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Staying Smart: How Today’s Graduates Continue to Learn Once They Complete College

5 January 2016

Summary

This report presents findings about the information-seeking behavior of relatively recent college graduates used for lifelong learning in personal life, the workplace, and the local communities where they lived. Included are results from online surveys of 1,651 respondents and telephone interviews with 126 study participants who graduated from one of 10 US colleges and universities between 2007 and 2012. Findings indicated that most graduates needed to learn a combination of basic and complex life skills during the past year, such as money-management, how to make household repairs, and how to advance in their careers and communicate better on the job. They consulted friends, family, and coworkers almost as much as the Web. Graduates preferred information sources that had currency, utility, and interactivity. They also placed a high premium on curated information systems that were organized and kept up-to-date, such as libraries, museums, and bookstores. A model of shared utility is introduced for explaining graduates’ use of contemporary social media technologies as well as personal connections they had established with trusted allies. Graduates reported four barriers to their continued learning efforts: lack of time, finding affordable learning sources, staying on top of everything they needed to know, and staying motivated to keep learning after college. As a whole, graduates prided themselves on their ability to search, evaluate, and present information, skills they honed during college. Yet, far fewer said that their college experience had helped them develop the critical thinking skill of framing and asking questions of their own, which is a skill they inevitably needed in their post-college lives. Ten recommendations are presented for improving educational strategies, resources, and services that foster lifelong learning.

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students lifelong learning

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