A Degree is Just One Facet
Lifelong Learning Section:
Books on Tape
California Institute of Integral Studies
If you thought your education was over when that diploma was plopped into your palm, think again.
Never before has so much knowledge been required to navigate through life. The amount of information that many of us need to simply maintain our careers escalates so fast that it has spawned terms like 'just-in-time learning.'
At the same time, the Internet has given us nearly instant access to knowledge as never before. We could view these demands on our minds as obligatory headaches, or we could embrace the concept of lifelong learning as an opportunity to continually enrich our lives.
Chances are you're already engaged in learning, even if you are miles away from the nearest educational institution. The key is to recognize the educational value of your experiences, and to take deliberate action to continue learning by striving to satisfy your curiosity, regardless of whether that will advance your career. For some people, a fresh approach to learning could facilitate a dreamed-of career change; for all of us, rekindling a desire to learn will prove its own reward.
Here are some guidelines for navigating your own course of lifelong learning:
Adopt a new perspective.
Nothing fosters learning as effectively as the simple desire to know. Follow your curiosity to set your learning goals, instead of catering to external expectations.
Document your experience.
Create a portfolio to show that your life experience is worthy of college credit (sometimes called portfolio assessment or assessment of prior learning). Some of the things you may include are: artwork, computer software you have developed, films, musical compositions, patents, business plans, military service records, past job descriptions, writing samples, reading lists, reports, research projects, and Web sites. Assembled together in one place, your experiential learning achievements might astonish you.
Get credit without course work.
The College-Level Examination Program tests (CLEP) are available for a vast range of subjects. Other such opportunities include the Advanced Placement Program (APP), and the American College Testing Program (ACT-PEP). These allow people to gain college credit by simply taking what might be considered the final exams.
Soon nearly all institutions of higher learning will be online. Course scheduling will be a thing of the past.
Investigate alternative resources.
Attend workshops; listen to books on tape; visit libraries and museums; tour historical landmarks and unfamiliar places. Once you start exploring, you'll discover surprising connections to your deeper interests.
Realign your values.
A better understanding our ourselves and our world can be as precious as time or money. The external push for degrees to qualify for high-paying jobs often blinds us to the fact that learning is necessary for our general well-being. We must try to assign as much value to bettering the life of our minds as we do to advancing our career and increasing our incomes. Thinking costs nothing, and actively pursuing a liberal education is not indulging in trivial matters. To the contrary, it's the most life-centering thing we can do. l Charles D. Hayes is a lifelong learning advocate and has authored three books, including Beyond the American Dream: Lifelong Learning and the Search for Meaning in a Postmodern World, (Autodidactic Press 1998), He founded the Autodidactic Press (www.autodidactic.com), a publishing house dedicated to furthering education not as something you get but as something you do.
Charles D. Hayes is a lifelong learning advocate and has authored three books, including Beyond the American Dream: Lifelong Learning and the Search for Meaning in a Postmodern World, (Autodidactic Press 1998), He founded the Autodidactic Press, a publishing house dedicated to furthering education not as something you get but as something you do.