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Should keeping up with online applications & tools constitute 'lifelong learning?'

25th Apr 2016
Lifelong learning
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Lifelong learning is nothing new, although thanks to rapid technological advancements, many of us are finding ourselves constantly having to learn and evolve in order to maintain our effectiveness as employees.

There are three main types of learning: formal, non-formal and informal.

Much of our formal learning is done in schools, colleges and universities, before we even enter the job market. While some employers offer opportunities to continue with formal training, it is far more common to take place in non-formal training, either in the office or at one off events.

Informal training is by its very nature not part of an organised program, but that doesn’t mean it has no place in the workplace.

Informal training is by its very nature not part of an organised program, but that doesn’t mean it has no place in the workplace.

Elearning is becoming an ever-more popular way of delivering training and can cover anything from health and safety in the workplace, through to how to use online tools and applications.

Sometimes this can take place in a formal setting, where a group of people work through a training program at a similar pace, with an instructor to help, and a certificate at the end.

Other times it takes place in a non-formal setting, usually where you work your way through a program while sat at your usual desk.  Either way, very few people would argue that this does not form a part of lifelong learning.

Progressing from elearning

Although elearning packages are a useful way of learning how to use the popular features of online tools and applications, in reality, we often find ourselves spending additional time learning how to do things in our own way. 

An elearning package can’t hope to cover every possible scenario.

Online tools and applications are there assist us achieve a specific outcome, and with all but the simplest of tools, we will each want to use them in a slightly different way.

An elearning package can’t hope to cover every possible scenario. If it did, it would be likely to contain so many irrelevant sections that many people would switch off (either mentally or physically) before reaching the end. 

We therefore end up spending a significant amount of time working things out for ourselves. 

This could be anything from spending a few minutes looking through menus or help files, through to hours spent scouring the Internet for a solution to a very specific problem.

Keeping up with updates & version progression

Online tools and applications are constantly being updated by their developers, and quite often, we will have instant access to these updates, without them having to be approved by our IT departments or pay an additional fee. 

More often than not, you, as a user, are left to fend for yourself when it comes to understanding how to use these updated versions.

Learning how to use online tools and applications, even by yourself (or with the help of a search engine) does constitute lifelong learning.

Like it or not, you will find yourself spending sometimes considerable amounts of time trying to get your head around new features, as well as the basics, such as where certain menu options have now been moved to.

Yes, it is lifelong learning

Although some would argue against the idea, learning how to use online tools and applications, even by yourself (or with the help of a search engine) does constitute lifelong learning.

Although you won’t end up with a certificate at the end of any training you do in this way, the skills you learn are no less important than those you gain learning through elearning, or any other delivery method.

Many people have the fact that they know how to use Microsoft Office on their CV. While some will have undertaken training on the subject, the majority of people will have built up their skills by using it at home, in the workplace or to complete their studies.

Online tools and applications are no different, and if you have built up a good level of self-taught competence, there is no reason to not have it on your CV.

If something takes enough time to learn that it’s worth putting on your CV, it can be argued that it should constitute a part of lifelong learning.

We all learn at our own pace, so what might take one person 10 minutes to master, could take somebody else several hours to get the hang of.

Quantifying your investment

It is where employers try to keep tabs of the amount of time spent learning that keeping up to date with online tools and applications is difficult to quantify.

It is easy to say that somebody spent a day or two at a management training course, but trying to quantify how long was spent in the office learning how to use online tools and applications is extremely difficult.

We all learn at our own pace, so what might take one person 10 minutes to master, could take somebody else several hours to get the hang of.

The fact that it can be difficult to quantify how long is spent learning how to use online tools and applications, as well as keeping up with any updates, does not mean that it should not be considered a part of lifelong learning though. 

In this day and age, understanding how to use them is an equally important part of us being able to do our jobs.

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