Lifelong learning made easier
For people who like to grow and mature intellectually and spiritually, learning is a lifelong process. We don't -- and shouldn't -- stop learning just because we have graduated from high school, college or have a doctoral degree in hand.
Many methods and opportunities exist to help us continue lifelong learning.
Traditionally, we can get self-help or how-to books and tapes from libraries or bookstores if we want to learn something new. We can enroll in classes offered by Community Education which integrates schools and adult education institutions within the community.
But lifelong learning has never been easier and more affordable in the human history than in today's technologically advanced age.
Nowadays, we can learn a lot of things not only faster, with a simple click of the mouse, but also more affordable.
If you don't care about getting a degree and a piece of paper to advance your career and financial life, if you simply just want to learn for the joy of learning, you will certainly find the following learning tools interesting.
They are just some examples and are not meant to replace learning through local libraries and community education.
Needless to say, the Internet has become the greatest learning tool. The things you can learn on the Internet are endless and limitless.
Have you "googled" or used Wikipedia lately? I do that on a daily basis.
Many universities and organizations offer free online courses.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offers a comprehensive selection of free online courses, more than any other universities.
With its motto "Unlocking Knowledge, Empowering Minds," MIT is committed to advancing education through knowledge open to everyone.
MIT OpenCourseWare shares free lecture notes, exams, and other resources from more than 1800 courses spanning MIT's entire curriculum. Its entire undergraduate and graduate curriculum is free online.
However, taking MIT's free online courses is not equal to an MIT education. It doesn't grant any degrees or certificates and doesn't provide access to MIT faculty.
For more information, go to ocw.mit.edu/index.html.
If you belong to an organization or a trade association, you might be able to find free online courses that are available only to its members.
Speaking for myself, as a library staff in Minnesota, I have access to online courses offered by WebJunction Minnesota. WebJunction is an online community where library staff can take online courses.
It was initially founded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Now it is a partnership of national organizations and local library communities.
I also have access to free online courses and webinars offered by a trade association and a regional network.
The Experimental College (also known as EXCO or EC) Movement started in the 1960s by college students in search of equal access, social justice and democratic education for social change.
It aims to bring alternative voices to the University culture and to provide a forum for learning and teaching in an informal, cooperative setting.
EC is generally a school within a school, based out of a college or university that offers classes taught by not just traditional professors, but students and community members as well, often without grades and free of charge.
The Experimental College of the Twin Cities was a relatively new establishment. It started by Macalester students in 2006.
EXCOtc is currently expanding to other college campuses and community groups.
The University of Minnesota (Twin Cities Campus) chapter was created in 2007.
As stated on its website, "EXCOtc strives to offer Twin Cities' communities the opportunity to teach or learn in a space open to alternative education and all kinds of knowledge, including and beyond academic knowledge. Everyone can teach or take a class, and all classes are free."
EXCOtc has a community-based emphasis. It welcomes members from the community to teach and learn.
Recently I took two classes with EXCO, both happened to be taught by people from our local community. "The Power of Now" was taught by a Woodbury resident on Macalester campus. And the poetry class was taught by an Afton resident in her home.
EC provides an outlet for individuals to share their interests and skills. It provides opportunities for lifelong learning.
From politics to languages, from health to spirituality, you will probably find a class that interests you.
If you are interested in teaching or taking a class with EXCO, submit an application or sign up a class online at www.EXCOtc.org. To contact EXCOtc, you can also call (651) 696-8010, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The summer session begins June 16, with teaching applications due by May 16. Fall classes start Sept. 22, with applications due Aug. 22.
If you are interested in meeting other people in the community who share a common interest, go to www.meetup.com.
Meetup.com is an online social networking portal that facilitates offline group meetings in local communities around the world.
If you don't find a group in your area that matches your interest, you can start a group yourself.
I found there are so many things to learn and so many ways to do it. I only wish I have more than 24 hours a day to learn and do all I want to learn and do.