Learning scientist and head geek. Formally Labster CTO
December 16, 2015
How to run an awesome learnathon
Cramming in as much information as possible in a limited amount of time may not sound like the best way to learn important subjects. But there is a new teaching method that is gaining momentum and inspiring people to do just that.
They're called "learnathons", and they're a fun new way of teaching students certain subjects.
Learnathons are optimized learning sessions that teach participants how to apply what they learn, in a fast and effective manner. They are on the opposite end of how classroom teaching is organized, where lessons are spread out over the course of a semester and focused on theory and weekly practice. Learnathons are a fairly new concept, but have the ability to create an environment for learning that speeds up comprehension and application to levels that aren't seen elsewhere.
With learnathons popping up around college campuses and in cities all over the world, we thought you might like try the method out too. So here are our three best tips on how to run a great learnathon!
1. Find people who are passionate about the subject
If you have a passion for teaching the subject, find students who have a passion for learning it. For whatever subject you're teaching, try to find students who are already learning about it in some way or another in the classroom. You can 'sell' your learnathon as a way to speed up the learning process by learning and applying the subject in just one day. An example of this is Learn2Hack, a learnathon that was developed at the University of Michigan. The organizers put up a quick website and targeted students who were close to completing or had just completed their first computer science class.
2. Use all the resources you can get
Learning a lot of material in a small period of time will unavoidably spark questions among the participants. So make sure you recruit enough instructors to help students if questions arise or if they get stuck. Instead of requiring students to raise their hand if they have a question, try to get your instructors to be proactive in seeking out students that appear to be confused. This way the learnathon doesn't have to be interrupted and students can get quick, individual attention, and get back on track as fast as possible.
3. Take breaks and have fun
Learnathons can last for very long periods of time without any rest (Learnathon.org for example recommends six hours). It’s important to give attendees a break every once in a while though, as learnathons are more about absorbing and applying knowledge than winning a competition. Try to have plenty of food and refreshments available for your participants. A great way to get it for free is to have a local pizzeria or restaurant sponsor your learnathon. Most importantly, have fun. It's crucial that everyone gets a great experience so that they will want to come back again for your next learnathon. After all, everyone is there for the same reason: To learn about a certain topic and put it to good use!