Lifelong learning and the web

“Lifelong learning” at the moment is particularly in vogue. The concept is based around the idea that learning continues into adulthood, past our compulsory and formal education to further life skills and aid our professional development. The term originated in higher education circles; in the academic life, lifelong learning is necessary in order to stay relevant. Governments have also started to see lifelong learning as one of the answers to skill shortages in our economy.

The web has huge potential to bring education to both the educated and the less educated. For instance, Khan Academy started as YouTube hosted videos created by Sal Khan for his cousin and has flourished into a fully-fledged education platform. Children and adults alike can use internet content to gain a better understanding of subjects and topics. In the classroom, teachers are also utilising the huge store of available online content. Of course, these vast stores of knowledge are a powerful resource, however, the fact that they exist does not necessarily lead to a true education revolution: 7.2 billion people live on this earth yet 4 million still lack internet access.
It often seems to be the story that the rich are getting richer and the poor are staying poor.  The story is the same in education; the educationally rich seek greater enrichment, and the educationally poor tend to stagnate. These social trends are called the Matthew effects.

An example of this in education are MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) which are free for anyone who wants to take part, but they have mainly attracted those who already hold degrees; there are still many barriers to access for the poorer educated. My advice is to start young when it comes to educating yourself. If you want to learn a skill for tomorrow, start today. Whether you utilise online content or read a book or learn by doing, just begin now.

By Jonathan Strange

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