Lifelong learning covers an infinite number of subject areas and different educational levels. It includes skill training, credential requirements, and social interests. Lifelong learning should be accessible to all individuals regardless of age, race, ability, educational background, or workplace role. This requires implementation of innovative delivery formats to ensure that the learning activities are accessible to anyone who is interested in participating.
In summary, lifelong learning should become an integral part of our life as we progress from one learning level to the next throughout our lifetime. In this post, we explore what are the modern lifelong learning trends and how these trends enhance learner support and make the learning process accessible and effective.
Lifelong learning is an important part of our lives
Importance of Lifelong Learning is regularly addressed at different levels starting from the personal experiences up to political discussions and decisions made by prominent international organizations. From the perspective of individuals, we must embrace lifelong learning for our personal and professional success and our family’s success. Learning new things extends our personal skills and allows us to accomplish tasks we could not complete before.
Pursuing lifelong learning, we are getting multiple benefits:
- Saving money – with new skills we can accomplish work which usually was done by service providers;
- Helping and supporting other people;
- Possibility to earn additional income by offering services to others;
- Having modern skills, we can compete successfully in the job market;
- Attending professional training courses, we are having better chances for promotions and salary increments.
Content delivery approaches
Lifelong learning supports the learner-centered approach which means that the learning process is adapted to an individual learner’s profile and learning preferences. The learning process usually involves a facilitator which provides an educational environment to learners supporting the achievement of their individual learning objectives.
The learning content and the delivery format should be designed with the lifelong learner in mind. Lifelong learning activities are also designed for multiple learning styles to accommodate individual learning preference: project-based learning, collaborative activities, self-directed, and other modern learning approached are highly appreciated by lifelong learners. The following content delivery approaches are the most effective:
- Microlearning which delivers content in small chunks. This method of the content delivery fits well with the busy schedules of adult learners since they have no time or need to stay focused on studies during long time periods. Usually, microlearning content can be delivered using a variety of platforms, including smartphones and tablets making learning available anytime and from anywhere. I believe that microlearning fits very well with the learning styles of the Millennial generation because of the short attention span and multitasking.
- Flipped Classroom approached can be applied for face-to-face and the online mode of delivery. With this approach, learners study the core content on their own outside the scheduled class time. Class time (Webinars, video conferences, discussion boards, or face-to-face meetings) can then be used for deeper discussion, collaborative activities, and project work.
- Self-Directed Learning empowers learners to manage the learning process. Learners have a huge number of exciting options when it comes to engaging in lifelong learning, but it might become too overwhelming and confusing as well. I believe we can implement a self-directed approach with the regular checkpoints when learners can communicate with their instructors to discuss the progress, get feedback, and develop action plans to improve the progress when it is needed.
- Collaboration is considered one of the most effective learning methods, especially for those learners who struggle academically. Learning happens at its best when learners are engaged in common activities and they share knowledge, skills, and experiences with the classmates. Collaboration works well for online course delivery as well as in a traditional classroom environment.
Modern content development strategies
When developing content for adult learners, we need to consider that their perception of learning differs from younger learners. From my experience, an adult learner is more focused and have a clear understanding of why the course is important. During studies, adult learners:
- Need to validate the information against their experiences and perceptions;
- Expect the learning to be immediately useful;
- Have sufficient experience to draw conclusions and participate in the discussions;
- Can serve as a knowledgeable resource for instructors and classmates because of life and professional experience.
When the course is developed for adult learners, the following requirements must be implemented:
- Formulation of learning objectives must be clear and specific. It helps learners find learning resources which lead to achieving learning goals.
- The structure of the course content must provide opportunities for learners to apply their experience in relevant settings, to share, discuss, and work in collaboration with fellow learners.
- The content design must focus on enhancing skills and knowledge. It should help learners acquire practical and applicable skills and competencies rather than targeting preparation for the exams.
- It is recommended to align content design with experimental learning and problem-solving course delivery strategies to achieve the best results.
- Based on the learning objectives and content structure, learners should be able to immediately identify the relevance of the course to their learning needs.
- When developing the content for adult learners, we need to avoid the overloading of the content with unimportant and inessential information; we must deliver just core ‘need-to-know’ content.
Enhancing learner support
Learner support is an important aspect of lifelong learning. Adult learners might need more attention during their studies in comparison with young learners who are capable to adopt new technologies, different platforms, and interfaces.
Lifelong learner support covers different aspects:
Technical support. Learners can have questions related to software and hardware configurations. Special attention should be paid to proper user interface design and full user experience. New technologies can be employed to enhance learning experiences but prior training needs to be provided to ensure the effective use of the technology tools.
Regular and timely feedback on progression. Lack of regular feedback, advice, and recommendations can be the primary reason for losing interest in studies, feeling lost and neglected. Motivation and confidence are driving learners to new achievements, and it is important to have experienced instructors who will be leading lifelong learners towards success.
On-demand learning. Many adult learners can’t follow strictly defined learning schedules and comply with start and end dates. It means that flexibility is required to allow learners to join the course at any time and the duration of the study can be extended to accommodate learners’ schedules
Making lifelong learning attractive
It is one of the challenges of lifelong learning at this moment. Many people recognize the value and importance of lifelong learning for the personal and professional development.
But lifelong learning can’t be treated the same way as the traditional form of education. It needs to become more personalized, flexible, and supportive. The achievement of learners should be counted towards formal degrees. This is a very complex task since it requires a complete revision of the existing credit system.
I believe that technological advances will help to improve the quality of learning and enhance the learners’ support. With the help of Virtual Reality (VR) solutions, simulation tools, and gamification, learning experiences will become more positive and engaging.