Learning for the Sake of Learning
Although learning does have intrinsic value for most people, often we think of school as a chore to get through in order to get the grand prize of a degree or some other kind of qualification. But what if you’re not really that interested in getting a piece of paper? You’re not alone — many people just want to learn for the sake of learning, and there are many ways to go about it:
- Independent study is the easiest way to learn things, especially now that the Internet has made most information available at the touch of a button. In fact, many of us engage in independent study on a daily basis without even realizing it. For example, how many times have you had a question about something simple, and then ended up delving deeper and deeper into Wikipedia as you read more articles and became more curious about the subject? These days, there are so many reference and tutorial sources, both online and in local libraries, that learning what you want to know is becoming almost second nature to most of us. With a little focus and discipline, you can amass a collection of sources on virtually any subject, and use those as your study materials.
- Online courses are a more customized way to learn a skill or get educated on a subject. These days there are online courses for just about everything, and some of them are still free, or have a free trial period so you can try them without risk. Languages, for example, are particularly popular, and no matter what language you would like to learn, there will be plenty of places where you can practice with others, as well as getting feedback from instructors.
- If learning from the Internet is not really your thing, many cities produce an informative newspaper detailing local courses that are available in your area. These courses are often not affiliated with any school, but are run independently by local people who want to give something back to the community. The courses are usually available for a very low cost, or sometimes even completely free. At these informal sessions you can learn anything from flower arranging to 17th century European history, usually taught by a person who is very knowledgeable and passionate about their area of expertise.
- If you prefer a more structured setting, auditing is a process by which some professors will let you sit in on certain university and college courses for free, on the understanding that you will not have any work or exams graded, nor will you get credit for the course. It may seem useless to some people to take a course for which you won’t get any acknowledgment for having completed, but if you’re just curious and eager to learn, it can be a fantastic, pressure-free way to gain knowledge. There is a lot less stress involved in learning if you know you are not going to be tested, and you’re a lot more likely to retain what you have learned if you have chosen the course yourself, rather than it being a required class for a major.
If you are into the idea of educating yourself just for the sake of it, it is easier now than it has ever been, and the information that’s out there is likely to become even more readily accessible over time, with advances in technology. Whether you want to learn to cook, explore the literature of ancient Greece, or just figure out how to fix things around the house, there’s bound to be someone in your community or on the Internet who is already offering that knowledge to anyone who seeks it. All you have to do is have a little persistence, and you will almost certainly find what you’re looking for.