TUM Learning Challenge 2021

Have you already made plans for 2021?
How about learning something new? Take part in the TUM Learning Challenge!

With the TUM Learning Challenge, we want to motivate you to learn something new. Our learning experts will provide helpful Learning Nuggets to facilitate your learning! Register for the TUM Learning Challenge and describe your personal learning goal: What do you want to learn 2021? As part of our Learning Community, you will then receive many helpful tipps that support you in achieving your personal learning goal.

Join now!


"I want to finally learn to get into action this year. I.e., move from thinking to action and actively make decisions."

"I want to learn this year what I enjoy in my job and how to expand on that."

"I want to learn digital marketing and online PR this year."



Lifelong learning is not only a necessity,

but a great desire many of us have: We wish to keep growing, to learn new things, and to share our views of the world with others. But sometimes this comes too short in the hustle and bustle of everyday (professional) life. With the TUM Learning Challenge, we want to encourage you to purposely make a resolution about what you want to learn in 2021. As research shows: The more concrete this learning goal, the greater the chance that you will achieve it!

Dr. Kristin Knipfer
Executive Director TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning



TUM Learning Nugget: Learning and Physical Exercise

Regular exercising supports your learning process. Learn how to increase your concentration, creativity and mental performance through regular physical activity.

Learning and Physical Exercise

Physical exercise plays a key role, especially when you're working or learning at a desk and sitting in front of a laptop for hours. While we are moving, new content can settle better in our brain and thus better anchor what we have learned. Physical exercise also helps us to be more focused and concentrated during mentally productive moments.

Learning Nugget: How to increase your mental productivity through physical exercise

According to findings by learning scientist Lisa Oppezzo from the Standford Graduate School of Education, there is a connection between exercise and creativity: In a predominantly sedentary learning or working day, walks can not only increase your concentration, but also your creativity and mental productivity. This is especially relevant for solving complex problems.

Conduct the following self-experiment: Choose a problem you want to brainstorm about and....

  1. Collect as many ideas as possible and write them down while sitting (limit your time).
  2. Take a walk during the brainstorming session. While doing this, record as many ideas as you can on your phone (limit your walking time).
  3. Reflect: when did I have more creative solutions to my problem, while sitting or during the walk?

Science Nugget: Why physical exercise helps for learning

The still fairly young research field of movement neuroscience examines the connection between brain activity and physical movement. Studies show that exercise promotes the formation of neurons in the brain and stimulates the interconnection of nerve cells. Regular, moderate physical exercise can even increase the size of the hippocampus - the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

So, by exercising, we not only train our bodies, but we also train our brains' adaptability and plasticity, which can lead to higher attention processes and cognitive performance abilities. Exercise should therefore be an integral part of our everyday lives – especially as a key factor for learning success.

Info-Box:  If you want to learn more about...

... the influence of physical exercise on learning, read this exciting article.
... how physical exercise shapes the brain, watch this interesting Ted Talk.
... how you can integrate exercise breaks into your sitting workday, watch the TUMgesund video series.

Anna Donato, TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning

TUM Learning Nugget: Learning and Reflection

Research shows: The more specific the learning goal, the greater the chance you'll achieve it! Learn how to launch your Learning Challenge with the SMART formula.

Learning and Reflection

By participating in the TUM Learning Challenge, you have decided to learn something new and set yourself concrete goals. You have been following the challenge for a few weeks and while we hope it is working well, we suspect there are also some moments of frustration. 

The process of reflection encourages us to examine new perspectives and seek insights about our own learning. By reflecting on difficulties in learning, we can adapt our learning strategies to try something different, which may help us to make progress again. Reflection is therefore a prerequisite and an effective mechanism for lifelong learning!

Learning Nugget: How to improve learning through reflection

A structured reflection has three central elements: Analysis, Problem Solving and Resolution. We recommend that you take a few minutes every couple of weeks to reflect on a challenge in your personal Learning Challenge:

Step 1: Analysis

  • What challenge have I experienced in learning in the last two weeks? 
  • How did I deal with this challenge and what was the result?

As a first step, be as objective as possible and try to reserve judgement. Be aware of emotions associated with this challenge: Have you been annoyed, frustrated, or felt that you wanted to give up? 

Step 2: Problem Solving

  • What should I have done differently in dealing with this challenge?
  • What could I try next time and what impact would that have?

Step 2 helps you to find new approaches for action. Think of at least three alternatives and be open to creative solutions. Focus on the aspects that you can influence!

Step 3: Resolution

  • What exactly do I intend to do in future? What would I like to do differently?
  • How exactly can this be done? When can I implement these changes?

In step 3, you should be as concrete as possible: “The next time I face a similar challenge, I will...”.

Science Nugget: Why reflection helps learning

In the learning model of the pedagogue David Kolb, two elements play a critical role in successful learning: experience and reflection. He suggests that a concrete experience demands a conscious reflection - especially in the event of difficulties. At the same time, reflection empowers you to take charge of your own learning, and this is especially important for lifelong learners!

Info-Box: If you want to learn more about...

... the role of reflection, check out this blog post.
... the effects of reflection, read this article.

PD Dr. habil. Kristin Knipfer, TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning

TUM Learning Nugget: Learning and Routines

Routines help with decision-making and can reduce stress in everyday life. Learn how you can de-stress your brain through routines and thus increase learning success.

Learning and Routines

In our hectic everyday life, it has become more and more relevant to balance our energy. Hereto, routines and habits can help. They accompany us through a flood of opportunities and decision-making that are awaiting us every day. Therefore, they also play an important role for learning.

Learning Nugget: How to identify and develop relevant routines

With this creative exercise, you can develop routines for mastering your personal Learning Challenge:

  1. Envision what you would like to learn or which personal or professional goal you would like to achieve within the next months. Be as specific as possible – use the SMART formula from our first learning nugget.
  2. Now imagine: We are six months ahead of today. You have failed! You have not achieved your goal. Explain in detail why you have failed – write it down if you like.
  3. Based on these learnings, reflect on which decisions you can make differently today and which routines will help you achieve your goal.

Tips and tricks to develop and stick with your routines:

Optimize the start, not the end goal. Make starting as easy and comfortable as possible. If your goal is to learn a new language, for example, why not have vocabulary cards ready all times or listen to a song in the preferred language every morning.

Make sure your environment fits to reach your goal.
Think about who or what can help you with your plans or what might become an obstacle?

Visualize your successes.
Even if they are only tiny steps: mark every calendar day with a cross, when you have managed to stick to a new routine. Thereby, it will become your new moment of happiness to simply not interrupt this „chain of success“.

Science Nugget: Why do routines help?

Cognitive Psychology shows that routines and habits save brain energy. If we needed to make all our everyday decisions attentively (e.g., How do I brush my teeth today? How do I put on socks?), our brain would be overstressed and our energy completely depleted after just a few hours. Cognitive decision research in particular has recognized the power of routines and sees them as essential for daily decision making. There are reasons why we use the saying „The power of habit“.

Info-Box:  If you want to learn more about...

... how to start and stop routines, read James Clear´s success book „Atomic Habits“ or Charles Duhigg’s book „The Power of Habit“.
... the development of a new routine, listen to an inspiring podcast about personal development topics: The Happiness Lab.

Anna Donato, TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning

Learning from Leaders: Reinhard Ploss

We already had the pleasure of welcoming Reinhard Ploss, CEO of Infineon Technologies, at the grand opening of the TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning in January 2021 - now he talks about...