By Danielle Jackson
It can often be challenging to navigate today’s technologies, and taking classes can take up an inordinate amount of time – and in some cases, money. Fortunately, there are free opportunities for seniors and others to learn at their own pace. GCFLearnFree.org, a program of the Goodwill Community Foundation (GCF) and Goodwill Industries of Eastern North Carolina Inc. (GIENC), is one such place. The educational website is designed to help users become more comfortable with the technologies necessary to succeed in work and life.
The downtown Raleigh-based program’s unique approach gives learners access to more than 125 free tutorials in a range of subject areas, from technology to reading to math and more. Users learn on their own time, so they can visit the site to get an answer to a specific question or to more fully understand an entire concept. There are videos and interactives in addition to text-based learning as well, giving users even more ways to learn.
“We realize that people learn at different levels and in different ways,” says Matt Robinson, director of distance learning. “With our site, our aim is to give users as many opportunities as possible to learn what they want, when they want.”
For the past decade and a half, the program has seen significant growth, with more than 26 million people served in every country in the world. And according to Robinson, seniors make up a good part of the site’s audience. The following three sections of the website in particular, he says, are helpful for those 65 and older.
With 22 tutorials ranging from “Computer Basics” to “Internet Safety,” learners can gain a stronger grasp on how to type, use a mouse, use email and operating systems, and stay safe online. As with most tutorials at GCFLearnFree.org, there are videos and interactives accompanying many lessons, as well as quizzes that allow users to practice what they’ve learned.
A section that’s particularly popular for seniors is social media, where users can easily learn how to create and manage their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Skype, Instagram, YouTube, and Vine accounts.
“Seniors are by far the fastest-growing segment of the population joining social media today, and it’s perfectly understandable why,” Robinson says. “Many are grandparents and do not necessarily live near their kids and grandkids, and this is how they stay in touch. We’re here to teach them how to do that.”
Work & Career
Seniors re-entering the workforce or looking for a new job for the first time in years often visit the site to better understand how to look for a job in the 21st century. There are tutorials on searching for jobs online, developing resumes and cover letters, and networking in today’s tech-savvy world.
“For many seniors, it’s been a while since they had to find a new job or career,” Robinson notes. “It’s a different world out there today, and our tutorials are designed to help acclimate them so they can take advantage of the opportunities available to advance in their careers.”