First blogged on 19 Jan 2010
I sometimes find myself wondering if I should attend a course or if I can just find the information to teach myself. And which would be the better and maybe faster way to go?
I think there are pros and cons to both approaches. Certainly some people learn better via one avenue or the other. But I believe there are others like me who benefit via either way - albeit the results are sometimes different, depending on which approach has been taken.
Many of the skills and knowledge I employ on a daily basis seems to have been a result of self-teaching - like most of my web skills, almost all the HTML I know, my jewelry making and beading knowledge, as well as related crafts. These are the most obvious ones (to me) that I use most regularly and most consistently.
However I also have a Bachelors and Masters degree and a couple of certifications. I am sure that, even if they are not as obvious to me, I must be using these acquired skills and knowledge even if they are the unobtrusive foundation on which so much is built atop of them.
It might be prudent of me to say at this time that what I mean by "self-taught" is via information on the internet, magazines, books, other people or resources.
I find that the advantages of taking a course is that it certainly keeps you on track and on some scheduled time. So the learning is faster in that sense as it is externally paced. Attendance at courses also provides feedback which I find, gives me much more confidence in the subject matter. One gains a reassurance, via feedback and exams, that the knowledge one acquires is comparable or better than expected. Another important benefit I find is that there is an "end" of sorts to the course.
For instance, at the conclusion of my degrees, I felt I was "qualified" in those areas of study. Not an expert or with working experience, but certainly qualified.
However when one is self-studying, the subject matter under study does not seem to have any ending boundaries. And as a consequence, I often find myself feeling as if I know very little and that there is an unendingly long way to go before I feel "qualified" enough to say out loud that I know that subject matter well or even competently. And then, no matter how long I keep going learning more, I still feel I know very little.
Of course it is true that whether I acquired a certain set of skills via a formal course or at home, via self-teaching, there will always be new developments and topics that I can learn more and more about. But via the former, one leaves a course feeling completed, a bit more competent, and qualified in terms of the outside world. Via the latter approach, it always feels one is always just a learner and not a qualified person.
And this feeling of incompleteness and even ignorance persists despite having had proof that the some of the skills I acquired via self-study was better than that of a "qualified" person. Ah well ... must just be me. What a great blessing it is to have confidence in one self. I have no doubt that with that one asset, one's life is better and brighter in unimaginable ways.