The Self-Directed Student Toolbox: 100 Web Resources for Lifelong Learners

Lifelong learners have voracious appetites for education. Whether it’s a rock collection, a cooking class, floral design, or learning Spanish – lifelong learners walk away from each learning experience with the desire to discover even more. This toolkit is designed for all lifelong learners, but it caters to two main types of students: those who prefer to study independently and those who prefer formal education.

If you’re a lifelong learner who prefers formal education, enrolling in online courses may be the next step. In the list below, we’ve included resources on finances, e-learning, and networks for non-traditional students. You may also want to browse our list of best online colleges to get an idea of what to look for in an online degree program. Even top online business programs are available in a virtual environment, as are those in paralegal, criminal justice, nursing, education, and more.

On the other hand, many lifelong learners take courses for the simple pleasure of acquiring new knowledge or the mental exercise of solving problems. They aren’t looking for a degree in English, for instance; they simply want to read. Check out the Education Materials section of this toolkit to learn more about free online learning opportunities. The section holds a list of sites that connect you to free video lectures, books, Podcasts, and courses.

  1. AdultEducationPath: You’ll find a lot of guidance in pursuing education on this site that can help you choose a program, find a job, or explore distance learning.
  2. This companion to The Adult Student’s Guide to Survival and Success, by Al Siebert and Mary Karr, provides tons of links for the adult student who attends college or who is thinking about returning to school.
  3. Back to College: Browse articles on returning to school and frequently asked questions in the admissions area. Locate online courses or traditional or online degree programs, find out how to get credit for life experience, or get help deciding on a major.
  4. Back to School Guide for Adult Students: Campus Explorer has put together this great guide that can help students of any age plan and prepare for heading back to school.
  5. College Planning: This guide, along with a checklist for motivations, is for adults who plan to return to college. The guide is a new extension to the College Planning website.
  6. National College Transition Network: The ABE-to-College Transition Project is aimed at GED graduates, adult diploma graduates, and adults who have been out of school for some time. The program of study is free and consists of instruction in pre-college reading, writing, and math skills as well as computer and Internet skills.
  7. Study Guides and Strategies: The Study Guides and Strategies website is authored, developed and maintained by Joe Landsberger as a learner-centric educational public service designed to prepare adults to to learn through lifelong, distance, and/or online education opportunities.


The following blogs contain various perspectives on lifelong learning, continuing education, and adult learners.

  1. Continuing Education: Deb Peterson pens this continuing education guide for, addressing things like getting your GED, changing careers, and more.
  2. The Bamboo Project Blog: This blog began as a resource for nonprofits and government organizations to operate more effectively and efficiently. While this is still a focus, Michele Martin also writes about new technologies to learn and work more productively, how to run organizations more effectively in a new economy, and how to take charge of your own professional development through personal learning and effective career management skills.
  3. Center for Teaching and Learning: Here you’ll find some thoughts from the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Georgia. Be sure to check out their links as well for some interesting reading.
  4. The Change Blog: Deciding to go back to school or pursue a new career can be a big change. This blog can help you learn how to cope with and prepare for that change.
  5. E-Learning Queen: The E-Learning Queen explores all manner of online and distributed training and education, from instructional design to the construction and implementation of entire e-learning solutions for individuals from K-12 to military to corporate and nonprofit organizations.
  6. Experiencing E-Learning: Mainly geared toward instructors, this blog offers advice and tools for any individual who is interested in lifelong learning.
  7. Information Literacy Weblog: Here you’ll find news and reports about information literacy around the world from Sheila Webber, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Information Studies at the University of Sheffield and Stuart Boon.
  8. Journal of Lifelong Learning: While geared more towards educators, this site is nonetheless a good resource for learners too, as it can point out a range of training opportunities.
  9. Living While Learning Blog: Based at Colorado State University, this blog is geared towards lifelong learners who are balancing personal and professional responsibilities with education.
  10. Malcolm Bellamy’s Lifelong Learning Blog: Get commentary on the future of lifelong learning, especially online learning, from this blog by teaching and learning consultant Malcolm Bellamy.
  11. Mission to Learn: Do you have a mission to learn? If so, this site can help you to find learning resources, tailor your approach, and make the most of opportunities for knowledge.
  12. The Non-Traditional Student Blog: If you’re heading back to school later in life, you’ll benefit from the advice provided by this blog for non-traditional students.
  13. Rick Osborn’s Continuing Education Blog: Rick Osborn, the secretary and treasurer for the Tennessee Alliance for Continuing Higher Education shares his thoughts on higher education, adult education, and training-related topics here.


Are you reaching the end of your rope with your current job? Do you want to change your career path? Are you retiring? The following sites will help you search for new jobs, reassess your career, and train for new and exciting opportunities.

  1. CareerBuilder: The more you use CareerBuilder, the better your job matches become. CareerBuilder uses technology that scans your resume, searches, and applies your personal details to find jobs that better fit your goals. You can take their career test, which measures your skills, abilities, values, and interests and directs you to open jobs that fit the bill.
  2. CareerOneStop: CareerOneStop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, offers career resources and workforce information to job seekers, students, businesses, and workforce professionals.
  3. Looking to change your career? This site is full of great resources that can help make the process a bit easier.
  4. This site focuses on hourly, skilled, full-time and part-time jobs, including work-at-home and freelance opportunities.
  5. Guru: Guru is an online marketplace for freelance talent, where employers find top freelance and contract talent locally, nationally, or globally.
  6. Job-Hunt: Find a job, learn how to construct an online resume, and read articles from leading business magazines about careers on Job-Hunt.
  7. Life After Work: CNN and Ameriprise Financial work together on this site to provide stories, videos, and more to the viewer who wants inspiration for retirement (or non-retirement).
  8. Mind Tools Career Skills: From finding direction to finding a career coach, this resource can help you guide your career into its next phase.
  9. Monster: Post a resume, search for jobs, get career advice, and learn about job fairs on Monster, a comprehensive resource for any job or career seeker.
  10. National Career Development Association: The NCDA’s website is a smart place to look for professional development opportunities, career coaches, and resources that can help you find more satisfying employment.
  11. Occupational Outlook Handbook: The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics is a good place to look for data about jobs, including required training, the average earnings potential, and expected prospects and working conditions over the coming decade.


The following sites provide information and resources about accessibility and learning disability issues.

  1. AHEAD: The Association on Higher Education and Disability is a professional association committed to full participation of persons with disabilities in postsecondary education. While they do not serve parents and students with disabilities directly, they can point you in the direction of some possible resources that might assist you in pursuing your educational goals.
  2. America’s Literacy Directory: ALD is a national database of literacy programs available via the Internet and the National”>eLearn Magazine: While this magazine cover many topics, the focus is on how to survive and thrive while learning online.
  3. A Guide to Becoming a Better Writer: 15 Practical Tips: Need to boost your writing skills? Lifehack offers up a guide filled with simple tips that can help you develop your abilities.
  4. How to Become a Good Student: In this Wikibooks offering, you can learn just what it takes to become a really great student, even if you’re a bit rusty.
  5. Self-Help Materials: The Counseling Services office should be your first call for any issue related to your emotional state, dealing with stress, handling a crisis, or coping with the transition to college. The University at Buffalo provides this service, which can be used by all students no matter where they attend school.
  6. Study Skills Handouts: Dartmouth provides these great study skills handouts that learners can use to improve their reading, notetaking, test-taking, and time management skills.
  7. Success 4 Students: Learn how to maximize your study time, improve study skills and provide time to live a balanced life outside of academics while achieving your long-term goals.
  8. Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Better Student: Loaded with useful links, this guide will help you work on all aspects of being a standout student including class participation, studying, and reading.


Travel for educational purposes has become a popular way to expand on language skills, cultural understanding, and global perspectives. The following examples include traditional travel, travel through volunteerism, and other forms of nontraditional travel for adults.

  1. Center for Study Abroad: CSA has been providing affordable, high quality, and fully accredited study abroad programs to students, working adults and retirees worldwide since 1990.
  2. Experience Corps: AARP allows members to take part in educational travel, acting as tutors for students in some of the neediest schools in the U.S.
  3. Global Exchange: This is a non-profit human rights organization that offers short-term travel opportunities. These delegations are not your typical study abroad experience, as you might meet with community leaders, government officials, and women’s groups, though college credit can still apply to certain programs.
  4. Global Vision International: By joining one of GVI’s programs worldwide you can help critical conservation and education projects ranging from teaching literacy and English to indigenous communities in Latin America to wildlife research and conservation in Africa.
  5. IPSA: International Partners for Study Abroad has a great listing of programs that cater to adult language learners, with destinations that range from Japan to Chile.
  6. The Learning Traveller: Through Learning Traveller, students can head overseas to study and work in some of the top language schools in the world.
  7. Passports: Passports provides educational travel tours for high school and college students, their teachers and professors, and adults. Trips head to Europe, Scandinavia, Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, and Australia each year.
  8. RoadScholar: Make lifelong learning an adventure with a program that will take you around the world on amazing learning experiences through Road Scholar. You can explore the wilderness, cook with famous chefs, or even learn more about Classical antiquity.
  9. Smithsonian Journeys: Travel with your family or solo on a the trip of a lifetime that will both be exciting and educational when you participate in tours with this museum-based company.
  10. Transitions Abroad: Head to this site to learn more about internships, study abroad, and other opportunities that can help you learn and grow while traveling.