New Learning Techniques

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New Learning Techniques

Within the last 25 years we've seen an increasing revolution in the techniques used for study and learning - no more so than within the area of complex and conceptual study such as IT training.

Much research and development has focused on the parts of the brain that are utilised to understand new ideas, and more importantly retain them for the long-term. This research has culminated in the strategy for study that seeks to map learning with the known functions of the brain.

The result is learning and training methodology that's more unique to the individual student, and more flexible in its approach than traditionally adopted techniques.

Gone are the regimes of studying at a desk from 9am to 5pm, and learning by rote within a large classroom environment. Gone are the days of educational processes more commonly recognised within Charles Dickens' lifetime. In come new innovative techniques and forums involving clever use of technology such as the internet and remote training facilities. Now the student chooses when and where they study as a response to how they actually feel; within their own training programme, rather than a scheduled methodology set arbitrarily by a third party.

This formula has seen incredible results in the increase in development and ultimately the results achieved by the students themselves. Countries where there's a barrier between the student and the source of education - whether it's geographical or natural - have seen an increasing reliance on 'remote education' systems. New Zealand and Sweden, for example, have both used teleconferencing techniques to bring high quality teacher training directly to the homes of remote students, both with increasing results - more so than the average performance worldwide.

Long term studies by the USAF (US Air Force) and comparative studies by the US American Football Association have centred on the question - "When is the student most proficient at studying?" Whilst all the studies accept the individuality of humans based on their personal factors and circumstances, a number of clear similarities have occurred. The benefits realised have subsequently been adopted into new and powerful training techniques.

One of the first discoveries was the fact that during the morning period - or when the person awakes from sleep (obviously different if you work nights to days) - the functions of the brain are mainly dominated by survival. The parts of the brain working most effectively deal with centering the person within their location, identifying the temperature of the day and so forth. Equally this part of the brain that's dominant (so to speak) at this time is closely linked to short-term memory.

As the 'day' develops, there's a cross-over in dominance within the brain. The survival - or short-term memory - settles down, and the long-term memory functions become more powerful. This is probably as the student begins to realise that they're no longer likely to be eaten by a sabre tooth tiger! On average this process begins around 11am, and settles at 2pm in the afternoon - again assuming we're dealing with a Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm working cycle. At about 2pm in the afternoon the functions of the brain are closely linked to long-term memory retention. It's around this point that both the USAF and the US American Football Association have had the most success in teaching their pupils complex manoeuvres, whether these are dog fighting skills, low level flying skills or complex set team pieces on the football field.

These lessons have successfully translated across a wide arena of other disciplines and industry sectors. Some companies in the UK have successfully incorporated this philosophy into their IT training systems. Here, students have access to the highest quality of teacher resource on a 24x7 basis. Models exist that allow students to pick and choose when and where they study, so that they can find their own 2pm 'sweet spot' and select the best environment to encourage the long-term memory function of the brain.

Traditional education systems are by their very nature more restrictive and difficult to adjust. Even so, there's clear evidence of the move away from traditional educational structures - including dependence upon paper and pens, and the summation of ones knowledge into a single exam - as the evidence has shown that not everyone excels in a pure exam environment, and the question as to the time of day of the exam may favour some students more than others.

With an ever increasing route to information and the pool from which we drink new ideas, we're seeing more personalised training programmes emerging as the norm. People are seeking the methods, times of day and source of material that best suits their lifestyle, their budget and their aspirations. Whether this is through an individual approach or via a formalised training program, ultimately the intention is to be able to achieve more. Early indicators suggest that this is indeed the result.

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