Four easy (and free) ways to learn

If one of your goals for 2017 is to learn a new skill or subject but you have no idea how to fit this into an already packed life then perhaps try some online learning. 

I’ve had to research this as I have recently become a mum. It means my plans for attending workshops and conferences to boost my sports psychology knowledge have been put on hold for a little while. Whereas evening seminars were once a great opportunity to listen to an inspiring speaker followed by networking with others in my field whilst nursing a glass of warm white wine, I now find my evenings involve nursing a small baby, listening to repeats of Midsummer Murders, so am having to utilise technology to acquire new skills and knowledge in small, digestible chunks.

Research in educational learning has found great benefits in learning online, even when we do have time to attend more formal face to face training. It means that rather than having training ‘pushed out’ to us by an HR department we can ‘pull in’ knowledge as and when we need it. The problem with ‘pulling in’ knowledge though is we can be at the mercy of Google and can’t always know what we find is correct. We need well curated information we trust. I’ve found four channels I trust and am enjoying learning from – and all are free:

  1.     Youtube videos from respected organisations – there are thousands of these but for those into sport the ones from SportsCoachUK featuring well known sports psychologists are really good. Watching Youtube videos mean you can pick and choose to learn from world experts hearing them talk about their own topics, not being filtered through the perspective of a lecturer who may only have heard the concepts second or third hand.

2.     Coursea courses – these are online courses, mainly videos and assessments from great universities around the world. I am currently doing one on positive psychology from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill but they have hundreds – lots of business development ones but also lots for sport, computer science, personal development, languages, creative writing, science or finance. You can pay a little bit to have your assignments marked and receive a certificate or, if like me you just want the knowledge, you just do the homework and listen to the talks and it does not cost you anything.

3.     Webinars – these go deeper than YouTube clips because they will also offer opportunities for questions at the end. Professional bodies seem to be great at these for so I’ve been watching some from BASES (British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences) as they can be watched live but are also recorded so you can watch older ones too. I found some really interesting sport psychology ones which are often designed for those coming from the general sport rather than psychology perspective so can be more accessible.

4.     Podcasts – these are great as they are so portable and cheap to produce so there are lots out there. For sport most include interviews with athletes so you can learn direct from the athlete themselves about their training, their mindset, their nutrition or the mental skills they use. They can also squeeze into whatever free time you have so you can listen while at the gym or driving.

There are some specific benefits of using YouTube or Coursea as they incorporate film. PhD research in 2012 found people retained much more information when film was incorporated into training courses then when they just received presentations and powerpoint slides. It was thought this was because films impact our cognitive, emotional and social dimensions which help us to better encode the information.

Using these channels does risk us missing out on the networking benefits of face to face seminars, workshops or conferences and we can get some confirmation bias by only watching what we already believe, but they can open up knowledge we’d miss otherwise and for the time crunched learner they can all be a really valuable addition.  

Would love to hear of any other channels you’ve found – or great podcasts, webinars or youtube channels to follow.

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