As learning and development professionals, we tend to primarily focus on other learners and lose focus on ourselves. Whether it’s creating sound instructional design, writing effective content or delivering an impactful learner experience, the tendency is to use your time and energy to the betterment of other adult learners. But forgetting about your own lifelong education can be problematic. Are you stuck in the muck? Do you feel stagnated? Is your professional growth moving toward something or going nowhere?
Lifelong learning is a journey you should focus on for your own benefit. It’s a commitment to continuous improvement. In today’s workplace, knowledge is global, and making sure you are relevant and current as an e-learning professional makes continuous learning a necessity. Here are three actions you can take to stay at the top of your game.
1. Become Involved in a Professional Community of Practice.
Communities of practice can be accessed online 24/7. Join an L&D community, and gain access to tips, techniques and advancements from others as well as the opportunity to share your successes. Collaborative learning among group members allows you to share common interests. Exchanges of thoughts, emerging strategies or concepts, and best practices allow you to develop your skills and give back to others.
Professional communities sometimes have a fee, but many are free. You may prefer a community of L&D professionals, a specific professional guild, or even a technology community focused on your preferred authoring tool or tools. If you’re already a member of a community, reacquaint yourself with what it has to offer, and get more involved. Your active membership will spark motivation and creativity and keep you relevant on the latest trends in L&D. Building a professional social network and actively participating in webinars and conferences or writing an article for an association newsletter or website will build toward your professional development.
2. Access Articles, Webinars and Industry Reports.
Knowledge and information are at your fingertips, and much of what is offered is free. There are many learning associations and professional communities that offer online development, from webinars and webcasts to special industry reports. For example, Training Industry’s free webinars are hosted by international thought leaders and qualify for three different continuing education credits.
Using online speaking or video-sharing platforms will allow you to learn from visionary leaders, thinkers and innovators from a variety of learning and development disciplines. TED Talks, educational YouTube videos and MOOCs all provide information relevant to e-learning professionals.
Don’t be the obstacle to your own improvement by thinking you already know all about the topic or are too busy to attend an event. Even if you are well versed in the information, there is always opportunity to learn something new – a nugget of information that can transform your thinking. Stay current on information, and pick up what you can when you can.
3. Use Formal Training, Certificate Courses or Certifications.
The benefit of being a lifelong learner is you’ll be leading the pack instead of being stuck in the muck. Formal training opportunities, certificates and certifications are a differentiator that can help you stand out from the crowd. Regular training, whether through an hour-long webinar, a day-long training or sessions at a weekend conference, better aligns you and your skills to the needs of the industry.
Educational opportunities help you stay fresh and increase your value and pay scale. Advancing your education and skills opens new doors, keeps you motivated and connects you to new professional communities. Staying on the forefront of emerging trends, understanding advancements in learning technology, and applying new skills and techniques will help keep you motivated and may open new career opportunities, too.
Lifelong learning does not have to be formal or expensive. Even in today’s busy world, you can always find the time to learn something new. In the end, it benefits you and the learners you serve.