LAS is an award-winning provider of elearning consultancy, design, development and training services in the UK and internationally.
Established in 2005 as LearningAge Solutions, we work with some of the best known organisations in the world to boost their performance through the innovative use of learning technologies. Working in partnership with our customers, we draw on proven principles from human behaviour, how people learn and how the brain works to create impactful digital learning solutions with real return on investment.
Tess is a director of LAS. She has worked in a learning environment for over twenty years. First, as a senior manager in universities, moving into digital learning ten years ago.
By Tess Robinson
Posted 21 September 2022
Although it’s been a few (a lot) of years since I went to school, I still get that ‘back to school’ feeling in September. After a bit of a break over the summer, I always feel refreshed and raring to go in the autumn. What better way to inspire and energise myself than by learning something new?
This year I’m doing an online (what else!) course on sustainability. It’s a good level of challenging – I have to concentrate to grasp the concepts and it’s really making me think more deeply about the subject. I sometimes even find myself dreaming about it – which must be a good sign. I love the feeling of my curiosity being ignited. It makes me feel more awake, lively and interested in the world.
I realise I’m likely preaching to the converted here but, even so, it’s always worth reminding ourselves of the benefits of lifelong learning for adults and why learning stuff makes us feel so good. Here’s 5 reasons to get back into learning:
1. Keeping your brain active
None of us are getting any younger, yet we can take action to prevent our brains from aging prematurely. Dr John N Morris from the Harvard-affiliated Institute for Aging Research says that "Eventually, your cognitive skills will wane and thinking and memory will be more challenging, so you need to build up your reserve. Embracing a new activity that also forces you to think and learn and requires ongoing practice can be one of the best ways to keep the brain healthy." What a great excuse for trying something new.
2. Making new neural connections
But how does learning keep your brain physically healthy? Neuroscientists have known for a long time that learning experiences change your brain physically and help you to make new neural connections. Researchers at Lund University studied the brains of young people at the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy who were on an intensive course to learn a language from scratch to fluency in 13 months. Through MRI scans, they found that the learners’ hippocampi increased in size over that time. In addition, it was a bit of a surprise to the researchers to find that the students who had developed better language skills, or who had put more effort into their learning had more growth in that area than those with less well-developed skills or who had made less effort. The more you try, the bigger your brain will be!
Other research has also found that Alzheimer's disease has a later onset in bilingual people. This is thought to be because their brains, through learning and using language skills, have developed more connections and more ‘cognitive reserve’. It seems that learning can not only grow your brain but can protect you against some of the cognitive degeneration that comes with age too.
3. Stay relevant
Aside from making our brains big and our neural connections strong, learning can also help to keep our skills relevant. The world is changing at breakneck speed. There has never been so much demand for agility and innovation. The skills needed for organisations to succeed are constantly evolving and we need to learn and evolve ourselves too, or we risk becoming side-lined and obsolete. Learning shouldn’t just stop when that final school bell rings but should be a lifelong endeavour with the added bonus of enabling you to be more resourceful, adaptable and frankly, more attractive to employers.
4. Boost your self-confidence
Learning something new can give you a sense of satisfaction and boost your self- and social-esteem. Alongside the intrinsic pleasure of becoming more knowledgeable about a topic, learning can also help you communicate ideas more effectively and eloquently. New skills can help you take on new tasks, open doors to new opportunities and help you be better prepared for change, as well as giving you foundations on which to continue to build your skill level. This is all great for improving your self-confidence.
5. Make social connections
Humans are inherently a social species - we rely on cooperation to survive and thrive. Social connection has been found to improve life expectancy, your immune system, your self-esteem and ability to empathise, as well as lowering rates of inflammation, anxiety and depression. Dr Emma Seppala of the Stanford Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research found in her research into connectedness and health that “social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.”So many great reasons to develop and enhance social connection with others and learning a new skill in a group setting is an excellent vehicle to do this.
As L&D people, we know the value of learning better than the backs of our hands, yet we could be better at making sure our own skills are up to scratch. With all these great outcomes listed above, we must make time, space and resources available to ensure that we also have the chance to benefit, as well as the learners we serve.
LAS have several opportunities available for L&D teams to upskill – some free, some paid. Check them out:
Free Learning eXperience Design (LXD) Course – next course starts 10 October 2022 https://www.las-hq.com/lxd-course
L&D Evolution – comprehensive tailored programme to transform your L&D team https://www.las-hq.com/evolution