Cognitive Commuting: Trains, Brains, and Automobiles

Continuing education is a great industry for many universities, community colleges, and “Learning Annex” type concerns. The learner in a continuing education class is there for a very different reason than a traditional student. A continuing ed. student is there not for credit or a grade, but for actual knowledge and expertise in the subject. For enrichment. Being a continuing ed student is like being in the church choir; nobody does it for the wrong reasons. It is volunteer, self directed learning driven.

One of the advantages of the digital age is, with all the channels being cast into the digital ether, you can find an expert channeling their expertise on almost any subject. For Free. And if you are in it for the learning, and not a grade or a credit, it is a great time to be alive.

This past fall I chose to commute once a week for a bunch of weeks, to a far off college to develop a course in online content creation. I live in Connecticut, the school is in Pennsylvania. The one way trip was 2.5 hours. I choose to do this for two reasons. I like teaching every once in a while, so there was that. What I was most excited about was gaining expertise in a new facet of internet marketing I’ve been exploring, and this I was doing with an iPod filled with courses by some of the country’s smartest experts on the subject. I listened to panel discussions from conferences, ebooks, podcasts on branding, sales training, etc. I must have listened to 30-40- hours of instruction. I let it wash over me as I drove, grabbing a little here, and a little there. By the time the project at the University ended, I was expert in many things, by book learning standards, and I’ve been implementing ever since.

So try this. If you want to pick up some expertise in anything- Elizabethan poetry, internet marketing, quilting, etc. Get a podcast, a video feed into an ipod and listen to it on the train, in your car, or on the bus. Anytime you are waiting, pop in the headphones and learn. This is not new. We’ve listened to books on tape since the walkman came about, but now it is all free. Want to learn how to start a blog? You can pay 27.00 for an ebook OR you can do a little searching on iTunes’ podcast directory and find it for FREE. You can take a community college course in French, or you can download a complete set of audio lessons for FREE, complete with worksheets, from one of many language “casts”. So many people are freely giving away great expertise today, one wonders why spend the money for continuing education, when the expertise is online…FREE.

The main reason I’ll take a course is the human interaction. For a physical mentor. But, for pure learning, for the information, to get to the essence of a thing, I’ll take portable and free.



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