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. AdultStudent.com: 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.

Blogs

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

  1. About.com Continuing Education: Deb Peterson pens this continuing education guide for About.com, 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.

Career

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. Careershifters.org: Looking to change your career? This site is full of great resources that can help make the process a bit easier.
  4. EmploymentGuide.com: 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.

Disabilities

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 Institute for Literacy’s toll-free number. Search for help with reading, writing, math, English as a second language, and GED help by state. They also supply a special directory by state for learning disability help.
  3. Attention Deficit Disorder Association: ADDA provides information, resources and networking to adults with ADHD and to the professionals who work with them.
  4. Learning Disabilities Association of America: The LDA is an excellent resource for finding support for your learning disability, so you can continue to be successful in work and learn throughout your life.
  5. National Association for Adults with Special Learning Needs: NAASLN provides educators, trainers, employers, human service providers, and adult learners with a centralized hub of information, professional development, technical assistance, communication on issues and trends, and advocacy initiatives on behalf of adults with special learning needs.
  6. National Center for Learning Disabilities: NCLD works to ensure that the nation’s 15 million children, adolescents and adults with learning disabilities have every opportunity to succeed in school, work, and life.

Distance Learning

The sites listed below include organizations, groups, and websites that provide guidance on topics such as accreditation, teaching perspectives, governmental and nonprofit resources and more, all focused on distance learning.

  1. About.com Distance Learning: Get advice from Jamie Littlefield on a wide range of distance learning topics through this About.com blog.
  2. American Distance Education Consortium: ADEC is an international consortium of state and land grant institutions providing economic distance education programs and services via the latest and most appropriate information technologies.
  3. Distance Education and Training Council: Responsible for global accreditation of online programs, this organization is a smart place to look to ensure that your school is a solid choice for your career.
  4. Distance-Educator.com: This is a comprehensive database filled with resources for distance education topics. It offers access to information including pre-sorted solutions for several user groups, and users can sign up for daily news updates.
  5. OEDb: Our Open Education Database strives to be the largest online education resource on the Internet. Browse for classes and degrees by topic or by college, all from accredited institutions.
  6. U.S. Distance Learning Association: USDLA is committed to being the leading distance learning association in the United States as it serves the needs of the distance learning community by providing advocacy, information, and opportunities for networking.

Educational Materials

Looking to learn outside of the classroom? These podcasts, courses, books, and lectures offer you the chance to do just that.

  1. 236 Open Courseware Collections, Podcasts, and Videos: Our listing of open courseware includes dozens of audio and video courses that are free to use.
  2. Big Think: Consider a wide range of big ideas on everything from the origins of the universe to social networking on this site loaded with expert lectures.
  3. Coursera: Through Coursera, you can take classes at big name schools without spending a dime.
  4. The Forum Network: On the Forum Network, you can take advantage of public broadcasting videos, lectures, and more that can help you learn about art, science, and philosophy.
  5. Free-eBooks: Why pay for books you can get for free? On this site you’ll find thousands of downloadable books to read.
  6. iTunesU: iTunesU offers you access to numerous courses, lectures, and educational materials from some of the best colleges in the world.
  7. Khan Academy: Need a refresher on geometry? Never took a calculus course? On this site, you can get help with topics like computer science, math, science, economics, and even studying for the SAT.
  8. Learning Works: This Australian radio has been providing online learning resources since 2005. While updated irregularly, it’s worth checking back with to see what’s new.
  9. Learn Out Loud: You can find a podcast on nearly any topic under the sun among Learn Out Loud’s 30,000 educational resources.
  10. Project Gutenberg: Choose from over 42,000 ebooks on this amazing archive of public domain works.
  11. Saylor.org: Take free courses in art history, biology, political science, math, psychology and numerous other topics when you head to this foundation’s educational site.
  12. The Spoken Alexandria Project: The Spoken Alexandria Project is a free Creative Commons library of spoken word recordings, consisting of classics in the public domain and modern works alike.
  13. TED: Some of the world’s most innovative minds speak out on this site, providing inspiration and educational alike for lifelong learners.
  14. Udacity: Udcacity offers learners the chance to take courses from top professors free of charge, with most courses focusing on STEM subjects.
  15. YouTube: This link will take you to the “lifelong learning” category in YouTube, where you’ll learn more about the lifelong learning process from numerous sources.

Finances

How will you finance your lifelong learning goals? The following list provide a variety of resources that can guide you into the right financing options for you.

  1. Big Future: Big Future is the College Board’s resource for finding college financial aid.
  2. Back to School: How To Pay For College As An Adult: You may be an adult, but the costs of college are never any less intimidating. Read this article from Forbes to learn about the ways you can pay less and still get the degree you want.
  3. eStudent Loan: Use this helpful tool to find out what kind of loans are out there and which may help you be able to pay for school.
  4. FAFSA: Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, ensures that all eligible individuals can benefit from federally funded or federally guaranteed financial assistance for education beyond high school.
  5. FastWeb: FastWeb helps students make the decisions that shape their lives: choosing a college, paying for college, and finding jobs and internships — all for free.
  6. FinAid!: FinAid! offers access to a comprehensive range of student financial aid information, advice, and tools.
  7. Financial Aid Advisor: The Financial Aid Advisor informs users of the many assistance programs available through the public and private sectors. By answering a series of questions, a user can generate an assistance profile including a brief program description and where to find more information.
  8. Scholarships.com: This site is a great place to search for all kinds of scholarships, even ones geared towards older students and working parents.
  9. SallieMae: One of the nation’s leading providers of student loans provides every tool imaginable that can help students with their educational efforts.
  10. USA.gov Financing Your Education: Learn what kind of government programs you may qualify for that can help you pay for your college education through this government site.

Resources

The following tools represent just a handful of the hundreds of online resources that are directed to the lifelong learner.

  1. Association for Non-Traditional Students in Higher Education: ANTSHE is an international partnership of students, academic professionals, institutions, and organizations whose mission is to encourage and coordinate support, education, and advocacy for the adult learner.
  2. eduScapes: Designed for lifelong learners, this site can point you towards online courses, multimedia resources, high tech learning tools, and even library information.
  3. e-Learning Centre: Expand your knowledge of e-learning and learning technologies through the resources offered on this site.
  4. The Encyclopedia of Informal Education: If you’re looking for less structured ways to learn every day, this site offers a incredibly rich assortment of opportunities.
  5. Learning is for Everyone: This site is an education resource organization that empowers families and learners with information and networking opportunities encompassing all aspects of education. They provide a broad base of information and networking services, both online and off.
  6. LERN: If you or your organization is engaged in providing any kind of lifelong learning program, LERN can provide you with practical, how-to information not available anywhere else. Organizational membership provides information, consulting, and training services for six staff members.
  7. Lifelong Learning Networks: This website is designed for everyone working within a Lifelong Learning Network (LLN) and will enable practitioners to share their experiences, access key documents, view details of upcoming events and find contact details for individual LLNs.
  8. National Center for Creative Aging: Who says growing old is boring? This organization can help you live, learn, and stay creative well into your golden years.
  9. Next Avenue: Billed as the place where “grown-ups keep growing,” this site can help you learn, grow, and become a better person as you move through life.
  10. Nontrads.com: Find support for nontraditional students on this great site, with articles, a blog, scholarships, and study skill tips to get you motivated to succeed regardless of your age.
  11. Osher Lifelong Learning Institute: With locations all over the U.S., this organization can be a great resource for those looking to learn without enrolling in a college program.

School Skills

Do you need to spruce up your reading, studying, or writing skills? The following guides will provide the help you need to survive college classes, no matter if those courses are conducted in traditional classroom style or online.

  1. College Survival Skills: Learn how to study, manage your time, interact with instructors, and more from Clemson University.
  2. The Complete Test Preparation Website: From the SAT to armed services tests to medical certifications, this site has resources to help you prepare for almost any test out there.
  3. eLearn Magazine: While this magazine cover many topics, the focus is on how to survive and thrive while learning online.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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

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.