Keeping it soulful
This week, some of the Coracle team were at the TUC's annual learning conference UnionLearn. We heard about the challenges facing union learning reps - the men and women who help union members seek out and follow training courses to help them improve in their work and expand their personal lives.
And there was Rhona Cameron, the standup comic and frequent Radio 4 guest, who gave a barnstorming performance just before lunch. Her message? Keep it soulful!
She even hammered the message home when she signed the Coracle Big Book of Tips for Online Learning.
Can you keep it soulful in learning?
Even today, many people believe that we're only motivated to learn by extrinsic factors – dreams of better pay, desire for recognition, demands made by employers or teachers and so on.
But let's talk briefly about monkeys.
In 1949, a professor of psychology called Harry Harlow began an experiment designed to test the puzzle-solving skills of a group of rhesus monkeys. He and his team placed a set of puzzles in the cage where the monkeys were kept, and simply waited to see what would happen.
The result was surprising, at least in the days when animals were thought only to be motivated by biological need. The monkeys quickly set about solving the puzzles – not because they had to, but apparently because they wanted to. They showed curiosity, persistence, and apparently even pleasure in their work. There were no nasty surprises for monkeys who didn't try, and no particular rewards for those who did, yet still they seemed to have found an internal motivation.
One of the puzzles Harry Harlow built for his primate experiments
Perhaps this observation of intrinsic motivation in monkeys shouldn't be surprising. Children often devote themselves to learning in this way, and if you look on YouTube you'll see thousands of how-to videos with huge numbers of views, covering everything from computer programming to lapping joints in woodwork.
Intrinsic motivation to learn means keeping things soulful. It means examining your own wishes and wants and then finding the training course or learning programme that corresponds.
Is it possible for less-skilled workers with little time and a sometimes rigid set of training options provided by employers? We believe it is, because we believe that the flexibility of online learning is ideal for fostering intrinsic motivation and turning wishes into reality. Online learning offers a non-judgemental space for personal development, it's available 24 hours a day and it can be varied infinitely to cater for personal needs.