What can Hogwarts teach us about online learning?

How to be successful at online learning
Keith Tatley

For hundreds of years, education looked a lot like going to Hogwarts minus all the interesting magic. We’d have to travel to some far off location, sit in a classroom for hours on end and hope that you had a great teacher. Now, thanks to online learning even us muggles live in a magical age of learning. We have amazing technology but successful development requires a little more than just internet access.



When I work with people on development (whether these are individuals, managers or Human Resource staff), I see the same thing happen over and over again. As an aspiration, the benefits of development are fantastic. And who doesn’t have goals and good intentions? But the reality of doing the work gets in the way of the magical results. In this article I want to share with you what Hogwarts can teach us about effective learning. Relax because these techniques work for muggles like you and I.

PS: This article includes Self Development Tips and Tricks from the Course “How to Develop Yourself”. If you want to progress your work or personal life, then find out how to set yourself up for success here.

What is it that you want from your development? You see whatever it is that you want from your (work) life, personal development is going to help you to get there. But the trick is finding the time to invest in your future.

Finding the time to do development

The hardest thing about development is finding the time to do development. What magic does Hogwarts use to make time for learning? It’s simple they don’t use any magic at all - instead they have classes, just like regular learning. Because it’s simple and it works.

Now when you’re doing online learning, there aren’t any class times and “anytime” becomes “no time”. So how do you copy this? It’s simple, take the development off your to do list and stick it into your diary. Book an appointment with yourself because you’re simply not going to get the benefits of development unless you set some time aside for it.

Better still, make it a recurring appointment because no school, not even Hogwarts, tries to finish the syllabus in one single lesson. Regular, consistent lessons are the path to success.

Tip: Is your diary too full? Again, no magic needed: Just go a few weeks out and book the time before someone else does. This is the process to follow in YOUR Power Hour

The magic sorting hat because people are different

So people are different but our education system has a habit of treating everyone the same. Successful people have great self awareness, they know what their strengths are and they know how to compensate for their weaknesses. At Hogwarts they have a magic sorting hat to put you into the right house.

The closest thing to a Magic Sorting Hat is finding out your Learning Power in the Learning Skills Assessment. If you ever felt like a square peg in a round hole, this assessment will help you understand what makes you different to other people. And will show you how to make the best of your natural skills and tendencies when it comes to development. 

Tip: Are you responsible for employees and wish that they would improve their skills and capabilities? Help them to find their own Learning Power by sharing this assessment with them. 

Banishing development distractions


You know the drill, as soon as you sit down to spend some quality time developing your skills, your phone rings or there’s someone to see you. Now in the Harry Potter world, you’d have a wand that you could use to banish distractions. But zapping someone with a spell seems like an extreme way to avoid distractions.

Once again Hogwarts uses a less extreme, totally conventional, yet effective method to avoid distractions. And that’s that they have dedicated learning spaces. Called classrooms and libraries. Just like we have in the muggle world.

Is your desk a hive of distractions from telephone calls, to social media, post-it reminders, demanding customers, colleagues and let’s not forget about the boss? Then the trick is to hide away from it all. For that magical hour: Shut your door, put your phone on silent, turn off desktop notifications, leave instructions not to be disturbed.

Or if all else fails book a meeting room. Either take the distractions away or take yourself away from the distractions.

TIP: If your boss is the biggest distraction preventing you from doing your training then establish an “upfront contract” with your boss. As a start, ask your boss what skills they want you to develop in your one on one meetings with your boss. For more details on how to get your boss to support your development, see “How to Develop Yourself”

How to learn how to fly

Those broomsticks don’t look very comfortable, but I still bet that you wish you could fly. But only a muggle would expect to go from standing to playing quidditch in one go. Even wizards start small and build up.

It’s the same with your personal development. Don’t start with a huge or boring project. If your first course is advanced quantum mathematics, then you’re setting yourself up for failure, before you even start.

And that’s advice for managers and HR professionals too. Don’t let your employees first experience of the company Learning Management System be a boring course on compliance.

Instead start off with something short, interesting and with an immediate payback. Use this to build momentum for bigger things and soon you will be flying through your own personal development.

Helpful Resource: Here’s a quick exercise everyone can do: Take the Stress Assessment in Desk Meditations to find out your personal stress score and learn how to manage stress better.

What do wizards do when they fail?

The thing with development projects is that they are speculative. Not every project is going to work. The nature of learning is failing a lot until you start to fail less.

So what do wizards do when they fail? Again no magic spells, they try again. If a student at Hogwarts doesn’t pass, there’s no magic potion or spell. They just repeat the subject. Boringly conventional and boringly effective because it’s perseverance that determines how successful people are.

The way to stay persistent with your personal development is to accept that you’re going to get knocked off course a few times. But as long as you book an hour a week with yourself to monitor your progress and keep moving forward, then you’ll get there in the end.

Forget spells, the solution to your problems is in your hands

If someone from 100 years ago looked at online learning today they would think that it’s magical. Got a problem? You can pull a magic device out of your pocket and get a wizard to teach you a magic spell (ahem get expert advice, for example see this dialogue on how to encourage your employees to solve their own problems - it works so well it’s almost like using a magic spell). 

To solve your problems, advance your career or just learn a cool new skill, you don’t have to go looking for Platform 9 and ¾. All you need to do is know “How to Develop Yourself” because this is the one skill to rule all others. (Oops I may be straying into Lord of the Rings Territory here :-) ) Don’t wait for magic to solve your problems, start investing in yourself by setting some dedicated time aside every week.  

PS Let’s not forget about Dumbledore

Dumbledore is the Headmaster at Hogwarts - he’s an experienced wizard who guides pupils through difficulties. Many people struggle with online learning because of a lack of personal interaction, a lack of guidance and a lack of accountability. That’s why we all need a Dumbledore in our life. You won’t find Dumbledore in any online course, but you can improve your own online learning by working with your boss or a mentor.  

Helpful resources:

Getting going with Go1

The Go1 platform has got several unique features that make developing your employees easier. Find out more about how to use these features in the Getting Going with Go1 course.

About the author:

Keith Tatley CA(SA) founded Manager Foundation and Karm Academy to help people with the soft skills they don’t teach you in school. This includes skills such as Effective One on One Meetings, Performance Communications and Delegation. If you would like to start your journey to become a better boss, then find out your BOSS Superpower now.

Go1 helps millions of people in thousands of organizations engage in learning that is relevant, effective and inspiring.
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