How to Learn Something New Everyday

Human beings are always learning from our environments and life experiences, but having some intentionality about what we are learning can greatly improve the quality of what we learn and its benefits for our lives. It is possible to learn something new that is of value every day. Here are some ways to make that happen.

New Environments Lead to Learning

Seeking out a new environment or situation can lead to valuable opportunities to learn something new. Even something as simple as visiting someone you’ve never visited before or shopping at a different store can teach you things you didn’t know before and lead to growth. There are plenty of ways to experience a new environment, too, so you are unlikely to run out of these opportunities any time soon.

Breaking routine helps you experience something different, and you notice more about what’s all around you than you do when you are going to the same places and doing the same things. Intentionally getting out of your comfort zone teaches you things that you wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to learn.

Travel to A New Destination

The ultimate new environment comes by traveling to a new place that you’ve never been before. Even a day trip to a new place can teach you many new things about that place, its history, and the things that make it special. Travel can also teach you about different cultures and ways of doing things, which can be incredibly useful in our multicultural world.

Be Around Other Learners

Making friends with others who pursue and enjoy learning will stimulate and encourage your own learning. You can be around other learners by joining a group or club aligned with an existing or new interest, or even just by hanging out in a place where people learn, like a library or museum. You can also volunteer at a school or other community where learning takes place and get the benefits of the environment while helping others.

Teach What You Know

The process of teaching something to someone else—even if you know it very well—always leads to more learning for the teacher. Everyone has some kind of skill that they can teach to others: it could be making your favorite recipe, writing a story, or doing your taxes. You can teach someone informally, one-on-one, or in a classroom. All of these ways of teaching will help you learn your topic more deeply, which will, in turn, make you an even better teacher.

Take a Course

Whether you set out to earn a degree or just want to extend your learning with continuing education courses, a classroom situation is sure to teach you something new each time you attend. Continuing education courses are available on many different topics from hobbies to people skills to job-related courses that could earn you a promotion or advanced certification.

CCSU offers many continuing education courses in both professional and enrichment topics that can help you learn something new every day. View open courses to see what is available and coming up shortly.

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How to Get Started with Social Media for Your Business

In today’s marketplace, having a social media presence has many benefits for businesses. An effective social media presence with the right kind of interactions can help companies spread the word about their products and services, generate positive word of mouth, and give customers a place to interact with their brand.

Social media can be a free or nearly free form of advertising. For some types of businesses, it can provide a source of sales leads. Social media can also be a way for businesses without another significant web presence to build one without creating an expensive website.

Getting Started in Social Media

Getting a Facebook page or Twitter handle for your business seems easy, and it can be, but the world of social media can be incredibly time-consuming and overwhelming for some. There are dozens of social media sites, each with a different niche or target audience, and it can be difficult to know which ones are worth the time it will take to develop an engaging presence there.

Facebook and Twitter are the two biggest social media sites, and they also have the most general audiences. Besides these two, you can look into other, smaller sites to see if they seem like a good way to connect with the audience you want to reach. For example, Tumblr is built more around personal experiences, fictional stories, and blogs. Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat are image-centered.

Step By Step

Rome wasn’t built (or filled) in a day, and you likely won’t gain a million Facebook or Twitter followers that quickly either. Getting the basic page set up comes first, then adding information, links to content or your website if you have one, images, etc.

Next, invite your friends and post your page information around your business location or office so that customers and contacts will find you. Asking friends to recommend your page or handle to their friends is a good step, and you can also host small giveaways and other promotions that can boost your traffic.

The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends having an editorial calendar to plan your content rather than just posting spur of the moment. Planned posts will help you take advantage of holidays and control your content better.

Early on, you should figure out how to track your engagement so you know how campaigns are doing and which promotions were most successful. Some social media platforms come with built-in analytics tracking. You can also download a software program to help you with this, and once you get started, you will find tracking to be a valuable tool that helps your business grow.

Always remember that the main goal of social media is to be social—that is, friendly and personable. You want to handle social media like a business, but you don’t want your customers to see it that way. Sharing information about your personal life, when you feel comfortable, can help customers feel connected to you and want to become or remain customers.

CCSU offers courses for businesses including information about social media and other ways to grow and develop your business. Join our mailing list for information about what we offer.

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.