There are many reasons why people may find themselves in a position to return to education later in life. These reasons can range from a new promotion at work to a complete change in career; from a return to the workforce after a long absence, to a simple desire to increase their knowledge around a specialist subject. The process can often feel overwhelming as there are now so many different educational paths available to adults, and it’s difficult to know where to start.
One option that many people take is that of distance learning. This can take several forms, but most commonly these days it will involve an element of online learning, perhaps coupled with physical workbooks and contact hours at an educational establishment. The reach and scope of the internet, however, is vast and the opportunities for learning are endless. Therefore, it’s important to choose carefully which path to follow in order to get the most out of the experience.
Here we will examine the steps that you should take if you are thinking of returning to education, whether that’s in a casual or more official capacity. There is much to be said for learning from home, not least the fact that you set the parameters and you make the rules around your own education.
As we’ve mentioned, the internet is a vast place filled with seemingly endless knowledge and information. We have access to facilities and resources that once upon a time we could only dream of. In the entertainment sector, platforms like Netflix, PokerStarsCasino and OpenMusicLibrary provide people with high quality TV and film, classic casino and card games, and a massive library of music to keep them occupied. In the education sector, platforms such as TED, FutureLearn and the Open University provide people with everything from short video clips of lectures to full courses that result in a degree. As with our favourite entertainment platforms, these resources exist either for free, for members only or behind a paywall.
The first thing to do is to decide what type of education you would like to pursue, and then look into the providers for that service. It is no good signing up to complete a full degree course spanning several years if you’re only looking to commit to a short term skills course. It is also usually best to stick to the well-known names when it comes to choosing your platform, as these are the accreditations that will be most widely recognised and will have the most comprehensive courses available. Look for recognition from official bodies and positive reviews when you are choosing your educational provider.
Getting in the Zone
Once you’ve made a decision about exactly what type of education you want to pursue, it’s important to carve out a space in your life for this new pursuit. If you’re studying alongside working full or part-time, then it can be helpful to block out time every day to dedicate to your studies. If studying is going to be your sole occupation for a time, then it’s still important to set a routine in order to maintain a good work/life balance, maximise productivity and allow room for enjoyment as well. Learning is fun, and you don’t want to squash the potential for enjoyment by working too much and burning out, or working too little and not fulfilling your potential.
A major contributor to getting ‘in the zone’ for studying is to have a dedicated workspace. This can be something as small as a seat at your dining table or breakfast bar where you can spread out the necessary materials and not be disturbed by other members of your household. If your living situation doesn’t allow for full privacy whilst studying, it may be worth investing in a decent pair of noise cancelling headphones. However, if you have the space, then you can even set up your own office with everything on hand to make your educational experience as rewarding as possible. This might include inspirational posters or sticky notes, separate files for different subjects, all your notes and relevant texts in one place and, of course, a desk where you can work at your computer or laptop. Do whatever makes you feel most comfortable and ready to work.
We’ve mentioned carving out space in your life for this new pursuit, but what could that look like? If you’re the type of person who thrives off a strict routine, then make sure that you sit down to work at a similar time every day. You should know how long you’re going to work for, and then stop when it comes to finishing time. When you’re in charge of your own studying, it can sometimes be tempting to just carry on with an interesting project or one that’s nearly finished. However, it will work out better in the long run if you stick to the schedule and make sure you cash in that relaxation time too.
If your life looks a bit more hectic thanks to other commitments, then it may be a case of working when you can. However, you can still bring structure to that process. If possible, work in the same place every time so that you associate sitting down there with putting your ‘studying hat’ on. Alternatively, work at a similar time of day, if possible, or if you’re really pushed for time and space, simply take a few moments before you begin studying to ground yourself in your intention to learn. This will put you in the right headspace, even if everything around you is still hectic.
Most of all, remember to have fun!