7 Hidden Benefits of Lifelong Learning

The cognitive benefits of lifelong learning are fairly obvious, but there are other hidden benefits to lifelong learning that may not be so easy to see. Here are some of the less obvious (but still important!) benefits:

1. Improved social skills.

Social skills are easy to forget over time, but being in a classroom learning situation with others can refresh and improve your social skills in a number of ways. Continuing education gives learners confidence so they can be more comfortable as a leader and a group member in their work situation or other areas of their lives.

2. A renewed excitement for your work.

Continuing education courses and other lifelong learning efforts can bring new ideas and strategies into your repertoire that can make you more excited to go to work every day. New things can be just what workers need to liven up their work days and get them more motivated to put in their 40 hours each week, as well as making those 40 hours more palatable and interesting.

3. A larger professional network.

Other highly motivated businesspeople are also taking continuing education courses to help expand their professional network. These learning opportunities can be valuable for building your network of professional colleagues, which is likely to lead to opportunities for more advanced positions or new challenges.

4. More opportunity for career growth.

Continuing education can qualify you for a promotion at work or for jobs outside your current organization, if you want to make a move. If you have aspirations for career growth, lifelong learning is the best way to achieve those goals (along with hard work, of course).

5. Better adaptation to change.

Exposure to more ideas and best practices in your field will make you more able to adapt to change—and change is inevitable in every field. Whether it’s expected automation advances or a new computer system, you can learn how to adapt to these changes and come out of them with a stronger career and a more positive outlook on your work and your life.

6. A stronger economic outlook.

Not only could engaging in lifelong learning earn you more money personally, but it can contribute to a stronger economy in your region or even nationally. Ongoing training and learning are necessary for keeping up with the rapidly evolving technologies of many job environments, which has a direct impact on the economy moving forward.

7. A longer career.

With 60 percent of jobs requiring post-secondary education by 2020 and up to 50 percent of jobs becoming redundant because of automation by 2025, continuing to learn may help you to remain relevant in your career and keep your job for the long haul.

CCSU offers many different continuing education courses for lifelong learners. Join our mailing list for courses that will help with your career or just enrich your life.


Expert Interview Series: Monica Savage of Obsidian Learning on the Value of Advanced

Monica Savage, president of Obsidian Learning, is an experienced leader with a burning passion for learning and performance support.

We recently asked Monica for her insight on the value of continuing education and how adult learners should approach getting advanced training. Here’s what she shared:

Can you tell us the story behind Obsidian Learning. What is your mission? Who are you trying to help?

Obsidian started in 1998 as a technical documentation company. We have changed and grown since then and tried to always stay at the forefront of technology, learning trends and approaches.

Obsidian supports the people end of change. We help our clients communicate to build consensus, understanding and adoption of new practices.  We help our clients understand and maximize learning solutions.  We set them up with performance support to enable ongoing success. We help them target the message so the change agents can get the job done.

Our Mission:

Engage people in change by delivering compelling communication and learning solutions based on a compassionate understanding of the perspective of the audience:

  • Maximize value to our customers by bringing together a team of experts that has been expressly assembled to ensure both precision execution and “where-is-the-box?” creativity.
  • Design solutions that reflect a creativity and freshness unsurpassed in our industry because we consistently review our processes and deliverables asking a single question:  “How can this be improved?”
  • Maintain mutually beneficial relationships with our clients and consultants by staying authentic and deeply committed to their success through the twists, turns and shifting priorities that characterize today’s complex change initiatives.

What types of organizations seek out your services? How do you help them?

We generally work with large organizations, Fortune 500 companies, but we have had many small business clients as well. We meet with our clients and help them identify their needs, design, develop and deliver their learning/communication programs.

Obsidian gathers, designs and distributes information that supports job performance during times of business change. We provide services in the areas of End-User Performance Support, Corporate Learning / e-Learning, Portals / Intranets, Knowledge Management and Change Management. We listen, learn and consult to clarify strategy and recommend the most appropriate solution. We ask questions, clarify aims and agree on priorities.  We thoroughly evaluate our client’s employee performance support issues in light of all significant factors, such as business drivers, impact of the transition, organizational culture, employee profiles (roles, technical skills, expertise, age, education, attitudes, etc.), current practices, expectations, technology, history, timeline and budget. In cases of large-scale changes requiring employees to significantly alter the ways in which they conduct their business or learn new skills and competencies, Obsidian helps clients to envision the steps or phases necessary to transition their people successfully. It is our goal to begin adding value on our first meeting.

What is your approach to continuing education? How should working professionals approach advanced training?

Continuing Education is critical for all adult professionals. Our belief is that we never stop learning. Advanced learning helps learners refine and clarify their messages and deliver inspiring communication and sustainable models for learning; helps them develop new competencies so their organizations can move differently and successfully in the changing cultural landscape; helps them see the possibilities for their own teams and their ownselves.

What is adaptive learning? Why is it effective? Who benefits from adaptive learning?

Learn more about adaptive learning here.

What are some of the challenges facing working professionals with training and advanced education? What sets them apart from more traditional students?

The challenges are many, of course. I would say that continuous change in technology, skills, demands, is the most critical challenge for the adult learners today. For adult learners with advanced education, the demands are even more significant. They usually have more responsibility, more challenges and less time. For them, the focus should be mostly on performance support and learning at the time of need.

What tools or resources have you found to be the most useful in helping working professionals get the training/education they need to advance their careers and/or do their job better?

Our belief is that for any learning goal, a successful learning experience can be designed. The tools and technology are there to support the design, the design itself being the most critical aspect. That said, the adult learners today are mobile, so providing them with responses and learning events accessible on multiple devices is important.

Why should organizations invest in training opportunities for their employees?

Because without learning, there is no progress. We like to replace “training” with “learning” as much as possible, since the ultimate goal should be knowledge acquisition for the purpose of application on the job. I think the more standard way of “training” relies significantly on teaching the theory, while the application, critical thinking and problem solving are left for on-the-job training. We, on the other hand, implement problem-solving scenarios and activities within the learning, so we can keep learners very engaged and simulate as much as possible the situations and problems that people will be facing in their day-to-day job.

How can these organizations ensure that a particular training opportunity is the right fit for their goals?

The way to start is determining the goals. Then, based on audience, timeline, budget, etc., a proper design has to be developed. Only through a very thorough stakeholder analysis before designing a learning program, we can understand the audience and can target desired outcomes. To many times, companies rely on “off-the shelf”, cookie-cutter training. This approach hurts more than helps. Learning is very personal, so we need to treat it that way. Try to immerse the learning designers in the learners’ job requirements, so they can figure out what the gaps are and determine the most effective training to fulfill the needed competencies.

What advice can you offer adult learners on getting the most out of their training/education experience?

Be curious, be demanding. I think learners have to challenge the status quo and demand change according to their needs. Learners should take an active role in their learning experience. Collaboration and sharing are the building blocks for a global learning environment, which is needed everywhere in the corporate world.

What trends or innovations in education are you following today? Why do they interest you?

I am not too big on trends. The reality is that, while technology has changed significantly, the way we learn has not. “Learning is life”. We just need to design it that way. I am excited about the opportunities that technology brings to the table– mobile, VR/AR, xAPI, etc. These are pieces of the learning puzzle with great value for a learning designer, but also for the decision makers. One trend I hope to start is to involve the decision makers (CLOs, VPs, CEOs) in the learning experience, so we can all learn and grow together.

Find more learning opportunities to fuel your career. View open courses.

6 Reasons It’s Great for Different Generations to Learn Together

For the first time, four distinct generations are in the workplace (and in many classrooms) together: silents (mid-sixties and up), boomers (mid-forties to mid-sixties), gen Xers (mid-thirties to mid-forties), and millennials, the newest workers. Here are some reasons it’s great for different generations to learn together.

1. Sharing their strengths and characteristics.

Each age group has different defining characteristics and strengths, which also means they have things to teach each other in an educational or work environment. Older generations are typically more loyal, but younger generations may take more risks that help them move forward and achieve their goals, for instance.

2. Older students and workers can mentor younger ones.

In classroom and work situations, teachers and leaders may not have time to mentor the younger ones and make sure they are learning. Older students and workers have valuable life experience from which younger ones can benefit.

3. Younger students and workers can help older ones with technology.

Many older workers are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with newer technologies like computers and mobile devices that are often used in classrooms and businesses. Younger workers have grown up with these devices and can take the lead in acclimating older workers to them.

4. Diversity, even age-related, makes groups and teams function better.

The more diverse a group is, including having people of different ages, the more effective it is in coming up with new ideas and achieving a higher level of learning. The challenges of diverse groups make everyone work harder to communicate their ideas and insights, often with superior results compared to groups where everyone is similar.

5. Different generations can grow in understanding each other.

When people of different age groups begin to see what others have to offer them, they will begin to understand each other better and will appreciate their differences and what they have in common. Many times, members of generational age groups may put each other down, but studying or working together helps everyone move beyond stereotypes and find out what members of another generation are really like.

6. Fewer people will fall through the cracks.

In the classroom and sometimes even in work situations, some may struggle more than others. Using teaching or mentoring methods meant to benefit diverse populations is one way to make sure everyone can relate to the material being learned, and it leads to greater success for every student, compared to narrower methods.

People of all ages are committed to being lifelong learners, or they may find that they need to continue their education to advance their careers. CCSU’s Office of Continuing Education is a place where people of all ages can come together to learn and strengthen their skills together.

Many courses are provided for career advancement and enrichment that can benefit students of all ages and walks of life. Join our mailing list for lots of options to learn with others of all ages.

Use These 4 Approaches to Help Your Students Succeed

As an educator, you likely spend a great deal of time thinking about student success. It’s difficult to feel successful as a teacher when your students struggle to learn, and you see the obstacles standing in their way.

While sound teaching methods, a quality curriculum, and appropriate technologies can contribute greatly to the success of your students, here are some approaches that go a little bit deeper into students’ personal development and motivations to help advance their learning.

1. Building on students’ character strengths.

Certain personal characteristics help students be more successful inside and outside of the classroom. Researchers have identified the following as characteristics related to student success.

  • Grit (perseverance)
  • Self-control
  • Optimism (hope)
  • Gratitude
  • Zest (enthusiasm)
  • Curiosity
  • Social intelligence

When you encourage and teach students to build upon these character strengths, you give them a strong foundation for success, now as students and in the future as workers, parents and spouses, friends, and more.

2. Developing a growth mindset.

Students who believe they are capable of growth in their learning are more likely to engage in actions that will foster that growth, like practice, using different learning strategies, and persistence. In turn, these actions will grow their intelligence and capabilities and build their confidence so that they can take on even more challenges.

This approach teaches students how the brain learns and praises the process rather than performance or the end result, which gives students confidence and encourages them to keep going in their academic pursuits.

3. Cultivating a sense of belonging.

Students who feel like they don’t belong or fit in at school are typically less successful than those with a sense of belonging. Students who feel this way may reject school and schoolwork. Teachers who can break through a student’s outsider mentality and convince them that they do belong in the school and the classroom will break down one of the strongest barriers to learning.

4. Fostering a sense of purpose.

Students who understand that the work they do in school will benefit them for the rest of their lives make more of an effort to do their best. Having a sense of purpose keeps students going when they start to feel discouraged, or the reasons for assignments don’t make sense to them.

All the cutting-edge teaching methods and technologies in the world will be ineffective if students don’t have a mindset that tells them they can learn, should learn, and will benefit by learning in your classroom. These approaches will go to the heart of the things that keep students from learning and solve many common learning problems at the source.

CCSU has three new upcoming courses that show teachers how to use these approaches to help their students to be more successful. Join our mailing list for updates on these and other continuing education courses.

7 Things HR Professionals Need to Know about Employee Benefits

Employee benefits are an important part of employees’ compensation, and as such, they are subject to a number of requirements and regulations at the federal, state and local levels. Here are some of the most important things HR professionals should know about employee benefits.

1. 50 full-time equivalent employees is the threshold at which many regulations kick in.

The Affordable Care Act and many other regulations have designated 50 full-time equivalent employees as the number at which an employer is subject to them. Companies with fewer than 50 full-time employees or a combination of full time and part time employees that are equivalent to fewer than 50 full-time employees are not subject to as many regulations, although there may still be some.

2. Federal, state and local regulations all apply to businesses and can be different.

Following federal regulations is only one step in the process of compliance and can lead to costly fines or even your business being shut down for non-compliance. It’s important to understand all the regulations and laws your business is subject to if you want to avoid problems.

3. Employers should provide the best benefits they can afford for their employees.

Offering better-than-required benefits is good for your business in several ways: you will attract better quality talent, your employees will be happier working for you, and they will stay longer than they would at a job without good benefits.

4. Benefits are more than just health insurance.

While there are more laws and requirements regarding health insurance, benefits also include paid vacation time and leave, flexible work arrangements like telecommuting or a flexible schedule, bonuses, and more.

5. Health insurance is for more than just physical health.

New requirements such as the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act require mental health and addiction treatment benefits to be on par with medical benefits, so employers must be sure their chosen health insurance plan meets these requirements.

6. Not only must employers comply, but they must also report.

The federal, state and local oversight bodies won’t know you have complied with their mandates if you don’t report to them that you have done so. The paperwork may seem onerous, but it’s the only way to show that you are in compliance. Help is usually available for small business owners who don’t have experience filling out paperwork of that type.

7. HR training is available for businesses that need help figuring out employee benefits.

CCSU offers an HR Certificate Program: Benefits course that teaches HR staff about employee benefits, including how to use them effectively in recruiting, compliance with laws and requirements, and how to handle benefits vendors and brokers to get the best deal for your company.

The course helps HR staff earn certifications through the Society of Human Resources Management and include resources from other HR-related organizations as well. You can view open courses to see all the HR and other continuing education courses CCSU offers.

CCSU Instructor Interview Series: Tom Pincince

CCSU’s Office of Continuing Education has teamed up with Tom Pincince, CCSU’s Assistant Athletic Director, to develop a social media education program that will be offered to middle and high school administrators and teachers. It focuses on encouraging safe student use of social media.

Mr. Pincince got involved with social media education after listening to a speaker talk to the student-athletes at CCSU. His goal with his outreach is to educate the younger audience on responsible social media usage, and he has presented on this topic to students at over 50 schools in the state. As a father of three daughters, ages 13, 11 and 8, safe and responsible social media use is a subject that’s near and dear to his heart.

The new program with the Office of Continuing Education is an extension of the work he has been doing with students. He also plans to reach out to Human Resources professionals and develop a similar program for the professional worker, helping them understand that things they post on social media can have ‘real life’ consequences when it comes to their careers. The goal of each program is to stress the importance of making good decisions on social media.

In terms of educating students, Mr. Pincince says, “I think all too often we sit around and tell our students ‘no’, and when it comes to social media education, I believe this is the wrong approach. Instead of saying ‘don’t do this,’ we need to help our students understand why making good decisions is so important, but also show them that there are so many positives when it comes to social media. I want to show them what ‘to do,’ not just ‘what not to do.’ I have spoken with parents and kids all over the state of Connecticut about this, and my feeling as a dad, first and foremost, is that open and honest discussion is important when it comes to educating our kids—and our students—about this topic.”

Mr. Pincince is excited to take his program to the next level with CCSU’s Office of Continuing Education. He is looking forward to a great partnership. If you’d like to learn more about Mr. Pincince’s work on social media education, please visit his website: www.takethisplayoff.com