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Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.

Maya Angelou

The way we learn is changing. Historically, students were young people who went to K to 12, and then maybe onward to some post-secondary education in a college to earn a trade, or diploma, or to a university to earn one or more advanced degrees. Whatever level was achieved, formal learning ceased upon the student’s final graduation.

However, the world is changing so fast and technology is forever displacing workers, that lifelong learning is the new norm. People have always taken training and employers have forced some casual training upon their staff in an attempt to keep them productive and to allow for the adoption of new technologies in the workplace. A lot of employees resisted that training and some even got left behind.

How many times have we heard older people say, “I cannot learn that”, or “I do not understand”. My point of view is that anyone can learn anything, you simply need to apply yourself, make the efforts, and climb the mountain of knowledge to get to the top of the peak and over to the other side. Is learning easy, no, often it is hard work. But, learning does not need to be a chore or a burden. It should not be forced, or mandatory. It must be embraced, it is joyous to discover new ideas and understand the world that surrounds us all. Learning needs to be fun.

The other issue that I always hear is that, “I do not have any time”. While I pursued my lifelong learning, many people asked me “why?” An astounding number of people cannot comprehend why I was going back to school as a older dude.

The other popular comment was. “I should go back to school too”. But, I knew full well that they were just giving it all ‘lip-service’ and had no meaningful drive to pursue any additional education. They wanted to say, “me too”, but were unwilling to engage. Five minutes later, the idea was already lost and forgotten.

Most of the roadblocks to the pursuit of continuous lifelong learning are either self-imposed hurtles or compliance to societal expectations. These people cannot see themselves as a learner later in life.


However, now, there is a new educational trend emerging that I have high hopes for. It is called, “Microlearning”, and I absolutely love it.

Learning modules are being crafted into bit-sized, easily digestible offerings to provide just-in-time training or education in short bursts – from a couple of hours, to a full day, to weekly adventures over a span of 6 to 8 weeks. I have already completed perhaps 30 microlearning courses. And, I want more.

Now, not all of these microlearning adventures have been work related, albeit most were for business topics. I took training on gas metering, smart city networks, microservices, artificial intelligence, Python programming, data science, Big Data, Design Thinking methods, agile processes, blockchain, cognitive systems, and project management, to name a few.

For fun, I have taken microlearning courses for economics – just because, drone piloting, public speaking, private airplane piloting, wine tasting and viticulture knowledge, writing skills, photography, and more. I have been learning some new ideas about cooking with a Sous Vide machine too. I wish that I could take more gourmet cooking classes, so that will likely be what I pursue next?

I try to take a microlearning courses every month.

These spoon-fed knowledge exchanges are a powerful way to advance your career or expand your persona. They are cost effective, sometimes free, and offer some great immediate value.

Unfortunately, not all of these online virtual microlearning courseware are taught by professional educators. Some people should never, ever teach. I had one course recently, whereby the host engaged an elite guest speaker who was deemed to be an expert in his field. I was excited to learn from this renown expert. Instead, the host, who should have simply been the moderator, monopolized the entire evening and droned on and on about themselves, their own experiences, and went off on sidebar topics that were not relevant to the offered subject that I signed up for. The guest speaker failed to deliver hardly anything. It was a totally boring few hours of my life that I will never get back again, and a serious disappointment that the expert was effectively gagged and not able to share their elite knowledge.

The proverbial ‘sage on the stage’ type of learning from old school lecture halls is absolutely passe in the virtual world. Today, online learning needs to be a group activity that is ‘facilitated’ by the educator. We learn best in small groups with collaborative engagement.

No preacher ever saved a soul after the first 20 minutes of the sermon.

Mark Twain

So, the learning adventure continues. You must evolve and adapt to the ever-changing world around us. Perhaps the one good thing to come out of COVID is that I have seen many friends spend their time in isolation working to improve themselves and learning new things. A friend of mine is giving kids guitar lessons online. I want to take these lessons too. He lives in Utah, but in the virtual world, distance is irrelevant.

The virtual world is here and it will not go away after the virus. Online microlearning is here to stay and I expect that it will improve dramatically as the technology evolves to support it.

Share Your Thoughts in the Comments

What are you learning today? Share your educational pursuits in the comments. It might help others to embrace learning the same way you are now. Let us learn from each other and learn together. Fun, right?

————————–MJM ————————–

About the Author:

Michael Martin is the Vice President of Technology with Metercor Inc., a Smart Meter, IoT, and Smart City systems integrator based in Canada. He has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for applications that use broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies. He is a business and technology consultant. He was senior executive consultant for 15 years with IBM, where he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX). Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V).  He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology. He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario.  For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.  He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 20 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.