The concept of lifelong learning has been with humanity throughout history. There have always been those whose curiosity is forever piqued, who need new skills as they go through life, and those for whom change brings with it obstacles and opportunities that can be addressed with new knowledge. In the modern context, lifelong learning as a more formal concept and aspiration for society as a whole is probably newer, Indeed, we might see arguments for a new paradigm in learning beyond childhood and youth as emerging just 25 years ago or thereabouts. At that time, researchers began arguing for more innovative learning models that were personalized to those who wanted to learn and also giving these life students a chance to have a more active role in deciding what, when, and how to learn.
Writing in the International Journal of Grid and Utility Computing, a team from Spain discusses the current need for flexible, efficient, universal, and lifelong education especially given the rapid evolution of information and communications technologies.
Jordi Conesa, Montserrat Garcia-Alsina, Josep-Maria Batalla-Busquets, Beni Gómez-Zúñiga, María J. Martínez-Argüelles, Tona Monjo, and Enric Mor Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona and María Del Carmen Cruz Gil Universidad de Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain, point out that lifelong learning needs to be integrated fully into society, but because it differs from regular learning in many ways, there are issues that must be addressed to allow this to happen, for the benefit of individuals and society as a whole.
It is worth noting, that lifelong learners are by definition older, and perhaps more mature, than those in conventional educational environments such as school and higher education. They may have much broader interests and have experience and skills that have not yet been achieved by younger learners. Lifelong learning may also work at many different levels and depths, not all lifelong learning will be aimed at passing exams or completing a dissertation to be presented to professors. Indeed, much lifelong learning may not be in any way vocational, it might not relate to work and could very well be more about family, leisure, sporting activities and other hobbies. Of course, for lifelong learners there is also the possibility of limited flexibility because of balancing commitments to home, work, and leisure, with that very learning.
As with many aspects of life, a personalised approach, tailored to fit the individual can be the most constructive way forward. Existing models of personalised learning have not yet been adapted to the needs of lifelong learners or society at large. The researchers have now examined the current state of lifelong learning, reviewed the relevant literature, and discussed the challenges we face in creating innovative electronic-learning models to promote self-determination life-students.
It is self-determination that is central to success for lifelong learners. It gives learners more control over how they are educated, and how they teach themselves, allowing them to make choices to fit their interests and goals better.
The team suggests that the development of innovative e-learning models that promote self-determination needs an interdisciplinary approach that brings expertise from education, psychology, technology, and other pertinent fields. Identifying the most effective ways to personalize learning and to develop appropriate tools and technologies is the way forward, for supporting self-directed learning, the team suggests. There is also a need to develop assessment frameworks to measure the efficacy of the personalized e-learning models being developed to ensure that they are working in the way the life-learners need and want them to work for them and for society.
Conesa, J., Garcia-Alsina, M., BatallaBusquets, J-M., Gómez-Zúñiga, B., Martínez-Argüelles, M.J., Monjo, T., Mor, E. and Cruz Gil, M.D.C. (2023) ‘A vision about lifelong learning and its barriers’, Int. J. Grid and Utility Computing, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp.62–71.