“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” — Henry Ford
Lifelong learning is what keeps you agile, creative, engaged, and growing. As we are seeing around the world, online learning is only increasing and can serve as a great tool for keeping the brain sharp and expanding.
Let's explore some of the top online learning platforms and their specific benefits for a senior audience.
Before we jump into ‘where’ to go, let’s look at a few things to help you be successful in online learning.
Unlike grammar school, high school, college, or beyond—you aren’t doing this for anyone except yourself. In other words, you are the ultimate authority.
If you feel like studying a subject you’ve never explored, go for it. If you want to go for a whacky idea just to experiment, go for it. If you could give a hoot whether you get a degree or not, go for it.
You are in charge.
Sometimes, in talking with friends, people share stories of feeling insecure about starting online learning. More often than not, these feelings are the result of negative self-talk.
Is this something that could be true for you?
If you’re struggling with feeling discouraged, it could be that you’re raining on your own parade. Do you recognize these thoughts:
These are nasty things you’re telling yourself. They aren’t true. And, you wouldn’t say them to your love, or a good friend.
Remember the bumper sticker: “Don’t Believe Everything You Think!”
Instead of listening to this false chatter, write it down. Put it on a piece of paper, stick it in an envelope, and seal it. Now, you can either burn it. Or save it. Put it in an envelope and read it in a year. Get on with learning.
If you do this, you’ll free yourself from the mental lockbox that’s been holding you back from exploring all the cool courses you can take online.
Now that we got that little bit out of the way, here are some great places to start exploring online learning.
This is an awesome online learning platform developed by Stanford professors. In it, you’ll discover a vast array of options from major universities and companies. Some of these classes will be filled with college students as well as returning students.
Coursera offers top quality classes with on-demand video lectures. You can study topics, build new skills, and achieve your goals.
The focus on this platform is on entrepreneurship and business. Some of the classes are free and some have a fee. You can find skills to position you for success. The classes are available online, and designed to be self-paced. You can learn at your own time, studying part-time.
This online platform is focused towards professional adults. You can find a wide array of courses, including some free ones. Udemy offers over 100,000 online video courses. It invites you to learn at your own pace, direct from industry experts.
This online platform offers direct access to creators: artists, creative professionals, designers, and entrepreneurs. You can learn a new skill, explore a favorite topic, and do it all from the freedom of your own home.
Study creative topics such as animation, design, drawing, painting, writing, photography, and film. Explore business and lifestyle topics to find what sparks your imagination.
You may enjoy the fun feature of ‘recommended courses.’ Once you find a teacher you enjoy, you get an automated recommendation to their other offerings. For example if you find a watercolor class you love, you can explore other classes by the same painter.
Many of the classes have recommendations for activities, exercises, and home study. Some of the instructors offer to review your work—for instance, sharing watercolor experiments of flower wreaths. This is a fun way to get personal feedback, and see what other students are doing. It builds a natural sense of community. Although you’re working virtually, it is a fun way to connect with like-minded people.
Explore all kinds of online courses from the top universities. Harvard, MIT, University of California Berkley, & over 140 institutions offer over 2500 online courses. You can explore topics by subject, partner, program, level, availability and language.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is an edX site offering free online courses where anyone can enroll. People all over the world are taking these courses—and you can too.
As you discover your interests, you’ll find quality coursework for professional skills development, education, certification and degrees. Check out all the ways you can keep learning online.
Many states provide free or reduced tuition for students of a certain age. The age varies from state-to-state, such as for people over 55 or 65.
Many of the universities offer access for seniors to audit classes or take them for credit. If you’re interested in learning, this is a great resource that could help you participate in learning at a public college or university in your state.
If you’re looking to return to college to earn or complete a degree, check out the options. You may also look to online college courses to learn new topics or advance your knowledge in an area of expertise.
As you explore your options, check out the alternatives for taking electives as well as degree-focused courses. There are many free classes, as well as programs for financial aid and assistance. You can figure out if this is the learning move that is right for you.
Online learning is an accessible, affordable, and exciting way to stay sharp. Explore topics and courses that stimulate you. Meet students from all over. Find ways to stay creative, stretch your mind, and learn new skills.
With all the options for online learning, you’ve got a wonderful journey ahead of you.