As part of our new project, Learn and Live Long, funded by an Awards for All lottery grant, I have begun to explore the learning opportunities available toolder people with the aim of creating a user-friendly database that will help people identify courses that are suited to their own interests, ambitions, levels of commitment and varying stages of life.
What has been apparent from the start, is that the world of lifelong learning has changed dramatically since I visited Northern College in 2013 for Ransackers Association to make a short film about a group of older learners celebrating their experience of residential courses.
There are now just two residential colleges left and the provision of classroom-based adult education by local councils and FE Colleges has been swallowed up by the Adult Community Learning initiative which has seen the offering to students shrunk to vocational and skills-based criteria with identical menus across the country of ESOL and Maths and work-based technical skills. Nonetheless, I shall do my utmost to uncover community-based, face-to-face classes that offer older people the chance to share their learning experience with their peers.
To a large extent, driven by increased accessibility and the relentless advance of technology, and more recently, of course, by the constraints of Covid, wider learning resources have retreated online. This has facilitated a profusion of opportunities and a multiplicity of courses for anyone with an internet connection. Whether you want to study American Studies at Yale or Art History at the Open University the world is literally at your keyboard.
Online courses range from tutor-led interactive lessons to self-guided (and self-paced) learning. From one-off lectures and short courses to A levels, degrees and PHDs. Subjects from Architecture to Zoology. Course fees vary widely from free to exorbitant. Qualifications and accreditations also fall into a wide range of outcomes. However, navigating this vast mass of resources can be daunting, so my hope is that my research will result in a workable guide that will enhance access to, and promote the benefits of, lifelong learning.
Please get in touch if you have had an educational adventure in later life that you would like to share, or if you can recommend a course provider. We welcome your insights.