August 2014 theVoice rockfordchamber.com
ROAD TO SUCCESS: Focus On Education / Training Services
Guest Perspective INSIGHT
Understanding how learning environments impact continuing education outcomes When thunder roars, go indoors! While in the great outdoors, remember, if you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to put you in danger. The safest place to be during a storm is inside a sturdy building. Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity. The National Weather Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has more tips for when the storm clouds roll in. If you are caught outside with no substantial structures nearby, the following actions may reduce your risk of being struck by lightning: ■■ Move inside a hard-topped metal vehicle with windows closed. Avoid contact with metal in the vehicle and try to keep away from windows. ■■ Never shelter under an isolated tree, tower or utility pole. Lightning tends to strike taller objects in an area. ■■ Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks, and move to the lowest area you can get to quickly. ■■ Get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water and avoid metal objects (i.e., wires and fences). Water and metal are excellent conductors of electricity. ■■ Never lie flat on the ground. To minimize your chance of being struck, you have to minimize your height and your body's contact with the earth's surface. For more information on lightning safety, visit www.ready.gov/ thunderstorms-lightning or www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov. Consider also downloading the free FEMA app, available for your Android, Apple or Blackberry device, with information at your fingertips to prepare for severe weather.
Education is one of the most critical factors that provides a foundation during the most formative years of our lives. In fact, by the time most individuals reach adulthood, they have spent at least 15 years in a continuous and structured learning environment. Post-secondary learning, often described as continuing education, provides ongoing opportunities for individuals to extend their learning to enhance the skills and knowledge needed within their chosen career path. While some willingly may choose to engage in these opportunities, it’s becoming increasingly common that regulatory agencies, professional organizations and companies have specific continuing education requirements that must be met and maintained regularly. Many careers, such as architecture, engineering, education, healthcare, mental health, finance, legal, etc., require continuing education credits to maintain active licensing or credentials. More than an enforced requirement, continuing education provides an opportunity to remain relevant and understand emerging trends and changing requirements. It can be used to reinforce existing knowledge and “even the playing field” when competing in a multi-generational workforce. As secondary education becomes the baseline qualification for employment, this is an important differentiator for professionals to remain competitive in the current economy and job market.
Setting the Environment Equally important, but oft overlooked, considerations are the physical attributes upon which learning environments are created. Whether through the workplace, a local college or university, a community center or an online program being worked on in the comfort of your own home, the seating, sound, lighting, color and technology that surround you are critical elements to ensuring successful educational outcomes. In traditional class settings, the standard classroom configuration — front-facing rows of seats toward one wall — remains a popular functional option, though not always the most effective. Learning environments are offering increasingly flexible and adaptable configurations to accommodate differing learning styles, teaching techniques, and more active engagement. Seating options may include stackable or folding chairs versus desks to allow for easy modification, or bean bag chairs and sofas to encourage group work and study sessions in a relaxed living room-type setting. Changing the configuration of a
Stephen M. Nelson Larson & Darby Group
space allows instructors an opportunity to better engage students. Moveable wall space or extended learning areas allow for expanded group discussions and learning opportunities. Sound, lighting and color also are important considerations. Studies indicate that the colors within a learning environment have a significant impact on retention, morale and behaviors. These visual stimulators can have both positive and negative effects on attention span and perception of time. Colors also change by virtue of the level of educational setting for whom one is designing. In fact, engaging more than six may negatively strain cognitive abilities. The younger the student, the more they want to interact with their surroundings. The older the learner, the more conservative the environment. Color schemes should be considered based on audience and can be helpful in emitting a warm and comfortable setting or an exciting and loud atmosphere. Natural light and a link to nature or the outdoors also allows for a calm and peaceful setting that has proven to assist with learning. The incorporation of technology in learning environments also plays a significant role. Reliable and consistent 24/7 access to wireless connections and internet is an integral part of successful education at all levels. The internet or online learning continues to play a pivotal role in the educational delivery of “mass customized learning,” allowing students to engage in programming that caters to their preferred learning styles. Continuing education is an important facet of any professional’s career. Some may be surprised when returning to a classroom that what they once thought was “traditional” has become much more intuitive, engaging and interactive. By understanding and incorporating the environmental elements that fit your unique learning style, continuing education can provide a renewed passion and increased relevancy to your career. Founded in 1963, Larson & Darby Group is a full service, multidisciplinary architectural, engineering, interiors and technology firm in Rockford. It’s the only local architecture firm approved by the American Institute of Architects to provide Continuing Education Systems (CES) credits. Visit www.larsondarby.com. Stephen M. Nelson, AIA, LEED AP, is sr. project manager, director of educational architecture, Larson & Darby Group. The views expressed are those of Nelson’s and do not necessarily represent those of the Rockford Chamber of Commerce.