We’ve all been there; the lovely job with wonderful colleagues – but after a few years you find yourself in autopilot mode. We look for stimulation and the best way to do this is to keep learning.
In Australia, we’re blessed with great – and sometimes free – learning opportunities, from the University of the Third Age or the Centre for Continuing Education (or variations) at our major universities to the WEA (Workers’ Education Association) or FutureLearn that offers a huge range of courses online. (You might be familiar with MOOC, massive open online courses designed to be accessible and open to everyone.)
Over the past couple of decades, needing more stimulation than my jobs offered, I took courses as random as Forensic Law in NSW, NSW Business Law, Spanish, Art History and Theory and Psychology through the Centre for Continuing Education at Sydney University. With FutureLearn, I did a deep dive into the history and sustainability of the Central Park development in the centre of Sydney. And I continue to learn.
What do you want to know?
Name a subject – any subject – and you’ll likely find a course on it. Want to learn how to set up a website to display your travel photography? There’s a course for that. Need to understand more about cybersecurity so you can retrain for a new career? There’s a course for that, too. Depending on the education provider, you’ll find a course. Here are some ideas to get you started.
1. University of the Third Age | U3A
The so-called third age is pretty much our age, by the way, although we might not like to admit it. U3A has as its aims ‘the education and stimulation of mainly retired members of the community – those in their third age of life’. Courses in Sydney, for example, range from archaeology and art history to science and technology and yoga. Attendance is as much a social activity as it is about learning. In Melbourne, for instance, U3A offers ‘Let’s do’ events. Whether it’s cycling, long lunches or drawing classes that turn you on, you should find something to suit and where you can meet others who share your interest.
2. Centre for Continuing Education/Community Education
Known as CCE in Sydney and Canberra, with some form found at universities across Australia, continuing education courses are open to all. Mostly there are no exams, and some courses are taught over Zoom. Courses range from Melbourne University’s mainly arts-based program to Sydney University CCE’s diversity of courses that include Computer Basics, Digital Marketing, Product Development, Criminal Law, Project Management, Plant Propagation Techniques and 11 language courses.
3. Workers’ Education Association | WEA
With a strong presence in Sydney but less so in other capital cities and regional areas, the WEA was formed in 1913 as a bridge between schooling and employment. Today, the organisation is represented across Australia and offers courses as varied as Lost Towns of the Hume Highway or The Dark Side of Clean Energy & Digital Technologies to Intermediate Calligraphy: Exploration and Experimentation.
4. Community colleges
Sometimes institutions like Technical and Further Education Colleges, or stand-alone community colleges, offer courses on everything from millinery to massage Therapy. Learn how to use Adobe Illustrator, perfect your presentation skills or brush up on interior design. If you’re ready to turn that side hustle into an actual business, there’s a course for that. Moving to the country and fancy taking up bee keeping? You can find a course where you’ll learn the basics.
Pitched more at those still working and wanting to update their skills, FutureLearn offers everything from short courses like Energy Transition and Sustainable Economies and Heart Health: A Beginner's Guide to Cardiovascular Disease to microcredential courses and online degrees. The organisation partners with universities and other educational institutions across the world to deliver thousands of courses. Short courses are often free while you can access others with a monthly subscription.
6. Other course providers
Search online for ‘alternatives to FutureLearn’ and your browser might throw up this site, alternativeto. Some of the providers have courses aimed mainly at K-12 students; however, others like Udemy and Coursera target professional adults. And if you are a member of a state art gallery, you’ll find courses advertised throughout the year.
New career and interest paths
With the pandemic, when many of us feel burnt out, perhaps it’s time for a change of career. Don’t let that brain turn to mush; jump on to one of the many online or face-to-face courses to feel revitalised and satisfied. You can find plenty of suggestions here for starting a new career in your 40s, 50s and 60s.
Need more advice on ageing gracefully?
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