This article was updated 26 Aug 2023.
It’s been said before, but a single learning approach isn’t going to work well for everyone. Goals, objectives, and training needs vary widely between individuals and every industry. Learning styles are different for each learner, and some industries attract certain types of learners more than others.
Continuing education is all about building on your current life and work experience. When a program or organization requires you to keep up to speed with industry, you need a way to determine how to spend your time and money in the best way. If you're working on the tools, you're going to want to really take a good, hard look at the value to you of the courses, workshops, or webinars on offer. Is it worth it to take one or more days off? How much time and cost will be added for travel, food, accommodation? Do you learn best in a classroom? Do you already use Youtube and other online platforms to get 'how to' instructions? Would you benefit more from a game-like online learning experience?
There's lots of ways to get those continuing education or professional development points, but knowing a little more about adult brains and learning styles is helpful in getting yourself pointed in the right direction before choosing where your going to spend your time and money.
WAYS WE LEARN AS ADULTS
Adult education is not the same as education for kids. Kids are sponges, their brains are developing and generating the connections they will need to understand the world. As adults we don’t soak up information as much as relate it to what we already know, and the more times we can do that, the better.
Successful adult learning relies on stories, anecdotes and examples that show how a principle or concept is applied to the real world. This is set into a cycle of wash, rinse, repeat.
We learn about subjects on a timeline and a series of levels, starting with basic knowledge and moving to mastery - where we know our subject inside and can teach or demonstrate it to others. “Bloom’s taxonomy” is the way that adult educators break out training and learning. Level 1, Remember, is at the base of all learning. To get to deeper or higher levels of training requires more input, more activity, and more interaction with others.
On top of that, our brains need time to recalibrate and apply the new knowledge to our lived experience. We learn best, retain and build on new inputs, when they are introduced over a period of time. And in small chunks.
Have you ever been to a day-long workshop? What about a 3 or 5 day course. How did you feel at the end of it? Did you learn a lot?
Speakers were great, content was right up your alley, you tried your best to stay engaged. But: So. Much. Information.
You retained some of the information, depending on how familiar you were with the topic already. If some of the topics were familiar, you might have moved from 'Understanding' to 'Apply' in the learning pyramid. For new topics, you probably got a portion of the information into the 'Remember' level.
All in all, though, you likely 'lost' 70-85% of each day's content within 48 hours. Because it was an information dump.
Any live program with more than 3 learning objectives in one day is going to overwhelm most humans. A well-designed adult learning program would have 3 instructor led sessions, one for each learning objective. Each instructor-led session should be matched with a group activity, an opportunity for a Q&A period, and a summary session that highlights a maximum of 3 key concepts.
That's it. And you're still going to lose a large chunk of that because you're taking it in all at once and have no follow-up to put it into your own personal context.
If you're studying for an exam, a crash course can be helpful to some learners.
Now you've got a bit of background on the why behind adult education, let's turn to how we learn.
ASSESS YOUR DOMINANT LEARNING STYLE
There are three primary learning types:
Visual (seeing and reading)
Everybody has a mix of these learning styles, with one usually being dominant. Some styles are better suited to hands-on demonstrations and some are better suited to book-reading or visual teaching aids.
Do you know what your dominant learning style is? Take this quick 30-question assessment to find out!
Blue House Energy online training is built to support all three styles:
Read a study guide
Watch animations and videos
Listen to a voice over
Do interactive exercises
DELIVERY OF ONLINE LEARNING: THE MODALITY
Training ‘modalities’ are the ways that learning is delivered. Here is a list of how online training is provided:
ONLINE UNIVERSITY/COLLEGE COURSE
Online course that takes place over a semester or other time period. Typically, the instructor is available via email and discussion boards, with no live teaching. Students submit online assignments and have to hit deadlines.
Learners can see live classroom and interact with instructor and other learners.
This is also known as Virtual Instructor Led Training (VILT): learners collaborate and interact with instructors in a real-time, virtual environment.
On-demand (asynchronous) self-paced, interactive modules of learning, with no live instruction. This is very different from a webinar, which is typically information transfer. E-learning takes into account adult education and instructional design principles.
This brings together remote or classroom live instruction (VILT) with on-demand self paced study.
SERIOUSLY ENJOYABLE LEARNING
You’re an adult. We’re adults. BHE has a laser focus on life-long learning and creating respectful and successful online training for residential builders, renovators, contractors, and energy advisors, among others. That means we adhere to some common principles for education. As adults who want to learn something we need all five of these pieces in place:
Understand why something is important to know or do
Have the freedom to learn in our own way
Able to relate it back to our lived experiences
Have determined it’s the right time for us to learn about a subject
Learn best when the education process is positive and encouraging
Since 2012, Blue House Energy has focussed on e-learning as a way to offer consistent, affordable, training that is always available. E-learning works best when it is in easy-to-digest segments that you can review at your own speed, in your own time, with resource documentation supporting the on-screen activities. We back that up with real-world examples and interactive challenges to help you put the concepts into context.
Level up with relevant skills!
Download our free 3-step Continuing Education Course Analyser workflow will help you determine the best topics and types of online training for your learning style.