Learning isn't an option for everyone - it involves a massive commitment of time, money and energy, and comes at a cost to work life and social life... Or does it? Laneway Learning is an Australian not-for-profit organization that challenges traditional barriers to the pursuit of education. For as little as $16, anyone can sign up for a once-off class in an eclectic range of subjects. Laneway Learning hosts 12-18 classes every week, and most classes take place in and around the city on weeknights after business hours - so no one has to miss out!
Laneway Learning was founded in 2012 by Mark Gregory, Lucie Bradley, Tom Ding and Kim Hay. Their mission, in Lucie's words, was to share knowledge and make connections with the local community - to make learning accessible, social and entertaining. The team grew to include Maria Yebra, general manager of Laneway Learning, who also regularly teaches a variety of classes in Melbourne. Over the last few years, Laneway Learning has expanded beyond Melbourne to other Australian cities and even overseas.
A cursory glance through the list of upcoming classes will give you an indication of just how much variety is on offer. There are always classes available in mainstream subjects like art, food and wine, photography, personal well being, social media, culture, games, travel, philosophy, and so forth.
Additionally, there are also a bunch of quirkier classes offered from time to time: like how to become an astronaut, self love/how to masturbate, kitchen cosmology, sword fighting, yo-yoing, unicorn toppers, understanding the Israel-Palestine conflict, zombies, and heaps more. Some of their best selling classes include things like hair braiding and ring making.
Laneway Learning classes are designed assuming no prior experience and are open to everyone of any age or background. There is also no ongoing commitment - classes are always once-off. 75 minutes at one of these classes isn't going to make you an expert in the subject, but it certainly can jumpstart your exploration in that area and give you ideas on how to develop your interests further, if you so desire.
It surprises people to find that not only can anyone learn at Laneway Learning, but also anyone can teach! You don't need a PhD or fifty years' experience - all they ask is that you have a genuine passion for what you propose to teach. Teachers of these classes range from industry experts to amateur hobbyists and enthusiasts. The focus is on keeping learning fun, relaxed and interactive. Maria Yebra (general manager of Laneway Learning and a regular teacher of classes on crochet, making concrete planters, Spanish tapas and more) observes that although you can theoretically learn anything online, nothing can really replace face to face teaching and learning. Sometimes people just value being able to watch someone demonstrate a technique or fix a mistake in person.
Image from the Laneway Learning website.
Another special thing about the Laneway Learning experience is the venues at which classes are held. Apart from the beautiful Laneway Learning Central (with its origami crane feature wall!) in the Nicholas Building, the venues also include cafes, bookshops, art galleries and other places with character that are not only easy to get to but are also valuable finds in and of themselves. Striking up a conversation with the owners or managers of these venues (such as at Embiggen Books or Stephen McLaughlan Gallery) can be an enriching and educational experience in its own right.