I know that technology can sometimes feel daunting and downright overwhelming, but I think that there are some ways for us to use technology to our advantage- largely in regards to learning! Life-long learning is important for all of us, and can take an infinite number of forms. Whether you want to be incredibly low-tech, or utterly high-tech, there are options for all of us!
Learning as an adult- while sometimes we do just want to crash and relax and not have to think about things, it’s also nice to challenge ourselves and educate ourselves on a new topic or skill. It can be daunting to think about going back to learning as an adult but these are my favourite east and free ways to learn whatever I want now that I’m a fully fledged ah-dult. Taking a course from a university or college can be expensive, time consuming, and overwhelming if it’s been awhile since you’ve been. Take the plunge and get back into learning with me, as we chat about how you learn as an adult…
1. Your Library Membership
Depending on where you live, your library membership may very well be free! I do have to pay for mine as I live far enough outside of the city, but the $145 is more than worth it to me. The library is a great investment for anyone– you can find magazines that you regularly read for free without spending that monthly money and simply throwing them away/recycling them anyways, you can give books a try that you wouldn’t necessarily look at, and you can learn a lot from what they have to offer. I’ve noticed that in larger cities, a lot of libraries offer numerous talks and presentations by authors, specialists, and community members that are often free- an evening out for a few hours of entertainment, maybe meeting new people, and just getting out of the house for free is a great way to learn about a new subject. In Winnipeg, I’ve seen historians, artists, politicians, professors, gardeners, fisherman, and even athletes give talks through our public library system!
Also, don’t discount the books- libraries are making it easier and easier to use their services. Most libraries use one or more apps for Ebooks and Audiobooks, making it the perfect solution if you are always on the go or even simply find it difficult to get to the library. You can also request and put holds on books to have them ready for pickup at whichever branch is most convenient for you. In the past year, I have probably listened to fifteen histories and biographies free from the library. I’ve also found some history monographs that I wasn’t able to access elsewhere; the history nerd still lives!! Check out your library and see if there are any book clubs or language groups, it can help to have other people who are on the same quest there with you and you may just make a new friend or two.
2. Massive Open Online Courses, aka MOOC
I know, I know- MOOC sounds like a drunken cow, but it is actually the newest iteration of widespread learning. Originally the form for open classes at universities, these online courses can be taught by experts in their field for free- all you have to do is sign up for the website and follow along! All of the materials are provided, there is a message board for you to talk with the professor(s) and classmates about the course, and it’s all done from the comfort of your home. I did a course last year on Feasting at the Tudor Court, and I will be doing a course on Bonnie Prince Charlie in late September and October! (Ties in nicely with my Outlander post from yesterday, no??) The courses aren’t limited simply history, there is a vast range in topics- history, science, technology, law, English, languages, business, philosophy, agriculture, pretty much anything that you could want to find is out there.
All of my courses are through FutureLearn, which I thoroughly enjoy using. I have yet to use Coursera myself but several friends have enjoyed it, as well. Each site works on the same model- anyone can take the course for free, if you would like a certificate at the end of it there is a fee of roughly $55 USD. I haven’t gone for a certificate only because I don’t need it for anything but it’s nice that the option is there! When you search for courses, you will find their starting date, the professors/instructors, the length of the course, and the hours per week required to do the course. I’ve seen a range in lengths of 2 to 8 weeks, and 2 to 10 hours per week. If you fall behind, you can finish the course at your own rate! It’s one of the great things about MOOCs, you can make your own schedule and do what works for you. It’s also just a fantastic opportunity to learn about something that you may not have had the chance to before!
I also did a course on Jane Austen, and actually found out that FutureLearn is offering a Master of Arts in Jane Austen through the University of Southampton! While I prefer using it for shorter, individual courses that I am interested in, I think that offering more degree and diploma programs through MOOC means that if you have been considering enrolling in a degree but can’t make traditional programs work with your schedule and general life, there are more options now!