Friday, October 29, 2010

Scholastic Pursuits and the Freedom To Learn

"The World Is Your Oyster!" - have you heard this phrase before?  I did a bit of research and found that it comes from Shakespeare's play "The Merry Wives of Windsor" (Act II, Scene II) and the actual line is a dialog between two characters.

Falstaff: I will not lend thee a penny.
Pistol: Why, then, the world's mine oyster, Which I with sword will open. 

Although there is some debate to the actual meaning, my interpretation is that "Pistol" is saying "Ok - that's fine, if you won't lend me the money, then the world will be the oyster where I will find my treasure (the pearl).
We live in a fascinating time.  No matter what your interest, we have the ability, through research and community (online or local), to not only find out more about any topic but we have the ability to connect with experts in the field.  Many of these resources are free or of little cost. The world and the level at which it is interconnected really does allow us to find any treasure for which we want to search.

I have a Bachelor's of Science in Computer Information Systems equivalency (see footnote) from the University of New York (2004), as well as two Post Secondary Diplomas from the Toronto School Of Business (Computer Programming - 1996 / Network Design and Systems Support and Analysis - 1997) and I've often thought about going back to school to continue my studies.  Recently, I have had an interest in the study of the mind and the ties between it and human behavior.

As I was thinking about my options for obtaining additional education I cringed when I started to think about cost and the time constraints that embarking on such a journey would bring. Then I had an idea...

I started by searching for the top Psychology schools, of which I found Stanford and University of Michigan were two top rated schools in that field of study. 

University of Michigan being local to me, I figured I would continue my hunt for knowledge by checking out their Undergraduate Degree in Psychology programs and I found one that was of interest to me. Here is the link -  U of M Psychology - Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience.

It's great that the schools publish their full course curriculum, as that allowed me to do another search to find out what text books were required for each course. I was able to find the Michigan Book and Supply site. This site gives you the ability to choose a semester, and a major area of study, then choose the course number, and instructor. After you've been walked through that you'll see a screen that pops up the required text books for that class.

Michigan Book and Supply is a great way for students to search for the books they need and purchase them right from the website. You know and I know that I don't roll that way and so instead I grabbed the ISBN of the required books and started searching on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Some of the books were available in eBook format... interesting.

Even more interesting was the fact that the first book listed here was available through my regular Michigan Library channel.  That means that some of the textbooks will be available for free!  Most excellent.

This led to another idea... 

What if I was to follow the U of M Psychology Degree curriculum as a course of study on the topics that have been of interest to me lately?  What a great way to have a structured learning experience and be reading the same textbooks that students at the University of Michigan are reading.

I started to wonder if I completed the course study outside of the school, what would be the difference between myself and someone that attended the university? What would I be missing that students would get by attending the College of LSA at U of M? The lectures? The experience? Group study? Accessibility to the professors? Can you think of other things?

Are there ways that I could supplement those experiences through community resources?

What about if I was to study the course books and then "test out" also known as "examination for credit" for each course? I realize that this is not a new idea - so the thought of it intrigues me. Not all schools allow this and I'd need to research whether U of M was one of those schools. The previous link calls out to a website, but it looks like it was never actually started.  That's ok though, because if you want to know if this is possible, you can follow me on my journey. I'll post any updates to this blog under the category of "self study degree" and we'll see what can be accomplished.

If what I believe is possible, this could be a low cost option that offers a similar structure and study progress to that of a university while being outside of the higher education facility.

What do you think? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

Equivalency - This is an official document that contained an evaluation by staff at the University of my educational background, including certifications, plus my years of work experience in the IT industry.

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