Published on 2013/04/08

Phase 1: Choosing a Learning Direction

Phase 1: Finding a Direction
Massive Open Online Courses allow students to experiment with different delivery formats and methods to identify which ones best suit their learning needs.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my next steps in continuing my education. When I was in high school, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. There’s still the odd day here and there where I wonder if I made the right choice to pursue a career in business — and I think that is totally natural.

Different people learn in different ways, and I am likely the perfect example of a non-traditional learner. I grew up on a family farm, wasn’t an overly strong student in terms of exams or essays, but I always got by in school. I grew up learning to think about a problem, understand its impact and then try to solve it. If that didn’t work, I would try again. It became very clear to me that I was (and am) a tactile learner.

Unfortunately, this learning style was not very well catered to when I was in elementary and high school. Tactile (or kinesthetic) learners make up about five percent of the population.[1] Although there may be fewer learners who use this style than others, why is it not catered to equally? Is that not the goal of an educator? Shouldn’t every student have an equal opportunity to achieve success? I once had a teacher tell me I would never find success if I didn’t work harder at learning like the rest of the students in class. Hogwash! Now this is not to say there doesn’t need to be an effort on the student’s part, as I firmly believe it is a combined effort; however, the real world is made up of people who bring different strengths and skills to the table. Many of today’s great entrepreneurs did not learn through the same means or follow a defined path — they created their own path. Think of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mike Lazaridis or Richard Branson — incredibly successful, visionary leaders who created their own success. They are non-traditional leaders.

So why can’t we create our own path as non-traditional students?

I’m at the very early phases of preparing to go back to complete a degree. I chose college out of high school because it best fit my style of learning, hands-on and practical. Now that I have a few years of professional experience under my belt, I think it is the time for me to look at a four-year degree. I believe I will find success at university now, due to my ability to relate the theory I will learn back to the practical experience I’ve gained. It is for this very reason I do not believe I would have been successful had I gone straight to university out of high school.

My first step toward my degree is figuring out whether online learning suits my needs. I recently enrolling in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offered by Harvard University through edX. My hope is this will help me narrow down how I can best balance my responsibilities of having a full-time career with my desire to become a part-time student. I’m not sure if online-only is the right way to go, or if a program that is a mixture between online and in-class will be better. The MOOC offers me the opportunity to experiment with no cost or fear of failure. My hope is it will be a positive learning experience across the board, and will help me determine the instruction method that best fits my learning style. The course I have started is called Justice and correlates strongly to the issue of Corporate Social Responsibility. The tagline of the course, “What is the right thing to do?” seems to apply in so many ways beyond simple morality. My hope is this course will challenge me to think in different ways within my everyday and professional lives.

What is the right thing to do, indeed!

Education is, for me, a lifelong learning effort that will continue throughout my career. There will be breaks and pauses, but education will ultimately be a consistent factor. Our society and business cultures are ever-evolving and continuing education is a piece of the puzzle; not the only one, but an important one. This is a journey I am very excited to embark on.

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References

[1] Studying Style: A Guide to Learning Styles. “Tactile-Kinesthetic Learners,” http://www.studyingstyle.com/tactile-kinesthetic-learners.html

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Readers Comments

Greg Allen 2013/04/08 at 11:09 am

You make a very good point that education in North America is geared towards one or two specific learning styles. Students who don’t learn best in those styles are often relegated to remedial classes or otherwise discouraged from succeeding. It’s unfortunate that this is the case, when one considers that many different learning styles are accepted in broader society. (For example, when learning to ride a bike, nobody would expect you to study the theory before grabbing the handlebars and going for a spin.)

Much needs to be done in terms of raising awareness among educators and teaching them how to cater to these different learning styles in their classrooms.

Tyrese Banner 2013/04/09 at 6:12 am

Congratulations on your decision to go back to school. I think high school graduates should more often be advised to take it slowly and experiment with different options before committing to a particular academic program, much like you’ve done. I wish you all the best success!

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