Learn About What You Love

Sky’s the Limit

Outside the career demands of continuing education and traditional college degrees, exist programs that provide skills and information for personal enrichment. Have you always wanted to learn more about photography? Maybe you want information on managing stocks or planning for retirement, or maybe you’ve always had it in mind to learn Italian. Topics like these are just the tip of the iceberg. And outside-the-box resources for self-learners in high-end academics are growing.

Continuing Education vs. Enrichment

At this educational level the terms can get confusing. You may hear “adult education” and “continuing education” applied even though these theoretically are misnomers. A more appropriate label is community education which in and of itself is confusing. The premier distinction though, is the goal of the course. When you pursue a course because it is a requirement for your resume, then you are in the continuing education realm. Take a course because you simply want to and you are enriching your life, regardless of the nature of the material.

The adage “one man’s trash is another’s treasure” could just as well be applied to personal interest courses. Human interests are subjective as proven by the Internet itself. There is no limit to the scope of personal enrichment courses. Economics may be enjoyable to one while for another it might be a requirement for their job.

Access to Personal Enrichment Courses

Traditionally individuals have accessed personal interest classes through community education centers. Local communities of all types from rural to suburban and urban provide a range of classes. Local governments and public school systems administer the basic infrastructure that supports the interests of local residents. It’s just another rung on the public education ladder.


Community education classes take place in local high schools, community colleges or in community centers and other administrative classrooms and meeting rooms. Colleges and universities offer special interest courses in art, music appreciation, foreign language, literature, even SCUBA and kayak rolling. In more metropolitan regions of the country community education programs may be extensive, housed within their own facilities and self-supported. In New York City the 92 nd Street Y has become an inner city institution. This is not your little neighborhood YMCA, this is an ultra urban culture and learning center smack dab in the middle of the Upper East Side. People come from all over Manhattan to participate in dance, writing, foreign languages and art.

Smaller, more remote communities might rely on local artisans and business and industry experts willing to volunteer know-how for nominally priced classes. Enterprising individuals seek out store shop venues for personal classes: bookstores that offer reading groups, yarn and fabric shops that draw “students” for knitting and quilting classes, and high-end gourmet shops that offer culinary classes.

Course Costs

Community education courses vary in cost from region to region as well as along subject matter. Students might have a course cost plus an additional fee for materials. High-end community education centers that have built a reputation and whose courses are in high-demand may command more lucrative fees, but most remain under the $150 mark.

Limitations of Traditional Community Education

The most outstanding limitation is the physical factor. Still for many adults finding the time to attend a class for one’s enrichment remains challenging. Some communities are supported by community education venues that are quite a distance away and others provide a flimsy array of classes. If you are a procrastinator you might find getting into community education classes a bit of a challenge. The biggest disadvantage may be the limits imposed on class size. Register early.

Other Sources for Self-Learners

The Internet has made information in all mediums available. Emerging media like podcasts, video and high-end graphics and photographic tools, and document systems like PDFs allow information to be packaged into flexible and engaging formats. University classes are increasingly available for free to anyone with an internet connection. Want to tap into an Architecture course from MIT or learn about Economics from a Yale professor? This may well be the future of personal enrichment at least in the academic realm. MIT’s reputable curriculum is available through their MIT Open Courseware website. University Channel collates university lectures on topics that range from economics to media and war, all available in an array of media formats including text, video, and/or streaming audio.