Lifelong learning isn’t a theoretical concept created by scientists – it is a reality of the modern life. It is a critical concept of our century -it combines different learning modes and is perceived as education throughout the lifetime.
The situation at our workplaces is changing so rapidly that without regular learning we can’t feel comfortable adopting the changes. Lifelong learning may take different formats:
- Formal – offered by wide variety of educational institutions of different levels of studies;
- Non-formal – happening outside educational institutions;
- Informal – not planned, accidental learning.
Lifelong learning always targets the increase of knowledge and new skills development. Lifelong learning is based on 3 assumptions:
- People are equipped with knowledge;
- People are prepared to update their knowledge, skills, and competencies;
- People take responsibility for ongoing learning in their lives.
It is clear that lifelong learning was not possible 30 years ago. Now, we recognize and appreciate lifelong learning support provided by technology and millions of people are taking advantage of opportunities provided by e-learning.
Nevertheless, acceptance and implementation of lifelong learning in the society will take some time
Technology enhances and empowers lifelong learning
New approaches and new ways to integrate technology into the learning process are presented to us on regular basis. Technology support is vital to lifelong learning – learning which is flexible, diverse, and available at any time and place.
Technology support for lifelong learning includes:
- Infrastructure, facilities for remote access, user interfaces and personalization and customization capabilities;
- Learning content – microlearning, simulation, online text, online lectures, educational videos;
- Learning management systems;
- Learning enhancement platforms (chat, learners forums, expert-led discussions, Webinars, virtual classroom sessions).
Mobile learning solves the problem of availability of the content anywhere and anytime. Microlearning allows access to the small chunks of the content when available time is very short: during trips and breaks at work or at home.
Lifelong learning can’t be done effectively in isolation, learners can’t be left alone – the sense of community is supported by collaborative learning in virtual reality using social media tools and learning enhancement platforms. The important aspect of any learning – communication skills should not be left aside
Personalization – to meet individual needs of lifelong learners
Lifelong learning requires support which addresses individual learning needs: learning preferences, prior knowledge, and individual circumstances. Technology solutions must address specific learning needs of each individual by the personalization of the e-learning platforms. It means that e-learning solutions should include special software capable to learn patterns, preferences, behavior, and habits.
From the process perspective, it contains 3 steps:
- the software collects data about the user/learner (profile, preferences, behavior patterns),
- special rules are applied to analyze learner’s data collected;
- respective customized learning content is created for the specific learner.
Creating Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is a popular trend in lifelong learning
Technological solutions support Personal Learning Environment
Technology offers several tools which can be used to develop and support your personal learning environment. Some of these tools are well-known already.
Search Engine Alerts. For example, Google Alerts sends you the email notification when new resources matching criteria specified are available on the web. This tool allows collecting the latest resources related to the area of studies or research.
Personal knowledge managers are tools that allow you to collect, annotate, and organize information collected on the web. This valuable tool allows creating your personal libraries of resources related to the area of learning.
Professional Learning Networks provides tools to connect with professionals across different areas of expertise. Finding world-class experts, and following them, contacting them when required– these are the options available. Social networking sites, blogs, and video conferencing tools can be used to create and support personal learning network.
Blogs are online spaces used for reflecting the experiences or thoughts of a person or a group of people. Several blogging platforms are available: Blogger, WordPress, Wix, Yola, etc., You create your blogs, allow comments on your blog, read the blogs created by other people and leave comments. This way, you build professional relationships with bloggers who represent the same area of expertise or interest as you are.
Social networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+, are useful for connecting professionals together. Using these social sites, you have access to world expertise and you can communicate with professionals across the globe.
Video Conferencing Tools are useful for scheduled conversations with colleagues when there is the necessity for the detailed discussions. Usually, it involves people you know well, and have established a good professional relationship.
You must decide which tools are more suitable for you to create your personal learning environment. Since technology is developing fast, new tools are offered for our use regularly. Let’s not to miss this opportunity and make PLE effective, complete, and actual to support our learning
Why lifelong learning matters?
There are several reasons why millions of people are using their personal time to learn new things and develop new skills:
- personal interest and desire to make life more interest and exciting;
- to be able to help other people;
- to generate additional income;
- to have new hobbies;
- to be part of the community.
Professional people who are taking regular training and certification courses are driven by desire:
- To maintain and improve their job skills;
- To pass certification as a proof of their competency in the specific area;
- To get a salary raise or promotion at work;
- To get a new job with the different employer.
It does not matter what reasons are driving a person to learn new things, there are always benefits to enjoy:
- Feeling more capable and confident at work;
- New perspectives in life;
- Better connection to professional and local communities;
- Advances in the current workplace;
- Success in finding another job;
- Opportunities to start another career.
Technology can make lifelong learning a reality for many people. People need to upgrade their skills throughout their adult lives to cope with modern living requirements. With tools offered by technology, people can learn virtually anytime and anyplace they choose.
When dealing with the new generation of professionals, I have noticed that they are very comfortable with lifelong learning concept and don’t see problems taking classes, training sessions or workshops on a regular basis. I believe it means that lifelong learning and continuing education will experience the consistent expansion in the future.