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Technology makes lifelong learning affordable and accessible

Historically, education is an experience we have associated with earlier life stages (largely primary school, secondary school, and tertiary education).

Not today however — as recent United States research shows

Lifelong Learning Among 45+ Adults reveals 75 million Americans (55%) age 45-plus currently participate in lifelong learning, largely for personal growth, self-improvement, and feeling in control. 

The good news is that lifelong learning opportunities abound in Australia today too. 

Many are also either free or very affordable. 

Here is our breakdown of learning experiences you can make the most of right now.

Earn micro-credentials

Micro-credentials are essentially bite-sized courses Australians undertake to become proficient in a particular area of study in the shortest possible time.

Many micro-credentials are free, and barriers to entry are often minimal. 

Skill Finder offers around 3,000 free online courses on its platform, including courses teaching skills in Canva, Adobe, and Facebook

Many people complete micro-credentials for professional skills or development, but you can also complete them to maintain an active mind, develop personally, or  dive deeper into a subject you love.

Other micro-credentials are available in areas including photography, art, and history. 

Attend virtual lectures

Australia’s universities are flush with lectures that are open and free to the public.  

Topics, which are as vast as universities’ subjects themselves, include indigenous policy during the Menzies era, women making a difference in the law, and anxiety and trauma exploration in meditation practice.

Given the rapid impact COVID-19 had on the digitisation of learning, it’s no surprise to see that many lectures continue to be virtual today.

From the comfort and convenience of your desktop or smartphone, you can sit in on all the virtual public lectures you like. Or if you prefer to learn in a physical setting, many tertiary institutions invite this too. 

Google a tertiary education provider near you, and enter “public lecture” in their website’s search bar, and you’ll find lots happening. 

Discover educational podcasts

Music subscription service Spotify features five million podcast titles on its platform.

According to Demand Sage, there are almost 500 million podcast listeners worldwide today.

2022 research from University College London adds that podcasts are among the new media formats revolutionising the availability of knowledge inside and outside higher education. 

Podcasts such as Ted Talks Daily and Stuff You Should Know are directly educational in nature, but there are many forms of podcasts that are unique in their own educational way. Slow Burn and History of the World in 100 Objects are highly informative for history lovers, and podcasts such as Good in Theory and the Partially Examined Life make philosophy accessible. 

If there is a subject you want to immerse yourself in, chances are there are various podcasts to accommodate.

The Apple Podcasts app features a mix of editor’s picks, new & noteworthy podcasts, and diverse browse categories, including society and culture, science, education, and technology.

Download educational apps 

According to education technology and innovation industry hub EduGrowth, there are 600 educational tech companies in Australia today.

Dedicated education apps are typically designed for students in educational settings, but many apps are available for the wider world of adults who are interested in expanding their lifelong learning opportunities. 

Apps such as Duolingo (languages), Codecademy (coding), and SparkNotes (literature) are subject-specific.

You can also focus your learning in the direction of personal development and growth, with meditation apps (Smiling Mind) and brain-training apps (Lumosity). 

In today’s digital world, lifelong learning is literally a tap or a mouse click away.  

All you really need to get started is a smartphone and a laptop.

From there, the first step is deciding which subject you’re most passionate about. A subsequent online search will uncover a range of learning opportunities.