The Learning Connexion: Changing lives

By Jennifer Van Beynen

The Learning Connexion: Changing lives
A new generation of learners is forgoing the life of a student on campus, as they break through traditional education barriers and go the route of distance learning.

For The Learning Connexion’s students, education is shaping people in incredibly positive ways and giving new meaning to their lives. At The Learning Connexion, students study creativity through art making, undertaking subjects such as painting, sculpture, photography, jewellery-making and design. While courses offer a grounding in visual arts, the intention is also to draw creativity out of students, so they can develop not just individually but use their skills to relate to the world.

The Learning Connexion’s founder Jonathan Milne says he’s seen a number of inspiring students go through The Learning Connexion who end up achieving incredible things.

“One student we had not so long ago, Yaniv Janson, was pretty full-on Asperger’s. [His art] ended up outselling the entire school cohort, it was incredible. His work now gets right around the world … From a very early stage Yaniv started selling and his parents, who are incredibly supportive, have helped him get around the world. It’s pretty amazing.”

Milne says that creativity can also help people through traumatic situations.

“After the Christchurch earthquake, we had a number of students down there and I think they used their art as a process that helped them get through the trauma of the whole event … Christchurch is still suffering from the after-effects, the trauma runs pretty deep, and the whole engagement with art and creativity turned out to be really valuable for people.”

The Learning Connexion also works with students from The Corrections Department, which Milne says is a rewarding process.

“Corrections has been quite a success story,” he says. “We’ve been working with Corrections for more than a decade and we got in at a time when it definitely wasn’t fashionable, Corrections as a department wasn’t quite sure how this would develop. Not only have the students been outstandingly successful but they’re allowed to send material into our exhibitions and the selling rate has been excellent. It’s turning out to have quite serious value for them. For many people in jail – it sounds like a terrible pun, but they’ve got time, and consequently they’re able to put their imaginative ideas to work and really get engaged with something positive.”

Something that perhaps sets The Learning Connexion apart from other institutions is that they request feedback from their students not just on how their course is going, but on how they themselves are feeling. The results speak volumes about how tapping into creativity can improve people’s sense of wellbeing.

“We’ve done wellbeing surveys – all we did was ask people ‘How do you rate your wellbeing?’ when they started and ‘How do you rate your wellbeing now?'” explains Milne. “We gave them a five-point scale, and it has been amazing. Some people who started at the bottom of the scale would go up to a four or a five and I thought, ‘Wow, something is happening.’ It’s so simple, and people really do engage with it.

“We figure the more people engage with actual doing, the more that ripples through their entire life. I think it just changes the way people think and interact with the world; you actually learn by doing.”



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