Learning How to Learn

The most popular online course of all-time is called Learning How to Learn, taught by Barbara Oakley, a professor of engineering and author of many books on learning math and science, and Terry Sejnowski, one of the foremost experts on cognitive neuroscience.

This course has been wildly popular, and indeed it is how many of you found me. (Barb interviews me in a later section of the course.)

While the course is fantastic, and I strongly recommend you give it a look (it’s free), I wanted to let you know that the two course instructors have just published a book containing the important findings of the course and learning research.

Learning How to Learn (the book), is a great guide for anyone who wants to look at ways you can improve your learning abilities, grounded in psychological and neurological science.

Some of the useful ideas I got from the course and book were:

  • Why mind wandering can sometimes be beneficial for solving hard problems
  • How your brain organizes information and builds up understandings
  • Which supplementary habits in your life are essential for learning
  • How you can take advantage of spacing, interleaving and other effects to remember more with the same amount of total time spent studying

On top of these practical ideas, the book covers a lot of ideas on how the brain works, so you can have a better understanding of what is going on when you try to learn. This gives you a conceptual understanding to help evaluate different ideas you may encounter in the future.

I’ve also been told the two have created a new version of their popular MOOC, Learning How to Learn for Youth, which is a condensed version geared at middle, high-school and college students who want the practical advice in less time.

These are great resources, in case you haven’t found them already. I highly recommend it!