If you are not yet sure if you want to belong to a traditional college or education class, you may be interested in the growing movement of DIY education.
DIY people can develop new skills and knowledge on their own, often ingeniously and creatively.
Today they can be called “edu-punks,” “DIY-ers,” or “creators,” but this concept is not new. Outstanding autodidacts or self-directed students include Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Karl Marx, Emily Dickinson, and countless other innovators. The difference is that today’s students have many more tools and resources at their disposal.
What is DIY education?
As a DIY student, you control your education and decide on what you want to study. The availability of relatively inexpensive online courses through sites such as Udemy makes it easy for DIY students to explore new areas of knowledge without having to spend their money on traditional college courses.
Many reputable universities, including Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), offer MOOCs for free as a way to promote democratic education and provide new learning opportunities.
These non-credit courses can be found in subjects ranging from computer programming to ancient civilization, and are usually a risk-free way to try out a promising speciality, develop new skills, or simply broaden your general knowledge.
Another feature of the DIY learning community is the hackerspaces: open spaces where hackers and creators can come together to learn and collaborate (typically in fields such as science and technology).
Hackerspaces can offer knowledge sharing, community activities, and group projects, as well as more traditional learning environments.
The difference is that hackers and developers decide which projects and initiatives matter to them by defining their own curriculum. This is no different from a flipped classroom, a new approach to education that allows students to guide themselves.
Types of DIY Education
DIY online education does not fit into a single mould. There are many different models of distance learning used today by community colleges. Some of the different types of online learning include:
Asynchronous learning is a style that allows students to work at their own pace. Its main popularity is its extreme flexibility, where students do not need to follow established schedules for lectures, homework, or other coursework.
The material is typically distributed on the Internet and often includes audio or visual aids to bring the content to life. Students are often able to communicate with other students online, and assignments are usually delivered through an electronic bulletin board or similar format.
Synchronous learning involves setting up a time to work in the classroom, be it physical classrooms, online chats, or video conferences.
Students have less flexibility in this type of learning environment but are able to interact more with teachers and other students.
This type of learning can also be called “fixed time learning,” where students have to sign in on their computers at a specific time each day to get the necessary materials and information.
Another popular DIY learning style is a hybrid learning. This is a combination or hybrid between asynchronous and synchronous classes. This model can vary significantly between classes, based on the preferences of the students and the professor leading the course.
In some cases, students may be required to sign in for a video conference and chat once or twice a week. However, homework is still based on flexible schedules.
Others may allow students to study material in their spare time, but set dates for assignments and tests, which must be adhered to without fail.
Pros of DIY education
The best thing about DIY learning is that almost everyone can benefit from it. For some students, self-directed learning is an alternative to formal college or university education.
For others, it is a way to give students a chance to try their hand at college courses and see if a subject or discipline is right for them.
Others may choose self-directed studies after college to develop new professional skills or simply to enrich their lives.
What is particularly good about this model of education?
- You may choose to study only the subjects that are directly related to your interests and professional goals. For example, if you only need to improve your presentation skills, you do not need to do a whole business or management course, etc.
- You may be able to save money. If funding a traditional college education is not an option, DIY education may be a free or relatively inexpensive way to deepen your knowledge.
- It is a great way to test what to study at college. Not sure if college is for you? MOOCs can give you an idea of what to expect.
- DIY training can help you resist the commercialization of learning. DIY movements encourage students to think for themselves and rebel against the impact of government or corporate programs of education.
Cons of a DIY Education
- DIY education does not usually end with the degree required for many career paths.
- A self-directed study is not suitable for all occupations. Although many computer programmers can be “DIY,” you are unlikely to find a self-study neurosurgeon.
- DIY education requires a lot of independence and personal drive. You must be familiar enough with the chosen discipline to plan and run your course, and you must be responsible for achieving your goals.
- Self-learning students do not have easy access to professors, tutors, and counselors. While DIY support is available, you will need to work harder to find a group of knowledgeable peers and mentors to help you develop your learning.
Is The DIY education model right for you?
With so many advantages, it is easy to understand the appeal of online coursework. However, before you sign up and jump in with both feet, think about it. Is DIY education suitable for you? Here are five questions to help you make your decision.
1. What are your goals?
That’s the best place to start when you consider any type of education. However, it is especially important for DIY education.
- Do you want to see if returning to school is a viable option or if you do not go to class but have access to a traditional course?
- Do you want to advance your career with another degree or certificate?
- Have you postponed your college studies, but still want to get your diploma?
A thorough analysis of your reasoning will help you assess your level of motivation and determine if the time is right for you.
Once you have thought about your goals, write them down! Then they will be a physical reminder to you, and the simple procedure of writing them down will make them more real.
2. Are you determined enough?
Online classes require a lot of self-discipline. The downside of not having the time in class is that you have to take responsibility for yourself.
Setting time each day to work on your classes will help. However, it is ultimately up to you to stick to that schedule.
If it is difficult for you to stick to the schedule yourself, try it somewhere in your daily schedule. As a trial run, set a time to go to the gym or an online yoga class every day or week before you sign up for your class. You could also sign up for one lesson, to begin with rather than a full course.
3. Do you thrive in a group environment?
When you take an online course, you don’t have a group of people that you would see in every class. This can make it difficult to seek help with difficult material or to find a study group to work with if you need motivation (or empathy).
If you need a group environment, try to take a class with someone you know – for example, a friend or colleague – so that you have someone who knows what you are going through.
4. How much time do you have to commit to your education?
You may not have to be in the classroom in a certain place or worry about travel time. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll have to devote less time to your classes.
Online courses are designed to take the same amount of time as traditional classes. Often, students can spend more time on online classes.
In most institutions, three-credit classes require 3 hours of classes in addition to 6 hours of work outside the classroom. This is a total of 9 hours spent in classes each week.
Just because you do not spend 3 hours a week in a classroom does not mean that you will spend less time working in an online classroom.
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5. Will an online degree be taken seriously in your field?
It is horrible to admit it, but there is still a negative stigma associated with online certificates. Therefore, you should check the program you are considering by studying their accreditation. However, in some areas, online classes simply do not add up as traditional programs do.
Ask around and see what people think about online lessons.
It won’t help you much if you spend time and money on your degree, only to understand that it won’t be taken seriously.
To sum up
DIY education can be a great alternative to traditional teaching methods. However, the reality is that in most career paths, employers require some kind of formal college education.
In some cases, online degree programs may offer the best of both worlds, combining proven academic programs and resources from a college or university with the flexibility of doing it anytime and anywhere of your choice.
Whatever your position on the DIY program is, there is no denying that this movement has resulted in increased accessibility for students, innovations in course delivery, and a new world of opportunities for independent students.
Author’s bio: Dmitrii B. is the founder of GRIN tech – full service agency.