Continuous (and free) learning: education beyond school

Education doesn’t have to stop once you’ve left school. Continuous learning helps to further careers, and there are options that won’t break the bank or take up too much time. Microsoft’s Dave Rodgerson explains

By Guest on 10 September 2014
Continuous (and free) learning: education beyond school

Now that the kids are back to school most people breathe a sigh of relief and start to focus on other things. Some parents might be facing the costs of higher education as their sons and daughters take that next step and head off to university and college. With all of this in mind, something like furthering their own careers through continuous education can slide off the table. There’s a perception that it can be expensive and time consuming. Investing in yourself in order to promote your career development is always a good thing and there are options that don’t have to be expensive or difficult to schedule.

One of the options available is through virtual universities, for example Coursera and EdX. Leading universities from around the world have collaborated to offer hundreds of courses to students who register for programmes that they can take online. The programmes are free and offer some degree of flexibility in that the material is presented in an asynchronous format. Each course runs for several weeks and there are assignments to be completed by specific dates, but the video lectures can be viewed when they fit the student’s schedule.

While these classes do not lead to earning a degree from the institution, it’s certainly a way to stay current on topics that can help you run your business, whether it’s accounting or successful negotiations. For entrepreneurs who may be more interested in ‘just in time’ learning, this may be a very attractive option as opposed to paying a tuition at a local institution.

Social learning is also an avenue through which people can continue to learn with little to no expense. Microsoft has a website called Born to Learn, a place where people can connect with others who share their interests and have similar experiences. It’s also a forum for certification in technical subjects that can lead to career advancement.

The other thing that makes learning easier is the portability of connected devices. With smartphones and tablets, it’s much easier to take your studies on the road. That’s a big plus for people who commute to work on trains and buses. The average commuter now spends between 60 to 90 minutes going back and forth to work. For those that aren’t busy driving, it’s a good time to catch up on required reading for a course or making notes for an upcoming assignment. The new Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is relatively inexpensive and powerful, yet easy to carry around.

When I was young and had to go to school, I didn’t appreciate the importance, or value, of the learning experience. I’ve come to see learning as something that we should embrace throughout our lives. Learning can be understood as something distinct from ‘getting an education’. Finishing school so that you can add some letters onto your name shouldn’t be the goal of learning. It helps us to understand the world around us and helps us make better decisions in our lives and our business.

Dave Rodgerson is senior industry business development manager at Microsoft

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