Learning Alternatives: Which One’s for You?


“Good morning students,” greeted Ms. Crabapple, standing front and center of the tidy classroom. A crowd of more than 30 students replied, “Good morning, M’s Crabapple.” She continued, “First, we’re conducting roll call.” They then proceeded to call each student and tick off when they replied, “present.” Next was an explanation of the suggested lessons for the day. There was copying of board work – a lot of board work, and the staccato of reciting and copying, interspersed with recitation, was interrupted once in the morning for a fifteen minute break and again at noon for lunch. Drilling resumed at the one o’clock bell and continued until interrupted by the last break bell of the day at three. “Don’t forget to study and do your homework,” the school teacher yelled at the fleeing mass of students who rushed out the exit like they were abandoning a sinking ship.

Such might have been a typical “school day” for millions of students over a period of decades.

learning alternatives

Now, however, the traditional role of the school has changed radically. There are a number of viable learning alternatives. What are some of the pros and cons of each of these learning alternatives? Let’s look at some of them.

correspondence course

A correspondence course is traditionally a course that is conducted by mail. Course materials come in the mail. The student then mails their completed work back and awaits the next lesson by mail. The process continues and repeats until all required lessons are completed. There is no teacher-student contact other than the written word. Some programs today allow telephone, email, or voice mail contact. Only highly motivated, independent learners can benefit greatly from this type of learning.


Associated with both a traditional school setting and independent learning, field trips consist of students visiting a location outside of their school or home to learn about a subject or topic. Places visited may include businesses such as manufacturing plants, a park, museum, zoo or aquarium, public service facilities such as fire stations, TV or radio studios, hospitals or police stations. This method is an effective learning strategy and requires a teacher or guide to fully achieve. In addition, it may be difficult or impossible for the individual learner to organize visits to some places.

Independent learning

Self-study includes the design of a project, which the students then complete independently using various means. Collective work can require a number of intricately interacting facets to complete. Research, writing, field trips, interviews, extensive reading, and speaking engagements may all be involved and required to complete the project work. The final production is often a presentation, paper, or report extolling the details of the student’s work and knowledge gained.

professional school

A pedagogical stronghold for learning manual or technical skills, a vocational school imparts practical skills. After completing their studies at a vocational school, students are usually immediately employable in the private sector and in business. Fields such as healthcare, nursing, electronics, computer science, construction and manufacturing that have a need for skilled labor or technicians receive a steady supply of labor from these types of schools.

educational television course

The vast majority of major metropolitan areas have one or more public service broadcasters that provide educational programming. These programs are often part of an accredited course at a local college or university. Students watch (and often record) television programs at home, take notes and study the broadcast material as an integral part of their learning. This method is another effective strategy for the highly independent learner and does not encourage interpersonal contact between teacher (if any) and learner.

Continuing education

When adults at some point in their lives wish to resume their education, programs offered by post-secondary institutions that are tailored to the specific needs of those students are known as continuing education. Some may only last a day or two. Other programs can run for weeks at an intensity that can range from an hour or two a week to daily classroom contact. Courses can be subjects of personal interest such as ethnic cooking, gardening, writing and photography, or employment-related areas such as welding, plumbing, languages, painting and building. This type of courses and programs is a very popular option today and encourages interaction between students in the class, interactive learning and full contact between teacher and student. There is usually a lot of feedback between teachers and learners and the learners themselves.

We will likely never see a return to ‘traditional’ learning as outlined above. But with the growing variety of learning alternatives, there is certainly something suitable for almost everyone. So get out of your rut. Take a chance – take a course and improve your mind and life with one of the many learning alternatives available to you. If not, there’s always an M’s Crabapple waiting.

Thanks to Larry M. Lynch | #Learning #Alternatives

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