A large majority of Americans seek extra knowledge for personal and work-related reasons. Digital technology plays a notable role in these knowledge pursuits, but place-based learning remains vital to many and differences in education and income are a hallmark of people’s learning activities.
Most Americans feel they are lifelong learners, whether that means gathering knowledge for “do it yourself” projects, reading up on a personal interest or improving their job skills. For the most part, these learning activities occur in traditional places – at home, work, conferences or community institutions such as government agencies or libraries. The internet is also an important tool for many adults in the process of lifelong learning.
A new Pew Research Center survey shows the extent to which America is a nation of ongoing learners:
- 73% of adults consider themselves lifelong learners.
- 74% of adults are what we call personal learners – that is, they have participated in at least one of a number of possible activities in the past 12 months to advance their knowledge about something that personally interests them. These activities include reading, taking courses or attending meetings or events tied to learning more about their personal interests.
- 63% of those who are working (or 36% of all adults) are what we call professional learners – that is, they have taken a course or gotten additional training in the past 12 months to improve their job skills or expertise connected to career advancement.
These learning activities take place in a variety of locations. The internet is often linked to a variety of learning pursuits. However, it is still the case that more learners pursue knowledge in physical settings than choose to seek it online.
- By an 81% to 52% margin, personal learners are more likely to cite a locale such as a high school, place of worship or library as the site at which personal learning takes place than they are to cite the internet.
- By a similar margin (75% to 55%), professional learners are more likely to say their professional training took place at a work-related venue than on the internet.
People cite several reasons for their interest in additional learning
Those who pursued learning for personal or professional reasons in the past 12 months say there are a number of reasons they took the plunge. Personal learners say they sought to strengthen their knowledge and skills for a mixture of individual and altruistic reasons:
- 80% of personal learners say they pursued knowledge in an area of personal interest because they wanted to learn something that would help them make their life more interesting and full.
- 64% say they wanted to learn something that would allow them to help others more effectively.
- 60% say they had some extra time on their hands to pursue their interests.
- 36% say they wanted to turn a hobby into something that generates income.
- 33% say they wanted to learn things that would help them keep up with the schoolwork of their children, grandchildren or other kids in their lives.
For workers who took a course or got extra training in the past 12 months, their reasons for wanting doing so ranged from career growth to job insecurity:
- 55% of full- or part-time workers say they participated in work or career learning to maintain or improve their job skills. That amounts to 87% of professional learners who cited this as the reason they wanted to improve their skills.
- 36% of all workers say they did such learning in order to get a license or certification they needed for their job. That comes out to 57% of professional learners who cited this reason.
- 24% of all workers say they wanted to upgrade their skills to help get a raise or promotion at work. That amounts to 39% of professional learners who cited this rationale.
- 13% of the full- and part-time workers say they were hoping to get a new job with a different employer. That amounts to 21% of professional learners who gave this reason.
- 7% of all workers say they were worried about possible downsizing where they currently work. That comes to 12% of professional learners who gave this reason.
Technology assets: Among those with a smartphone and a home broadband connection (just over half the population), 82% have done some personal learning activity in the past year. For the remaining adults (those with just one of these connection devices or neither of them), 64% have done personal learning in the past year.
Technology assets are strongly tied to the likelihood that people engage in personal learning online. Those with multiple access options (that is, a smartphone and home broadband connection) are much more likely to use the internet for most or all of their personal learning – by a 37% to 21% margin – relative to people with one or no access options.
Race and ethnicity: African Americans and Hispanics are less likely to say they have pursued personal learning activities in the past year by margins that differ significantly from white adults. The differences for professional learning are less pronounced for African Americans, though still substantial for Hispanics. Some 79% of white adults are personal learners, compared with 64% of blacks and 60% of Hispanics. Additionally, 65% of white workers are professional learners, compared with 59% of black workers and 52% of Hispanic workers.
Type of job: Finally, the type of job a person has shapes the likelihood of having had professional training. For instance, four-fifths (83%) of those who work for the government have had some job training in the past year, while half (50%) who work for small businesses have had such training.
Read Article (John B Horrigan | pewinternet.org | 03/22/2016)
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