Learn on your Lunch Break

In a postgrad research programme your whole job is about learning: learning from others’ research, learning from your own research, and helping others to learn.

But typically, all that learning is localized to a very small niche-of-a-niche of human knowledge. Learning about something different can be as mentally refreshing as taking a break. Exposing ourselves to new ideas and new ways of thinking can broaden our minds and regenerate our intellectual energy.

And fortunately, there are lots of ways to fit new learning into a lunch break.

Go to a lunchtime seminar

The AUTi Events page has current listings of research seminars happening all around the university. These are generally free, and if they’re labelled ‘brown bag,’ you can bring your lunch to eat during the seminar.

For example, AUT lunchtime seminars this week include:

  • When volunteering is not volunteering: The China-contextual volunteering in tourism” – this Friday 15 November, 12-1pm, WH125, at the NZ Tourism Research Institute
  • The question of cyber-ethics: The Habermasian and Ubuntu philosophy approach in analysing African adolescents’ social media behaviour” – this Friday 15 November, 12-1pm, WT1440, at the School of Social Sciences and Public Policy (in conjunction with the Pacific Media Centre)

Watch a doco

AUT staff and students have access to Kanopy, which is like Netflix for intellectuals. Stream from a massive array of documentaries, independent and international films, and classic movies. There is also a great selection of short films, many of which have a lunch break-friendly duration of 20-30 minutes.

Some of my personal favourite educational choices on other platforms include:

  • Explained‘ on Netflix, which gives approachable 20 minute introductions to a variety of topics
  • YouTube series ‘Every Frame a Painting‘ for smart interpretations of how films create meaning visually
  • YouTuber Mike Boyd, who learns a new skill every month and vlogs about the process
  • It’s OK to be Smart, a YouTube channel full of educational videos under 20 minutes long. They’re funny, well-produced, and they don’t shy away from complex ideas

And of course, TED talks are a perennial favourite source of inspiration and new knowledge on almost any topic imaginable.

Take an online course

If you like your learning a little more structured, you can try an online course. There are a huge number of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available these days. My favourite provider is edX. It’s non-profit, open source, founded by MIT and Harvard academics, and packed full of courses from some of the world’s best universities. Many are self-paced, so you can learn whenever you have time; and you usually don’t have to pay a cent (unless you want a certificate at the end of the course).

AUT students also have free access to course content in LinkedIn Learning (previously Lynda.com). Content is organised under the broad headings of Business / Creative / Technology, and most courses focus on practical skills. LinkedIn Learning is particularly good for learning new software. Just log in with your AUT email address.

About Anaise Irvine

Dr Anaise Irvine is the Editor of Thesislink and leads the Researcher Education and Development team at Auckland University of Technology. Her PhD research analysed how contemporary films and novels represent genetic engineering as a social justice issue. These days she works with researchers at all levels to improve their research skills, and the most obscure of her own research skills is being able to turn novels into phylogenetic trees!

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