With sky-rocketing tuition costs and a seemingly never-ending economic recession, it is not surprising that people of all ages and backgrounds are showing greater interest in DIY education, self-education and the edupunk movement.
And with the ubiquity of webcams, podcasts and video chats, it is now easier than ever before for students to learn what they want to learn–for little to no cost. MIT offers free online course materials on their MIT OpenCourseWare website. Other universities also offer past class lectures for free online via streaming vieo, podcasts or PDFs of lecture material–with UC Berkeley, Stanford and Princeton also giving access to all web users academic material that was once limited exclusively to officially enrolled students of that particular school.
Not surprisingly, iTunes has its own popular section called iTunes U, where audiobooks, podcast lectures, language lessons, film and other educational material can be downloaded for little to no cost. Many other similar online hubs of information exist all over the internet.
In addition to connecting people to information, the internet also connects people to the greatest resource of all: other people and other communities.
On Meetup.com, you can search for meet-ups in your neighborhood to connect with like-minded people who are interested in the same hobbies and interests as you, no matter how general or esoteric. Ask a question on Facebook about something you want to learn more about, and someone in your hundreds of contacts will probably be happy to help you connect to the right person and resource. Maybe you met an awesome mentor online who can show you the ropes on writing your novel, launching your business or starting a homeless–and she is more than happy to share some valuable pearls of wisdom on a regular basis even if she is living on the other side of the state, country or the world–via videochat, e-mail or Skype.
DIY education fills in the gaps where formal education sometimes does not do enough in. You are building relationships, you are working with what you have outside of the education bureaucracy, and there is no separation between the classroom and the real world. And it can all be done without paying exorbitant student loans.
The best part? You get to design your own course syllabus and work on the projects that you want to work on. So no more wasting time on b.s. requirements that aren’t necessary for your greater educational goal.
A group of my friends decided to start our own DIY Grad School, where seven of us pursue our own individual projects for a 10-week semester and then showcase the results of our studies to the public at the very end. We are musicians, poets, writers, artists, filmmakers, zine-makers and community builders. In addition to helping each other connect to outside resources and provide constructive feedback on our respective projects, we give each other emotional support and much-needed mutual inspiration every single time we meet.
We all truly believe that with enough passion, self-discipline, hard work and persistence, we can support each other to go far in our respective creative fields. And the beauty of this educational model is that anybody can replicate what we–along with many other informal groups, tribes and collectives all over the world–are doing within the comforts of someone’s living room, coffee house or library.
So here’s to open-source education and self-motivated learning–anytime, anywhere, and with anyone. No matter how old you are or what you are interested in, enrollment to the DIY education movement is always open.
Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money And Failing Our Kids–And What We Can Do About It By Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus
How I Got My DIY Degree… At The University Of Planet Earth from Utne Reader
Meet the Edupunks: Radical Self-Educators Start A Movement from Utne Reader
This series was inspired by Vibe of Portland, winner of the Pepsi Refresh Project, and their intent is to make provide art and music classes to students in SE Portland. To learn more about the Pepsi Refresh Project, visit www.refresheverything.com.