We want to pursue the development of new skills for your professional career, or simply for the love and enjoyment and personal growth it can provide, choosing to learn outside of the formality of an institution – and choosing to learn on your own terms and interests – is a powerful thing. We can yearn for, and acquire, new knowledge and develop new skills anytime and from anywhere – thanks to the power of technology.
The conventional definition of learning is rather closed and one-dimensional when we consider the opportunities that exist for education in 2022: now, learning is no longer limited to classrooms of ordered rows of desks and crisp, bulky textbooks.
In the post pandemic world, access to opportunities of skill development and learning online is limitless. The growing popularity of online learning platforms has cast a new light of hope for many – whilst parts of our lives closed off. It is on its way to a revival: whether we are seeking out entertainment and human connection through the online learning world, or whether we are seeking more fulfilment in our professional lives, so many of us have been pulled back into learning by the rewards and satisfaction that it can bring to us. The buzz of adrenaline of mastering a new complex skill. The joy of discovering and accessing something completely unknown or previously unobtainable. Learning can be transformative.
From the comfort and safety of our homes, and at any age or stage in our lives, we have been gifted access to courses and classes and videos to develop skills and knowledge that would have been unthinkable and unreachable for a previous generation. Learning that may have been financially or physically unobtainable is now available for all. In short, the pandemic has propelled a change, redefining the concept of learning forever. It is now about far more than the drone of one respected teacher’s views and voice in your ears. It is, thanks to the rise of the online learning platforms, a genuinely lifelong opportunity. And it is in this sense, fundamentally, that learning has now become more democratic and holistic in our modern world than mere schooling.
We have experienced great tragedy – and it has shifted our values and our priorities in the deepest ways. Many of us see the worth of our work/life balance and prioritise our family ties more strongly than ever so we are drawn into learning new skills and acquiring new knowledge to be able to change careers. It is estimated that new generations will have an average of seven careers over their lifetimes now – we no longer typically begin one career or start at a first job after school and follow that path until we retire. How exciting to contemplate the prospect and vast oceans of job opportunities that now exist and to be able to move into roles that fulfil our different needs at the different stages of our lives! Yet we also need to be able to navigate this rapidly changing world of work and thus we need the knowledge and critical thinking skills that these platforms can offer us to do so.
Perhaps you might start with a course focused on a type of technology or popular software. Extensive swathes of lessons and programmes exist to allow you to learn mastery of valuable skills such as coding and editing. Introductions to web development, app writing, computer programming, digital design and 3D graphics abound. They are broken down into manageable chunks and presented and taught visually via presentation and demonstration videos by experts in their fields. There are no prescribed times for learning or short deadlines to meet – part of the draw of online learning is that you can set your own pace and your own schedule, fitting in the acquiring of new skills around your family and current commitments. Access is unlimited so you can watch and rewatch the videos as often as you want or need to until you have perfected your techniques. You could be at home ensconced in the comfort of your sofa or whiling away time on the bus on a commute by being productive. Either way, you can now easily, and relatively cheaply, transform your career prospects and match your skills to the evolving job market of the modern world, whether needing or wanting to find a new direction in a post-pandemic world. But the courses aren’t just limited to beginners in these subjects – whilst many promise the spark of something completely new and introduce you to a programme or concept with which you have no experience, others offer the scope of gaining real expertise over many days and hours or the power of improving the skills you already have and thus growing your current business or professional opportunities.
Yet these online learning programmes are not just about our careers and working lives: the range of opportunities that they provide cater just as much to our passions as our professions. Yes, we may be using such lifelong learning to change careers and work in an industry that we have always been drawn to because it aligns with our interests. Or we may be using the aftermath of the pandemic as a motivation to grasp this increased sense of contentment at work instead of accepting a working life that leaves us unfulfilled. But we may equally be just as drawn in by the chance to learn about a subject that we have always been intrigued by for no other reason than the chance of learning itself. This, for many, is what is both inspiring and rewarding about lifelong learning. The courses tend to be practical and skills based so that they offer that sense of achievement and success when they have been completed, but they are actually very wide-ranging in their scope. The capacity for pleasure and entertainment is just as likely.
You can design jewellery, learn to crochet or craft from leather. You can master drawing or watercolour or concept art. You can pen crime or fantasy or children’s fiction. The possibilities for craft and creativity are endless for a creative individual. In fact, the pull and entertainment of engaging with a new skill has even led some of these platforms to offer the possibility of gift cards for their courses too. You can surprise a creative friend or family member with the gift of learning for their birthday or Christmas. You can offer them the chance to discover a new craft, produce their next artistic project or simply satisfy that hunger to learn – and knowledge is a powerful gift.
Some platforms have another unique angle – the teachers aren’t just qualified specialists but celebrities. Imagine a cooking masterclass with a famous chef, song writing or singing with your favourite pop star and tennis lessons with a world champion player – these are no longer unattainable dreams but a reality thanks to online learning platforms. You can absorb their power and expertise through exclusive video lessons, anytime and anywhere, to connect with both your own creativity and that of talented and inspirational individuals. It is no wonder then that this has almost become a unique type of streaming service which is watched for leisure and gratification as if it was a TV drama. This is Netflix, perhaps, with the added bonus of learning alongside it.
As more and more people join the ranks of users of these platforms and their popularity continues to grow, the community of learners grows too, spreading the fulfilment and passion for learning across the world. Remote working and the increased time in our homes and at our computers or devices has all served to create a space in our lives – one which, through either necessity or interest, we are filling with the benefits and rewards of new learning. It has led to such innovation in online learning techniques and platforms, as well as an unprecedented access to both knowledge and experts, that it has transformed our understanding of education. Now, if we can harness these opportunities that technology provides, then learning and skill development are never finished nor left behind when we finish school – it is truly a lifelong journey.
Essay/Article commissioned by: TDLM Editorial
Written by: Alice Sharman [Poetry/Fiction; English Literature, Durham University; Writer ]
Graphics/Art/Illustration by: TDLM Design Team
‘The Ecosystem of Lifelong Learning – An Emerging Lifestyle Trend’ First Published in The Daily Life Magazine on December 23, 2022