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How everyone can become a better learner with humility, curiosity

SPONSORED CONTENT: “Five Questions” is part of an ongoing series featuring members of the passionate and diverse team that comprises Kydon Group.

Caroline Wong is the Head of Operations and Customer Success at ZilLearn. She is passionate about the adoption of technology in K-12 and workforce learning.

ZilLearn is bringing you the learning that you need and want so that you are ready for the jobs of today and relevant for the work of tomorrow.

How did working as a classroom teacher help with what you are doing now?

This won’t sound like an amazing revelation, but becoming a more mindful communicator would sit at the top of my list of takeaways. Many of us have heard some variant of the “explain it well so that even a kid can understand it” idea, but teaching children, or even just explaining something, is nowhere as easy as it sounds.

Several things are needed to become good at teaching things to children. First, it helps to really understand whatever you’re explaining because kids ask the darndest things. They don’t always know the same things that adults do, so they don’t make the same assumptions. That’s had a huge impact on how I approach work discussions.

I want to respect other people’s time, so I try to get as much personal clarity as possible before I join the conversation. I find that grounding what I say in real-life examples helps, as opposed to just speaking theoretically.

Second, as a teacher, to motivate a child to learn, it’s important to know where they are coming from, such as what they know, how they learn… even what their environment is like at home. It’s all about engaging the other party at their level, which is something we pretty much have to do all the time at work. We need it when talking to a customer about a pain point they’re facing; we need it when we’re trying to get buy-in on an idea from stakeholders. Finding common ground is the first step to driving alignment.

The third thing would be to communicate with empathy – and this is something I still sometimes struggle with. As a teacher, it’s easy to assume that a student who is doing poorly in class is not smart or hardworking. But it often has something to do with their family life, self-esteem, and so on.

So good teachers learn to be patient and to set aside their personal frustrations. As for how this translates to our current workplace… In a collaborative, cross-functional environment like ours, everything hinges on how well we work as a team. Empathy goes a long way to making that great teamwork possible.

What makes a great learner? Can everyone become a better learner?

Definitely! Everyone can become a better learner — in fact, we have to be, given the rapid pace of technological disruption we are facing. Great learners dedicate time to learning how to learn. This means picking up strategies that help them learn faster and better. Learning how to learn can range from improving how we curate sources of information to adopting a mental model that helps us think more critically about what we’re learning.  

It may also mean being open to relearning or unlearning something. It’s common in the current global climate to see people instantly reject any idea that seems to challenge their own worldview. Social media has made it even easier to retreat into filter bubbles and echo chambers — it’s an incredibly unhealthy state of things. Part of being a great learner is about being willing to bear with the pain of dismantling assumptions and rebuilding what we know, even if it’s uncomfortable or requires effort.

On that note, the post-Internet world is saturated with information that we might actually be suffering as a species from information overload. It’s easy to assume that we know a lot, which can kill our motivation to learn. That’s why great learners are intellectually curious. This means they have the humility to admit that there are things they don’t know, and they also have the drive to figure out what they don’t know. 

What does Customer Success mean to you? Can you share a story of how ZilLearn solved a problem for a customer?

I see Customer Success as finding and driving the alignment between the customer’s needs and our business goals. A sustainable business solves real-world problems. As a team, we need to really listen to our customers since they help to indicate whether our products are truly solving our customers’ pain points.

When COVID-19 first began to spread and countries went into lockdown one after another, we heard from many education businesses and organizations struggling with the transition to online learning. More often than not, the little experience they had with education technology was with the kind used in physical classrooms, not remote ones. What online learning they could put together greatly varied, depending on where they were and how much they could afford to invest. 

In one case, the organization works with schools in developing communities, many of which were in rural locations. The workshops they wanted to digitize had to be simple enough for teachers with limited access to, and limited experience with, technology to manage. They also needed to make sense from a pedagogical perspective even after being translated to a digital format. And most of all, their team hoped to create more of such workshops on their own in the long run.

On our end, we wanted to empower their country managers who were producing these online workshops with the know-how to do so on their own. So we asked many questions to understand better the context they were working in and paid close attention to their objectives and desired outcomes for each course. We would then share best practices given their situation, show sample courses they could take inspiration from, and even review some of the early workshops they created. 

It was incredibly heartening to see their team becoming more confident whenever we caught up. They had many new ideas they wanted to try out and new product suggestions for us – it was, without a doubt, a win-win situation. Driving teachers in rural communities to adopt online learning remains an ongoing challenge for them. Still, I’d like to think that our collaboration helped them see a way forward during a very trying time.

How do you think ZilLearn will help people and organizations learn?

I would say that ZilLearn, as a suite of products, supports people and organizations in keeping pace with digitization through more precise and timely learning. 

Looking at the news, the conversation around workforce reskilling and upskilling has really taken off of late because COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of technology in just about every sector. Skills in demand in tech companies are now in demand everywhere, which is both a problem and an opportunity for individuals. Those who learn better and faster will get ahead, and part of what ZilLearn is developing is a tool that helps people identify what to learn to get them ahead in their careers.

The same need to learn better and faster exists for organizations. Change is the new normal, so there’s plenty of need for just-in-time, on-the-job learning. But traditional learning management systems were designed for a more top-down, centralized approach to organizational learning.

This can result in inefficiency and wastage, which is definitely something many organizations want to avoid as they move towards a more lean and agile model. ZilLearn supports organizations pursuing that goal with a range of tools to identify what their teams need to learn. By building or learning content rapidly and managing learning in an organized but flexible manner.

What do you enjoy the most about working at Kydon?

The sense of purpose in our work. Much of what we are working on has to do with the changes that we’re seeing in society today, so there’s always an exciting sense that what we’re doing will have a meaningful impact on the world we live in. 

SPONSORED CONTENT: Kydon currently has open positions for developers, instructional designers, marketing, and operations. Find out more here.

LEARNTech Asia
LEARNTech Asia showcases innovation in learning in Asia. We feature stories and resources in online learning, workplace learning, adult education, EdTech, and creative solutions by teachers and trainers in learning institutions, non-profits, and enterprises that enhance human capacity and inspire communities of lifelong learners.