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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Make your own Career Classroom — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

Make your own Career Classroom — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

September 16th, 2013

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The explosion of educational MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) seems to indicate a large, renewed interest in nontraditional educational opportunities. People are looking for new opportunities to learn when and where they can. While there are a tremendous amount of large MOOCs available, and you should be investigating them, this trend has also sparked my own thinking about smaller, self-directed learning opportunities. You don’t always have to rely on someone else to create your learning opportunities, like traditional schools and universities. You, along with a small group of friends, family, or coworkers can create your own time and place to learn together. In some ways, I think that these smaller groups can help you learn more deeply, in a more intimate learning environment, than any MOOC possibly could.


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What do you want to learn?

Your first task in developing your own Career Classroom is to think deeply about what you want and need to learn. This can literally be anything. Let your thinking roam. I believe that no matter what learning we do outside our jobs, it directly affects our career in some way. How could it not in a world where our lives and careers are so intertwined. Your new learning might be directly applicable to your career, like new computer skills or learning more about business and finance, or it could be supposedly non-business-related education such as art history or learning to play the guitar. Whatever you learn becomes part of you and you can never tell just how you might apply your new knowledge, so don’t limit yourself when thinking about your educational topics.

One of the best reasons for pursuing self-directed education though, is that it’s personalized to you. You get to decide what interests you most and then pursue it. You aren’t beholden to a specific college curriculum, specific topics or specific subject area. You are free to choose what you want and need most. What would you like to learn, if you gave yourself the time and permission to learn it?

Find like-minded people

Once you have your short list of educational topics, start looking for like-minded people to join you on your educational journey. Who do you know that is also interested in similar topics? Who else is looking for a way to expand their life and career? Reach out to everyone around you. You can never tell who secretly might be yearning for a way to learn something new. That quiet co-worker who diligently does their job might want to be the next great novelist. You can never tell, so you have to ask.

Once you have a topic and a small group of people to join you in your virtual career classroom, you will need to develop a plan for how you will learn together. Even though I am a huge believer in the power of technology, I believe that your career classroom should consist of both virtual and face-to-face elements. Use the Internet to share information and discuss the topic but, if you can, reserve an hour a week to meet in person to discuss your topic, too. Of course, this face-to-face time can be handled virtually and online, too. I am finding that Google Hangouts can be an excellent analogue for a face-to-face meeting, if you can’t get together in person.

The reason for this discussion time is that I often find the some of the most important learning happens during conversations rather than just through reading materials or watching presentations. Discussions almost always trigger new questions, new thoughts and, hopefully, new answers to go with them. Even when complete answers are lacking, though, conversations will turn up areas of your topic that require more research and lead even deeper into your subject and your learning.

You might be thinking to yourself, “but how can I learn without a knowledgeable teacher to lead me and give me the information I need?” For me, the best educational experiences come from when I learn something myself rather than having someone simply “download” their knowledge to me. Information in today’s world is much more open and available than any other time in our history. In your Career Classroom, you’ll have a host of information to “teach” yourself and your Career Classroom partners. Instead of having just one teacher, you’ll have, potentially thousands, all available at your fingertips.

Every student a teacher

One important lesson to take away from your self-directed educational adventures is that each person in your group is not only a student, but a teacher as well. I firmly believe that we learn best by teaching others, so that should be an integral part of your career classroom, too. As a matter of course, when another group members comes across an important piece of information on your topic, it is their job to teach it to everyone else in the group. In teaching this information, they will not only share it with you, but learn it even more deeply themselves.

Thinking “big” about your continued career education can be important, but don’t neglect the small, the focused, the personalized education, you can do for yourself and with small groups of friends, family and coworkers. We are often the best judge in knowing what we want and need to learn and focused, self-directed education can be one great way of learning it. Think about what you want and need to learn, then find others who want to learn, too. Together you can support each other on your educational journey and also become both student and teacher as the need arises. I think you’ll find that learning together using these self-directed methods could be a great way of building the career you deserve.

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