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Extending Learning Outside the Classroom, On the Job, Throughout Life

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As a student, you’re expected to grasp many concepts in your chosen degree major, and also learn in a broader sense about the world around you, and your place in it. A common refrain is that college “teaches you how to think” – conceptualizing, thoughtful problem solving, solutions, reasoning and more.

As you work toward graduation day – or perhaps you’ve already graduated and on your career path – what other lessons can you learn beyond the classroom? Extending your learning not only expands your knowledge, it can change the way employers, colleagues or others see you.

Is “extended learning” just a different way of describing lifelong learning? Maybe. Whatever you call it, weaving it into everyday life delivers big rewards.

Some ideas for enriching your life and studies through extended learning:

  1. Make lifelong learning a passion – an ongoing adventure and a constant personal challenge.
  2. Read, read, read. Go to the library – online or in town. Buy a book. Download an international newspaper on your e-reader. Search for an interesting blog. Memorize names of the president’s cabinet. Learn how a computer chip is made.
  3. Take a few extra minutes to learn one new thing online every day. Search for an article from a thought leader you admire – or a subject, issue or trend that’s completely outside your specialty.
  4. Participate in webcasts, or download archived webcasts. You can find thousands of webcasts, presentations or speeches online. Most are free. Look for one that helps you grow professionally or addresses something you are interested in – or passionate about. For example, American Public University’s School of Science and Technology offered a webcast recently with two faculty members who are former astronauts. Such webcasts are often open to the public, either live or in a downloadable web archive.
  5. Find learning opportunities in your own hometown. Go to a professional meeting, visit a museum, join Toastmasters, or tour a local factory or business.
  6. Add a new word to your vocabulary. Learn word origins. Find what a slang phrase really means. Discover the perfect word for your paper, instead of one that just “works.”
  7. Get out of your comfort zone. Read or listen to a point of view very different from your own, on various subjects, issues or trends. If you aren’t generally interested in classic literature, consider a small experiment. Read a few words of Homer, one poem from Emily Dickinson, or a chapter from Moby Dick.

A passion for learning is a lovely addiction. Make it yours.

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