The Benefits of Accelerated Learning —
Last year, Cathy Davidson, an award-winning professor from the City University of New York (CUNY), published a provocative book, The New Education. In this book, Davidson argues that today’s universities are stuck in the past. She claims that to meet the needs of today’s rapidly changing employment environment, higher education must fundamentally transform the way it prepares students for their careers.
Long gone are the days when college grads could jump into lifelong careers after completing a focused, specialized program of study. Today, college graduates can expect to experience several major career changes during their lifetimes, and to witness technological innovations that produce new jobs while at the same time making other skills obsolete.
Rather than prepare university students for a lifelong career, Davidson argues, universities must prepare students to be flexible, collaborative, skilled in problem-solving, and adaptable to quickly learning new, relevant skills.
Here at Cheetah Learning, we agree this this holds true for professional education, too. The secret to keeping up with the fast-paced changes in any industry is to learn how to learn new knowledge and skills faster. This is what we call accelerated learning.
Accelerated learning refers to the practices, habits, and techniques, that enable you to assimilate new information quickly and retain it for longer than with traditional learning approaches. Most importantly, accelerated learning helps you overcome 2 major challenges unique to today’s ever-accelerating world: the rapid growth of innovation, and the increasing number of technological distractions in our lives.
THE FIRST CHALLENGE PROFESSIONALS FACE in a faster-paced world is the rapid growth in the rate of innovation. Did you know the quantity of scientific innovations doubles every 9 years? What this means is that the nature of the work we do is also evolving rapidly across most industries. While in earlier eras professionals could spend a long time gaining specific education and job skills to help them prepare for a lifelong career at one company, today, most people change careers at least 5 to 10 times over the course of their life. To adapt to and thrive in a career with ever-shifting job responsibilities and required skills, it is now essential to be able to learn and assimilate new information quickly.
Learning faster also allows us to make better decisions at work. When we speed up our ability to make sense of and respond to new information and situations, we are able to make decisions based on more well-rounded and thoroughly-processed information. For example, the accelerated learning technique of mind-mapping allows us to see connections across ideas, which improves our ability to take a wider range of variables into account when we make decisions in our careers.
THE SECOND CHALLENGE PROFESSIONALS FACE in today’s accelerating world is the proliferation of distracting technologies in all parts of our lives: texting, social media, email, chat, and other modes of instantaneous communication. The New York Times, for instance, today produces as much information in 1 day as people experienced their entire lifetimes just 200 years ago. However, this does not mean that our brains are now able to process this quantity of information. This information overload then leads us to become distracted by our many communication technologies — which then prevents us from engaging in meaningful, focused learning.
Beyond information overload, use of instantaneous communication technologies activates the limbic brain (leading to more emotional and impulsive decision-making), creates addictive behaviors relating to technology use, decreases the ability to focus, and impairs higher-order thinking.
Accelerated learning techniques give people tools to avoid distractions and focus intently on the task at hand — still a useful skill in today’s fast-paced work environment.