There is a popular adage in India, “Padne-likhne ki koi umar nahi hoti.” (There is no age limit to learning, as long as there is a desire to learn). Very often we hear people saying, “How I wish I had learnt the piano as a child” or “My parents never had time to take me to dance lessons.” People live with such regrets and unfulfilled desires without realising that times have changed, and various avenues to learn new skills have opened up.
Most of these new learning platforms have sprouted online within the past three years with the pandemic boosting their demand and popularity. Earlier, people were busy with their routines and found it difficult to commute to classes. Often, these classes are few and located far away. Added to these practical obstacles, were the mental obstacles of believing that the age of learning has passed.
Worldwide lockdowns transformed the daily lives of people. Office buildings were shut down as people were forced to stay indoors. On a positive note, work-from-home meant that travel time was cut down. Thus, people also had more free time on their hands to invest in their mental and physical wellbeing. Many turned online for guidance, learning and information. The number of adult learners, looking to enrich their lives and diversify their skills, increased.
On the other hand, learning centres also changed the way they reached out to their customers. The intermittent lockdowns meant that it made more financial and practical sense to switch to online teaching. Skills that were generally never thought of as teachable online, like karate or dance, were suddenly widely available online.
Prior to 2020, the learning courses available online were oriented towards young learners, children and teenagers. Many of these courses were focused on education, competitive exams, professional skilling, and so on. For adult learners, professional skilling courses specifically targeted towards career advancement were offered. During the pandemic, there was increasing demand from adult learners for courses in art and craft, language learning, yoga, pottery, healthy living and other skills that enrich one’s personal life. In response to this demand, online platforms sprung up to facilitate these needs.
Udemy is one such online learning destination with a global reach. It has several types of courses including music, photography and personal development courses. Similarly, Skillshare offers courses in creative writing, animation, weight loss and yoga. Healthifyme is very popular in India because you get access to a complete diet plan, a personal fitness coach and online live yoga and fitness classes. If you are a linguaphile, Duolingo offers lessons in Spanish, Arabic, Korean and many other languages. In fact, if you are a Star Trek fan, you can even learn Klingon, while fans of George R.R.Martin can learn High Valyrian from HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Teachers have enthusiastically embraced online teaching since it provides flexibility, career management and teaching practices. It also gives them the opportunity to find and teach students from across the world.
Online learning for adults can also be a great democratic equaliser, taking quality education to remote parts of India and the world. When we think of adult learners, we must also think of basic literacy and education. In India, there is a need for public awareness of constitutionally granted rights, women’s rights, knowledge of legal recourse, basic financial matters, banking, social etiquette etc. In India, organisations like NIIT’s ‘Digital Literacy Program’ offer various programs for adults like the Financial Literacy Program and Skill Development Centres. NIIT has tied up with various NGOs like Gram Vikas and Youthreach to achieve universal literacy and education.
Right now is a fantastic time to be an adult learner. Even at the end of the pandemic, it is apparent that learning is going to shift online, since it’s economical and convenient. In fact, its potential will be fully tapped in the coming years. It’s time to fulfil those hidden desires and show the world that old dogs can learn new tricks.