As a technology consultant, I rely on several tech sources to stay informed about global industry trends. Naturally, I’m not the only one to notice how efficient, green and just plain fun tech has made education. With all the advances in instructional technology, including distance and mobile learning applications, I no longer have a good excuse for not continuing my education. I can’t complain that I don’t have the time, money or access to quality training. In this digital age, education is truly at my fingertips. Even if I don’t currently get to travel internationally, I can learn a new language, find out about other cultures, develop my professional skills and even take up a new hobby just in case I do. Social media technology platforms, such as Skype, make it easier than ever to interact with a mentor, coach or tutor wherever I happen to be.

Flexible Alternatives to Classroom Learning

While self-paced learning has been around for decades, e-books and cloud computing take it to a whole new level. High school students can earn a high school diploma online from Indiana University High School or study for a GED at Universal Class. With Internet access, students interact with instructors and other students, download their homework and upload completed assignments. Professionals learn a new language and study for certifications at their own convenience, taking tests online. The development of cloud computing has given schools the ability to offer free or low-cost courses online without needing to build up their infrastructure. The availability and low price of massive computing power and storage means that there’s no longer a huge barrier preventing traditional schools from easily branching out into online education.

With all the information out there, it seems that the only barrier to my success is my ability to set a realistic goal and find a program that lets me develop the skills I want at my own pace. Free content is easily accessible from a diverse set of websites, including the following.

In this age of electronic learning, it’s easier than ever to get a degree, make a career change, learn a new skill or get remedial help. Cloud computing allows training professionals to provide instruction in cost effective, consistent way to individuals with every learning style. Local libraries provide access courseware, too. All it takes is a library card to unlock these riches.

New Devices for Learning

As the Internet replaces the chalkboard, tablet computers and mobile phones enable learners to access information using the same skills they use in playing games and making plans for the weekend. I like playing games so simulations, contests and gesture-based computing appeal to me. I get to practice and develop skills that previously required expensive lab equipment. Cloud technologies give schools the ability to simulate real-world server labs for advanced computing courses with virtualized servers, eliminating the need for schools to buy or lease space on dedicated servers.

While e-books aren’t replacing print newspapers, magazines and reference materials overnight, there’s no denying that fewer books are being printed. In fact, as of March 2012, Encyclopedia Britannica announced it will stop printing books. Technology tends to change what we view and how we access it. I certainly prefer to search online for something rather than hunt through dozens of documents, don’t you? As people expect content to be available for free, companies have to find other ways to demonstrate value to their customers, typically through personalized services. That’s good news for all of us!

The digital age of education emerges as a natural evolution. Just in the last few centuries, we’ve gone from the printing press to digital production and distribution. Multimedia courses are available to a worldwide audience. Now’s the time to seek out every available opportunity for professional and personal enrichment to become the global citizen you’ve always wanted to be.

img: CC by MicMacPics1