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Lifelong learning is the process of continuing to learn and pursue higher education throughout one's life, even after one's required education has been completed, such as for a high school diploma or college degrees. There are many different types of lifelong learning; some are chosen simply for personal enrichment, while some are designed to further one's career or to allow one to maintain licensure or accreditation in one's chosen field. This process may also be referred to as continuing education or enrichment courses.
The first type of lifelong learning, that for personal enrichment, is commonly offered at high schools and colleges. These may be classes in everything from yoga to ghost hunting to the history of the Roman Empire; the classes are often offered for free or for a nominal fee. Adults are encouraged to take these classes to learn new skills, meet new people, and continue the learning process over a lifetime. Many people enjoy taking these classes, and most classes only last for a few weeks or months at a time.
Continuing education classes are another type of lifelong learning. In some professions, such as teaching, or practicing law, for example, people are required to take a certain number of continuing education classes each year in order to stay accredited or to continue practicing. These classes may be offered in specific subjects; usually there is a certain degree of freedom that is offered to the classes that can be taken, but a certain number of credits is required.
This second type of lifelong learning class nearly always requires a fee, sometimes equivalent to the cost of a credit hour at a college. In some cases, though, these fees may be paid by the business, school, or law firm for which the student works. It is necessary to pass these classes and receive credit in order to maintain a professional standing in one's field.
Lifelong learning is becoming easier now that many classes are offered online. Distance learning is quite common, and people are free to take as many classes as they want without ever needing to leave home. These classes may be free or they may require a small fee; many can be downloaded onto portable media devices as well and watched as many times as necessary. Chances are, if one is interested in taking a course in something, there is a lifelong learning class available somewhere that will offer instruction in the subject.
@KoiwiGal - That does sound like an awesome way to learn about another country, or a piece of history.
I don't think you can dismiss distance learning though. I know quite a few people who have managed to expand their horizons with courses over the internet.
My mother was following a lifelong learning program that taught Maori for a while and she said it was really good.
I think there are all kinds of free courses as well, if you have a look online.
Just be careful to only use accredited courses and not to pay money to any that seem fishy.
On the other end of the spectrum from "distance learning", I recently learned that my university offers lifelong learning courses as vacations each year.
Members of the community can sign up to go overseas with researchers from the university and have a personal tour with them for a few weeks. It helps to fund the research after the learners have gone home, and gives them the chance to have insight into a place they couldn't possibly get otherwise.
They've done trips to Egypt and Italy and I think to Russia as well.
I only wish I could afford it! It seems like it would be the learning experience of a lifetime.