I attended my first workshop at General Assembly tonight, Introduction to the Sydney Startup Community, at the Fishburners co-working space. I attended not so much to learn about the elements of the startup process, which is not so new to me now, but to check out Fishburners for the first time, get a sense of how the newly-launched General Assembly Sydney was going and meet other local startups.
General Assembly is part of a new educational ecosystem which is fueling a renaissance in lifelong learning in our society. Whereas it used to be about lobbying your work to send you to (expensive) day-long workshops or multi-day training programs or saving up the funds to learn a new skill, now, for free or at low cost, you can choose to pursue continuing education and professional development on a huge variety of topics and in a manner that suits you and your learning style.
This has been achieved in many cases by democratizing now only who can learn but more importantly who can teach – allowing those with the knowledge to share it with those most eager to gain it, both online and offline. It’s this sudden supply of topic experts and new platforms which link us to them which has reduced the cost and increased the availability of learning opportunities. It's an exciting trend.
General Assembly began in New York where they maintain a campus with permanent classrooms, co-working offices and community space. GA Sydney launched just last month and already has a full roster of upcoming classes at low cost, usually around $40. Skillshare allows anyone to propose a class and take bookings through its website. Where General Assembly tends to focus on tech and startup oriented classes Skillshare is literally for anything, you can do classes in bee-keeping or knitting, photoshop or poker.
Codecademy does away with the classroom completely, breaking down the process of learning to code into simple bite-sized chunks delivered online and inspiring over a million people to commit to learning to program this year (how many of them are following through however is unknown).
And the opportunities keep multiplying in a million different directions, with services like coachy which allow you to line up online coaching with a topic expert and Ohours which encourages you to offer real-world “office hours” to share what you know. Our Pitch Some Good event in Austin during SXSW this year was won by HourSchool who, somewhat like Skillshare, facilitate in-person teaching on, for instance, motorbike repair, in an hour a pop, and also included Pocket Hotline who facilitate telephone help lines on a variety of topics including rails, adhd and baking.
Whatever you want to learn, there’s probably someone prepared to teach it to you. And if you’re a bit of an expert on something interesting, fun or useful, why not offer to teach the rest of us? We’re ready to learn.