Mini Lesson 3

What is a Learning Opportunity?


  • What do we mean by Learning Opportunity?
  • Examples of different Learning Opportunities
  • Thinking about Learning Opportunities using
    • Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How
  • Why we really want to push you to explore a range of types of Learning Opportunities



At we use the term Learning Opportunity in place of "class" or "course". We started using this term because we wanted a way to broaden and expand the way we think about learning. Humans learn all of the time. It is a natural part of being a human being. But we tend to only "count" the kind of learning that happens in a classroom. So we wanted a phrase that we could use to expand the kind of learning that "counts".

We wanted a broader and more inclusive term that can accomodate a much wider range of ways that we learn.

So we use the term Learning Opportunity and we define it as follows:

A Learning Opportunity is anytime you intentionally put yourself in a position to learn something.

A "class" or a "course" is one type of Learning Opportunity. But so is playing volleyball on the volleyball team. And so is deciding to read a book that seemed interesting to you. And so is trying out for a play or making a habit of going for a walk in the woods every afternoon. All of those are types of Learning Opportunities because you are intentionally putting yourself in a position to learn something.

What you learn. How you learn it. Who you learn it with. Why you decided on that Learning Opportunity. Those are definitely different. But ... they are all Learning Opportunities.

This concept, Learning Opportunity, is fundamental to what we are trying to do at

We want you to go on a Learning Journey. One way of doing that is to see the world as full of opportunities to learn. We think you are going to learn all the time on your journey. You can't help it. Humans learn.

By using the term, Learning Opportunity, to capture all the times that you intentionally put yourself in a position to learn, you will have made the entire world your classroom.

The next step is capturing all of those various types of Learning Opportunities so that you have a record of your Learning Journey.

And here is a little secret ... the process of capturing and recording your Learning Opportunities is also a chance to identify, discover, and invent the next Learning Opportunities in your Learning Journey.

The method we use to capture and describe a Learning Opportunity is using the Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? method. This method is used by journalists, lawyers, detectives to try and give themselves a holistic, 360 degree view on something.

Any Learning Opportunity can be described using this framework.

Who did you learn with? Who did you learn from? Who guided you? Who provided feedback or assessment?

What was the content of your learning? What were the skills involved? What were the habits you developed? What was the mindset you used?

When did the Learning Opportunity start and stop? How many total hours did you spend on it?

Where did the Learning Opportunity take place? In a classroom? At home? Online? at a job? While traveling?

Why did you choose to participate in this Learning Opportunity? Curiosity, Passion, Interest, Purpose, Meaning, Short Term Goals, Long Term Goals, Requirements

How did you learn during this Learning Opportunity? How can include the method as in Teacher-led class, student driven research, self-paced online class, etc. How can also include Learning by Creating, Learning by Doing, Learning by Discovery (we will talk more about these soon).

Here is a document to help you think about using these Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How questions to describe a Learning Opportunity.


Maybe the simplest way to understand the concept of a Learning Opportunity is to look at a few examples that we will describe using the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How method.

1. Business Law Class

Summary :: I signed up for a basic Business Law class at my local high school

WHO :: I will be taking the class along with other high school students. It is taught by a teacher from the high school. Each student will be learning the same material.

WHAT :: The content of the class will include subjects like Business, Law, Government, Entrepreneurship. It will require skills like reading, written communication, verbal communication, summarization, project management, test taking, time management, memorization and recall. It will require habits like developing social connections, managing a group project, patience and perseverance, and seeing myself as a work in progress and continuously growing.

WHEN :: The class will take place three days a week (Mon, Wed, Fri) for an hour each day. It will last one semester (4 months). It will be a total of around 100 hours.

WHERE :: The class will be at my local high school in a 3rd floor classroom.

WHY :: I am interested in maybe majoring in Business in college and I want to take this class to get an idea of what it might mean to study Business in a classroom setting. I am also hoping to start my own business soon and I think maybe I can use this class to learn about some of the business laws that might apply to me starting a small business as a teenager. I am hoping to talk to the teacher and see if they can provide me some guidance in starting my own business. So the class is mainly related to two goals. 1. Majoring in Business and 2. Starting my own Business.

HOW :: This is a teacher-led class and so How we learn will be dictated by the teacher. There are readings and homework to do. The teacher does a lecture each class that we are quizzed on. There are some group projects during the term. There are also some exams at the end of each unit. We also have an individualized project. I am going to record that project as its own Learning Opportunity.

2. Volleyball Team

Summary :: I am playing volleyball on a youth community volleyball team at a nearby gym.

WHO :: There is a coach and an assistant coach. There are also my teammates. Finally there are the fans, the officials, and the other teams we play.

WHAT :: The content is sports, exercise, volleyball, community. It will require developing volleyball skills, getting in better condition, being a good teammate, listening. It will require habits like developing social connections, deliberate practice, patience and perseverance, and seeing myself as a work in progress and continuously growing.

WHEN :: We practice two nights a week and then have games on the weekends. It starts in September and ends in November. It is a total of about 125 hours.

WHERE :: We practice and play games at the local gym down the street. We also play some tournaments in nearby towns. We have one tournament that we have to drive for 3 hours to get to.

WHY :: Even though I am not the best player on the team, I love playing volleyball. I love just hitting the ball around. But I also enjoy hanging out with my teammates and being a part of a team. The games make me nervous but I still like having all the fans watching and cheering us on. I even kind of enjoy when the other team's fans cheer from them. It is fun being a part of the game. I hope to keep getting better at it and keep playing because it is good exercise and I really do enjoy it.

HOW :: The coaches help us with skills and strategy and sticking together as a team. My teammates help keep me motivated. They also help me with my skills. A few of my teammates are really good at giving me pointers and I learn a lot from them. I also learn by watching other players. It is mainly a learn by doing activity although we did have to read the rule book and complete a quiz at the start of practicing.

3. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Summary :: I read the book Moby Dick by Herman Melville

WHO :: I elected to read this book on my own so it is mostly me involved. But it was written by Herman Melville and so this Learning Opportunity wouldn't exist without him.

WHAT :: The content is American Literature, History, and Science. In addition to reading skills, I had to look up a few things (vocabulary and events and places) so it required some research skills, too. I had to use the habits of perseverance (some of the book dragged on) and being a situational learner (I read before bedtime and that helped develop the habit of reading and honestly helped me sleep). I also used the habit of seeking out help since my mom had read the book, she helped me understand a few things in it. I also demonstrated self-discipline. I told myself I wanted to finish it (as a challenge) and I held myself to that.

WHEN :: I made it a habit of reading each night before bedtime. It took me a few months (probably about 20 hours to finish it).

WHERE :: I mainly read it in my bed at night. But near the end, when I wanted to finish, I took it with me and read when I had down time.

WHY :: I saw the book on my bookshelf (thanks mom) and I had heard of it. So I was a little bit curious since it is a known "Classic". It seemed kind of thick and a bit intimidating. I thought I might be up to the challenge.

HOW :: Mainly just reading on my own. I selected the book. I held myself to account for finishing it. Maybe it helped that I told my mom I was going to finish it (she didn't think I would) and I took that as a bit of a challenge.


As you can see from the examples above, you can use the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How framework to capture most any kind of Learning Opportunity. You can also see from reading the examples that each Learning Opportunity was a valuable experience in the learner's life. All three are worthy of capturing. All three added to the Learning Journey. All three would contribute to telling a Story of an interesting and unique person.

Hopefully you can also see that the process of Recording the Learning Opportunity has a value all its own. It isn't just about capturing the event. It is also about analyzing it, considering it, integrating it into your Learning Journey, and perhaps being inspired for the next Learning Opportunity or setting longer term goals.

Previous Mini Lesson .......... Field Guide Home .......... Next Mini Lesson