Why You Should Try Social Learning This Winter
Winter months or periods of isolation affect our mood and our wellbeing. Learning new skills can be a rewarding experience on its own, but sharing these experiences with like-minded people gives a huge emotional lift and boosts learning outcomes to a new level.
The seasons are one of the most consistent sources of change in our lives, but you might not realise how much they can really affect you. When the weather starts to get colder and the days start to get shorter, it’s not uncommon for your mood to change. The addition of COVID isolation is further dampening our spirits, pushing the boundaries of our wellbeing to the maximum.
Learning something new is a hugely rewarding experience and a valuable way to spend the winter months.
Find out why learning alongside others is an even bigger boost to your morale, and discover how you can maximise your potential and your time, making learning fun along the way.
Emotion and your ability to learn
Did you know that your emotions play a big part in how your brain processes new information?
Emotion has a substantial influence on the cognitive processes in humans, including our ability to pay attention, to learn, to recall information, and to problem solve. However, just as our emotions can benefit us in many ways, it can also hinder us. Our ability to take in information and use it is somewhat linked to our emotional processes. Studies have reported that emotion either enhances or impairs learning and long-term memory (LTM) retention.
We’re social beings
Equally linked to our emotions are our social interactions: we’re social beings, we tend to favour being in an environment with others, learning together to benefit the group. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted life globally. Social distancing regulations were put in place and we were all asked to remain home for at least a year. Hundreds of research studies have proven how crucial social connections with others are for our well-being and our emotional balance.
One study looked at social factors —including the quantity and quality of people’s social relationships. Researchers found that those who had larger social networks reported less stress and worry during the lockdown. This suggests that having a team of people to rely on for support, rather than a specific close friend, helped to boost your well-being during the pandemic.
Reducing stress, increasing enjoyment
Emotion has a strong influence on your ability to learn — when you’re under stress, your brain’s emotional centre will chemically block access to higher levels of thought and suppress the exploration of your neural connections, making it extremely difficult for you to learn something new.
Learning is a lengthy process and if your brain is given too much information in one go, it can overload your ability to understand concepts, terms, and theory, lending itself to mental strain and high anxiety.
So, how do we move from learning in a state of stress to mastering a skill with complete ease?
Believe it or not, but there is a science to learning new skills. It is more than just reading pages of a textbook and studying religiously. On the surface, you’re reading, putting what you learn into practice, but on a physical level, learning a new skill is a process of gradually optimising your brain’s physical structure and its patterns of electrical and chemical activity to make the skill easier for you to do.
One step at a time
At Workshop, we’ve done our research and we’ve created a new way of learning skills which is based on action, practice and experience. By following an expert through step-by-step videos, we help you to learn by doing. You’re taking bite-sized information and slowly building it all together to improve your skills.
However, we believe that just because you’re learning from the comfort of your own home doesn’t mean you have to learn alone – which can be incredibly isolating. We are here to foster and encourage discussions, which is why we introduced a chat feature in our app. It is a place for your mentors to check in with you, but also a place for you to share how you succeeded or struggled in a lesson and what your key takeaways were.
Learning with others brings the most reward
One of the greatest benefits is that distance learning can break down geographic barriers to learning. No longer do students have to travel to another state or country to train in their chosen discipline or to find the most skilled instructor. This can also help smaller universities band together to offer specialized courses that might be cost-prohibitive if they had to hire local full-time faculty to serve a small number of students. It also allows flexibility in times of crisis, allowing learning to continue when people can’t leave their homes.
One of the best ways to learn is in a community environment. Countless studies have shown the power that a community-based learning experience can bring to students. Group discussions can provide a space and a structure for people to align around a shared goal. It can enable students to share results and learn from each other, to offer advice and provide a supportive environment.
In addition to offering a community you grow and learn with, we also have appointed mentors for every group. A mentor is your education leader, they have a wealth of knowledge that they will share with you as you move through each unit and session. We adopted this technique because we believe that it’s vital that you have someone to turn to when you need help – What’s the point in learning if you have no one to ask questions to, right?
One of our students, Marium, embraced the online experience when she enrolled in our Introduction to Patisserie course.
“My favourite part is the community we’ve formed”
“The Leiths Online Cookery School is outstanding. It has allowed me to experience a learning atmosphere where I feel like I’m having a complete hands-on experience with the experts at the school, whilst I’m in the comfort of my own kitchen.
“My favourite part has been the small community we have formed on the course. From our mentor to fellow students, we have formed a support network where we are learning together, getting inspired by each other’s variations in their bakes and answering each other’s questions. All of these, in combination with the excellence of content delivery by the experts has really been a driving force for motivating me to better my skills. The content of the course involves all forms of different learning styles; auditory, visual, reading & kinesthetic – all students can obtain maximum benefit.”
Why is Discussion-Based Learning Important?
The Forgetting Curve
German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus wanted to understand more about why we forget things and how to prevent it. His research produced the Forgetting Curve – a visual representation of the way that learned information fades over time. His experiences and results revealed a number of key aspects of memory including that the way something is presented affects learning. The information that you learn can be made more or less memorable, depending on how well it’s communicated. You’ll likely find it easier to remember something that’s been organised logically and presented clearly.
The forgetting curve highlights that most people only recall 10% of information learned within just 72 hours in passive learning environments. Discussion-based learning can help reverse this curve – within a 72 hour window, retention rates can be as high as 70% when social learning is adopted.
Reinforcement (aka Myelination)
The final pillar in the brain’s learning process is reinforcement. Workshop gives you the tools to learn in ways that have been proven to support your brain’s natural development.
By seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling and tasting your way through, your mind is able to form a deep understanding of any skill through direct experience — reinforcing its structure when you succeed and adapting itself when you make mistakes. In fact, it’s been found that the physical developments that happen in your brain as a result of repeated practical experience actually revert when you stop practicing.
That’s why our mentors guide you through the actions of following their workshops in real-time — they show you how to correct your own mistakes and ultimately let you learn by doing.
How to get the most out of remote learning
As the days become shorter with winter approaching and the effects of COVID-19 still very prevalent, you’re likely wanting to wrap up warm and stay home. However, lack of social interactions from friends and family can heighten any feelings of anxiety and isolation.
We’ve built Workshop’s courses around how to make remote learning as good as it can possibly be, including social features. We’ve limited class sizes to around ten students, enough people to create a buzzing atmosphere, but not too overwhelming where you feel you can’t ask a question. We’ve also designed the app to have “asynchronous” social interactions, where you can work and communicate with your fellow classmates but on your own schedule. You’re not tied to the course schedule and can learn skills at your own pace.
So, are you ready to learn something new this winter?
Experience the Workshop way of learning! Explore our range of unique courses today.