences depending on audience or learning situation. In addition to surveys, polls, and e-commerce integration, Absorb supports formal online learning and certifications standards such as AICC, SCORM, and Tin Can.

        The user interface can also be modified to match the learner’s location, group, or department, allowing for a different look and feel for customers, channel partners, management trainees, and newly hired employees.

        Absorb supports all personal computing devices from desktops to mobile phones. There are also native or hybrid apps for iOS and Android.

        The only possible drawback to the platform’s powerful feature set is its pricing. The service reportedly implements a flat, one-time setup fee depending on your business and training requirements. According to the site, any plan comes with a dedicated success team for your account.

        Although small companies are welcome to try, midsize to enterprise-scale organizations are probably the best segment to readily adopt this LMS solution.

        Take a look at some examples of Absorb in this video:

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        5. Watershed Collaborative

        Created by a group of educators, this nonprofit rethinks the priorities of an LMS, asserting that too many systems miss the most essential elements of what makes learning stick. They promise a better user experience – emphasizing Learning before Management and System.

        Watershed aims to support an inquiry-based learning experience through an integrated mix of online and in-person learning strategies and interactions designed expressly for teams – including collaboration, reflection, and dialogue.

        While Watershed was founded initially to serve the K-12 education market, the company has since expanded its scope to cater to all types of teachers and learners with its video-rich, state-of-the-art platform.

        If you’re a mission-driven educator, content creator, institution, or business, this LMS may be the one for you.

        Watershed specializes in assisting you with the instructional design of courses and provides content production services to ensure top-quality video assets with lasting value. Their LMS makes it easy for course creators to continuously update and tailor content to support small and large groups, while ensuring the technology and instructional strategy supports communities of learners.

        Pricing varies based on products and services, but revenues support the nonprofit’s ability to make its platform and courses available at little or no cost for high-need educators and educational settings.

        Honorable Mentions

        There are dozens of LMS vendors in this growing market and the brands included in foregoing list are by no means the only viable options for companies or learning institutions looking to upgrade their learning infrastructure.

        Many other excellent services are worth checking out. These include:

        1. Docebo is an LMS designed for hyper-engaging students, employees, customers, and other learners. The system helps organizations identify and resolve competency gaps with strategic learning interventions.
        2. Cornerstone OnDemand is a talent, training, and performance management solution offered as an SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). This service enables learners to create personalized playlists of instructional content.
        3. Lessonly is an LMS solution that makes it easier to recall and reinforce whatever skills or knowledge you have learned through quizzes, coaching, and constant practice.
        4. Skillsoft is an online training and corporate learning platform developed by a two-decade old and billion-dollar company with the same name.
        5. D2L BrightSpace is a learning management system that has all the basics for delivering excellent, rich-media experiences for classroom or workplace training.

        Conclusion

        There are many ways to learn but some are more effective and meaningful than others. Whether you are a teacher looking to enhance classroom learning or an HR manager creating a long-term talent development plan for employees, the key to impactful learning is to understand and bridge the needs of learners, the goals of your institution, and the actual capabilities of the learning tools you are considering.

        Note that using multiple LMS platforms is possible although not recommended. On the other hand, adopting other learning solutions beyond LMS (such as podcasts, mentoring, and onsite in-person workshops) may significantly improve learning outcomes. Always go for products and plugins that seamlessly integrate into your core LMS tool.

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

        Reference

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