Open Learning – A Learning Process That Helps Others
Keep Yourself on Track, Help Others, and Make Some Money Besides
This blog and my twitter account is an experiment in open learning: I teach whatever I am learning at the moment.
What Is Open Learning?
Open learning means you make notes while learning and publish them.
For example, you can
- read a book and share your insights and a summary,
- listen to a lecture and explain the most important ideas in your own words,
- have a (philosophical) conversation and share your arguments with a wider audience,
- think deeply by writing out your thoughts,
- travel and share your experiences,
- watch a movie and share your insights into current culture,
- play a game and publish a Let’s Play or guide,
- and try out a product and share a review.
So you see, it can be a wide range of things. Every time, you’d be making the activity more productive by sharing it with a wider audience.
Benefits Of Open Learning
It has been said that we retain 90 % of what we learn if we teach it to others (or use the knowledge immediately). Other forms of learning have significantly lower percentages.
This so-called learning pyramid by the National Training Laboratories Institute is not without criticisms (those are three links) but I’d argue that teaching others is at least a very good way to learn.
It has been my personal experience that I tend to remember a lot about a book when I have made extensive notes and asked myself certain questions like “what did I learn?” and “what will I implement right away?”. There are some books that I read without making notes and I’d be very hard-pressed to tell you what they were about.
Having made notes allows me to go back and relearn what I might have forgotten. Usually, though, at least some memories start rushing in upon looking at my notes.
Think also about the other forms of learning:
- Wouldn’t it be great to more vividly remember all your travels?
- How about having your own thoughts written down so you can see the evolution of your thinking?
- What if skimming through your notes about the movies you watched and the games you played makes you realize that they actually weren’t a waste of time?
Incidentally, I also put useful ideas in my Twitter scheduler* to remind myself of them.
Besides all that, there is a clear benefit to others.
Some people might not have the time to read that book or watch that lecture series, but they do have the time to read your summary. Maybe doing both will help them retain the content better.
Your collection of notes will also help them make a more informed on what they should focus on. For example, they might have a particular problem and your book reviews will let them know which book they should read next.
They will also gain a lot of enjoyment from your work. For example, I’m a huge fan of Man Of Recaps. Through this very entertaining YouTube channel I got exposed to the stories of many movies and series I’m interested in but don’t have the time to watch.
I want to be more public about everything: what I learn, what I watched, what I do.
This motivates me because I don’t want to tweet out “Hey guys, I just sat on my ass today, ate unhealthy food and jerked off.”
No, I want to tweet about that great inspirational video I watched, I want to blog about the book I just read, the personal development experiment I’m doing, or what I learned recently.
It’s like an informal study group!
Open learning helps me improve myself because if I don’t have something to share, that means I’m not learning. So if you stop updating this blog for weeks, please tell me to stay true to my mission of lifelong learning and open learning!
Guarding Against Bullshit
Not all so-called knowledge is equal. Sometimes, it’s wrong or just plain bullshit.
If it doesn’t make sense or you can’t put it into your own words, then it’s like a warning sign. Either you just haven’t understood it yet, in which case you need to resolve your confusion, or it’s just plain wrong.
When you publish your thoughts, people will (hopefully) call you out if it doesn’t make sense. Share your most important posts with your friends and invite your audience to correct you so they become your touchstone. This is another form of accountability.
Of course, there is a risk of being controversial but it’s way better than never telling anyone and not have a touchstone at all.
Sometimes, we miss the mark and believe in ideas that don’t make sense. Sharing your ideas, and the arguments behind them allow people to make a valid counter-case.
If nothing else, your arguments get strengthened through the intellectual discussions.
Yes, there is even financial gain in open learning.
For one, you’d be building your personal brand and gather an audience of like-minded people. Access to more people is always good because you can ask them for things if you ever need anything. Plus, someday you might want to start selling something they want and need.
Furthermore, Amazon and other companies make it very easy to share affiliate links to their site and earn a few bucks. Why not share an affiliate link in your book or product review? That’s easy money right there! (Later I'll write more about the tools I use and how to become a good affiliate marketer. Let me know if you'd like me to do that sooner than later.)
It’s Super Easy
If you want your own domain, it’s super easy to get your own domain from Namecheap*, get hosting from Siteground*, and install WordPress with the click of a button. Alternatively, you can start a Hugo site like this one, which I'll teach you how to do in future blog posts.
So, what do you think? Are you in? Leave a comment and let’s learn openly!
- From Cheapskating to Thriving: A Personal Story on the Dangers of Frugality (personal development)
- Procrastination Is Good for You (personal development)
You can read more here.