Commitment to lifelong learning is very personal. The motivations for continued learning vary from person to person, but I would argue that we all in a state of learning, whether it is intentional or not.
I choose to learn. I love it. I feel that knowledge is power- and it’s not that I want power… I’m just fascinated by new information. The most astounding component of continued adult education I have come across is that this information, so much information is out there just ready for the taking! It is actually, really, already out there, and I didn’t even have a clue. I read or watch things sometimes and think to myself, ‘How could I possibly have not known this, or heard about this? Have I been living under a rock?’ And then I feel like it’s just the tip of the iceberg and I have to know more. Some people fall into algorithmic wormholes watching YouTube videos, I fall into information loops by clicking onto hyperlinks on Wikipedia…
It seems I can’t get enough some days. And, I’ve always been like this; my mom would buy me books when I was young and I would fly through them. I had an insatiable need for books. I couldn’t handle not reading something. I remember one time we were travelling for awhile in the car and there were no books so I started reading the glovebox manual. I was about 9 years old. I would rather be reading something, anything, than just sitting. What I have come to realize over the years is that even when you are exposing yourself to information without a cognitive attempt to retain it, you still absorb something. In high school I would have answers for the strangest questions instructors posed. I was asked more than once ‘how did you even know that?’. My answer was always the same. I read. What I didn’t say in addition is that I read anything I can get my hands on and will read a dictionary if it’s the only thing in the room. Or a car manual…
Now, as an adult, I have made a commitment to myself. It started about 8 years ago after I traveled extensively commencing graduation. I had a good job and was making good money but felt stagnant. Enter the world of online learning. Once I realize I could take courses online, I never looked back. I told myself that since I could always be employed and learn, there was no excuse to not be enrolled in some form of education, most of the time. I would be spending my money on something else anyway…
To be honest, I chose my first online course ‘Industrial Emergency Management’ with no motivation aside from the fact that I found it interesting. Thousands of dollars spent on an interest. It has served me well in the long run, and I continued to take other online courses, including the VCC Provincial Instructor’s Diploma that I am enrolled in currently.
I love mini-online courses too. There are courses for everything these days! Platforms like Teachable, Udemy and SkillShare have allowed people to set up their own online courses for topics that they are skilled at. SkillSuccess and Shaw Academy offer a number of online courses for topics from Excel spreadsheets to Nutrition. These courses are usually inexpensive, and you can often find discount codes through services like Groupon.
As someone who is advocate for education in remote communities, I think CBL is such an advantage we have today. Not every community I have worked in has internet in every home, but there is usually a hub where community members can access the internet such as a library or community center. Educating Canadians about these options needs to happen more, especially in the remote communities. If you don’t know about what is available to you, you won’t use it. Online learning opens up a whole new world that fully supports lifelong learning. You can do it at your own pace (I like courses that have set deadlines), and you can usually start immediately, so that your motivation is fresh. I have also found that the instructor interaction is positive and inspirational. Even for a website like Shaw Academy, which is based in the UK, I had a coordinator call me while I was taking a course to ask about how my experience was going and get some feedback. They also checked in via email throughout the course.
We are at such an opportunity now to tailor our education in a way that was never possible before. Taking traditional courses at a campus with limited options is becoming less and less. Flexibility with work abroad programs, summer co-ops and creative groups that contribute credits for programs are things that my friends who attend universities and colleges say are valuable. Sometimes, even when a program indicates what we will be doing or ‘being’ once we are done, we still don’t know what we want to do! Being able to take supplement education throughout the course life, or program helps one find their unique niche, and hone the gifts that they bring to the table.
I try to gently encourage everyone I know to take some form of education, and I always suggest online. You can play around and determine what sparks your interest in order to make an educated decision about what you want to invest your money in for long term, or for a higher accreditation. I believe that learning encourages confidence, self-motivation and self-discipline. When I ‘feel smart’ I complete higher quality work, I engage with others confidently, and I feel I can contribute positively to conversation and back up my opinions in social settings. Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone felt this way?