Live: Learning to learn online

By Lisa Eaton, Founder, Unwritten and Fabric Academy

As a person who’s pre-covid working week was full of meetings and events, 2020 came as a serious culture shock. After years of attending workshops, sitting on discussion panels and delivering training sessions, taking my professional development online was a huge challenge.

I must admit, I was never a big fan of online learning. I would have always chosen in-person events over an online option. Since being faced with the choice of taking my learning and networking online, or not doing it at all, I’ve been converted. Whilst I’ll still be running out the door to every event under the sun once it’s safe to do so, I’ve learned to love online learning and found ways to make it work for me.

At the start of the first lockdown, I was adamant I wouldn’t slow down my professional development, so I embarked on the fully remote Mini MBA with Mark Ritson at Marketing Week and never looked back. The course kept me focussed and engaged as well as offering the flexibility to learn in harmony with my schedule. I work best late at night, so it was great to be able to finish the working day, spend time with my family, and then switch on to learning late in an evening when I can fully focus.

On top of the flexibility to study when and where it suits you, online professional development allows you to engage with lots of different courses and become specialised in one subject quicker than ever before. This has been hugely productive for me and my team, who have all honed their specialties over the past year and are now starting to expand into other areas.

I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by how well the most personal parts of learning can be replicated online. The invaluable knowledge share between a group of professionals can be done through Zoom calls. The camaraderie between a group all striving to reach the same goal can be done through Slack channels, so you don’t miss out on the motivation this group effort gives you. The sharing of past experiences and lessons learned by your peers are not as common in online spaces, but the LinkedIn groups that I joined during the MBA were brilliant in offering the same support, motivation and idea sharing as an in-person group – just on a much bigger scale.

Since I’m such a people person, I’d always believed I was an unlikely personality to be suited to online learning, but I quickly realised that people at all stages of their career could benefit from online learning.

For marketers who are constantly needing to upskill themselves and explore new strategies, online learning is an immersive way to fast track their careers. They’re able to learn from industry leaders who have years of experience that can help them avoid common mistakes and give them insights, tips and tools to give them the knowledge to advance their careers. It can also be much more cost effective to learn remotely, as there’s no need to travel or take days out of the office. Online learning is a tool that everyone can make use of.

Home-schooling my two young boys certainly taught me a lot about online learning too. Never did I think I’d be teaching my children via Google Classroom, submitting work for marking via Seesaw and watching tutorials through Tapestry, but if our children can adapt so quickly, then so can we as professionals.

My advice for anyone hesitant to give online learning a go is to ensure that any course you choose aligns with your goals, and that you spend the time researching which ones are the most engaging and well structured. Attend with an open mind and engage with a wide range of sources. This will give you multiple perspectives on your chosen topic and provide you with various ways to enhance your skills.

We’re all facing this challenge together, but it’s vital to keep pushing ourselves and each other to make the most out of our extra time at home and come out of this crisis as more informed people.