Dating back as early as 470 BC, the desire for knowledge has been recognised as one of the most important virtues in life. As well as philosophers like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Aquinas, modern scientists and theologians have explained the importance of continually improving knowledge and practice, and this impact this has on human life and happiness.

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” ― Aristotle

What is continuous learning?

Continuous learning is the inherent need to constantly expand one’s knowledge – to grow and develop our skills – whether it be interpersonal, work-related or otherwise. It’s an idea that has been around since the beginning of the study of human nature. While the basis for our need for knowledge has changed and evolved over time, the concept has always remained the same.

Continuous learning in everyday life

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs recognised learning and self-actualisation – for the betterment of one’s self – as the highest need. Alongside the need for love and acceptance, humans ultimately seek knowledge once their basic and psychological needs have been fulfilled (Motivation and personality. Maslow, A. H., 1987).

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Motivation and personality. Maslow, A. H., 1987)

But what does this mean for us on a day to day?

Humans inherently seek out new opportunities to learn – whether it’s visiting a new restaurant or reflecting on the way we responded to a friend reaching out for help. No matter the situation, we continuously assess, reflect and learn (Learning by doing. Gibbs, G. 1988), undoubtedly, to understand and better ourselves.

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle (Learning by doing. Gibbs, G. 1988)

“Once you stop learning, you start dying” –Albert Einstein

Whether this cycle of learning and reflection is active or passive, there’s no doubt that it’s an integral part of our lives and as such, any form of learning or training delivered through a learning management system (LMS) needs to incorporate a continuous learning framework within the content and structure.

Importance of continuous learning in elearning

When it comes to course design and content, it’s easy to write a course without any consideration for the psychology of learning and development. As an expert, just imparting your knowledge through guides and videos in an LMS may seem like enough.

It’s not.

Engagement and retention are key to ensuring the completion of your course, which in turn leads to satisfaction, increased customer lifetime value, positive reviews and more sales – particularly within the case of commercial trainers (for principles surrounding continuous learning and employee training see below).

“Keeping people engaged in your e-learning course is important if you want to increase course completion rates and improve learner satisfaction.” – Kaine Shutler

Students need to be constantly challenged, learning through both social and experiential opportunities, assessments, case studies and mock scenarios. Without the support of a variety of teaching methods and recall tasks, information cannot be retained and fails to engage, leading to dissatisfaction.

So whether you choose to drip-feed your course content, provide weekly tidbits of information or put your learners together in a forum to promote peer-to-peer learning, you need to incorporate some type of ongoing education to maintain relevancy or risk losing your learners the myriad of other courses available online.

Not sure how to incorporate a continuous learning framework into your LMS? Speak to one of our experts.

Continuous learning in the workplace

Aside from learning from our own personal experiences, we have a great deal to learn at work. Whether we’re walking into a new role or environment, we need to have the flexibility and initiative to want to adapt.

Psychologist Martin Seligman says meaning comes from the feeling of belonging and having a higher purpose by serving something beyond ourselves (Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. Seligman M., 2002). From this we can begin to understand the impact of employee engagement on hapiness and growth, which can be fulfilled through employee training right from the onboarding stage.

The best employees are those who are open to learning, either through observing their colleagues, engaging with training or learning in their own time through seminars or books. Not only do these employees become the most highly skilled, but they also become the easiest to work alongside as they are naturally open to new ideas and concepts; taking on feedback more graciously than those who are more resistant to learning from their mistakes.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” –Benjamin Franklin

So why wouldn’t we want to challenge our employees?

When we have a good thing going it’s hard to see the benefit of shaking things up, but sometimes the introduction of new colleagues, new creative thinking and new processes is exactly what a team or individual needs to learn new skills and remain fulfiled. Without continuous learning and new experiences, the monotony of the same tasks day in, day out leads to dissatisfaction and lower productivity (Management versus repetitive tasks – avoiding “working for the weekend”. Thomas J. R. and Holley, R. P., 2012).

Incorporating continuous learning into employee training

Carrying over from our section on the importance of having continuous learning in elearning, the need for its inclusion is similar when applied to employee training. Just as modern psychologists and sociologists have explained the importance of continually improving knowledge and practice, employees need to learn to boost their interpersonal communication skills, to remain up to date, and help the businesses succeed.

Where employee training is necessary for compliance and progression, more often than not the read-a-section-and-then-answer-a-multiple-choice-question format is as dull as it is unengaging. This leads to mistakes being made as employees rush through the compulsory training so they can begin working and earning money.

The aim shouldn’t be to get training completed as quickly as possible – by slowing it down you allow time for ideas to be fully understood; rather than having a short test right after a section, why not include a case study that incorporates what’s been learnt and then ask questions about what was right and wrong?

When a full section is complete, include a large test that covers everything to see what’s actually been retained and what was answered correctly with a longer length of time between learning and the test.

Learning shouldn’t end with just a pass or fail. Instead, continuous learning should be just that; continuous.

“The human spirit needs to accomplish, to achieve, to triumph [in order] to be happy.” – Ben Stein

Look at your employees’ results, what did they get wrong? Is there an opportunity to test them again? Are you confident they can answer questions about the areas in which they failed? As an employer, you should be looking at ways to mentor, support and grow your employee’s skill set.

Reflection and quarterly progress meetings will help you to identify your employees’ strengths and struggles – with that information you can revisit training, learn more about your employees’ management style and identify opportunities to incorporate future training.

There’s a lot to unpack here. There’s lots of evidence here to explain the importance of continually improving knowledge and practice to help us understand new ideas. As we’ve covered implementing a continuous learning framework into your elearning is essential. To incorporate features that promote continuous learning requires a lot of effort and consideration from an early stage. Creating an LMS which helps aid retention and personal growth needs more than just a bunch of content. The ongoing assessments both online and offline are absolutely key for students to grasp concepts and feel confident in applying them in real life while fulfilling that need to constantly learn and grow.

To discuss the inclusion of continuous learning within your LMS, speak to one of our elearning experts today.