Pew Study Finds America is for Lifelong Learners

NERDS REJOICE: On Tuesday the Pew Research Center published results from its fall 2015 survey examining to what extent Americans are lifelong learners, and the role technology plays in those learning activities. Among the findings:

  • 73 percent of adults self-identify as lifelong learners. Furthermore, 74 percent of adults can be classified as personal learners—who in the last 12 months have participated in activities such as reading, taking courses or attending events tied to learning more about personal interests—and 63 percent of working adults are professional learners—who in the last 12 months have undergone additional training with the purpose of career advancement.
  • Those classified as personal learners often cite social and psychological benefits as reasons for participation: 64 percent say their learning helped them make new friends, 58 percent note community connections, and 43 percent report that learning activities prompted them to volunteer more.
  • Public familiarity with major digital learning platforms and methods is low: 79 percent of adults are “not too familiar” or “not at all familiar” with Khan Academy; 80 percent responded the same for MOOCs; 61 percent for “distance learning;” and 83 percent for “digital badges.”
  • Government workers and educators are highly likely to be professional learners. Nonprofit employees came in third, with large-, medium-, and small-business employees rounding out the rankings for proportions of learners by industry.
  • Both personal learners and professional learners prefer to learn in physical settings rather than online.

For enthusiasts who think technology will democratize lifelong learning opportunities, lead researcher John Horrigan flags some sobering facts: adults with greater education, income and access to technology are most likely to take advantage of the Internet for learning.

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