Friday, October 26, 2012

3 Ways to Keep Learning in Retirement without Paying for an Expensive Degree

English: A cafe on the first floor of Center f...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Having talked to many friends and family members approaching retirement, one common goal among many of them is to go back to school. Of course, most of these aspiring learners don’t necessarily need the credential of a degree. Rather, they just want to keep on learning, and they’re interested in becoming an expert in a specific field of study that’s different from the one they chose when they were in college. If this is you, consider the benefits of learning outside a traditional degree program. Here are a few options: 

1. Research continuing education centers in your community. 

Almost all universities and/or major cities offer continuing (also called “adult) education centers. These programs don’t necessarily grant degrees, but they do offer courses that are specifically tailored to your interests and passions. What’s more, most continuing education centers offer courses with very flexible times and dates. This is especially important for those in retirement, who may have many other projects and activities they’re pursuing. For an example of what a continuing education center may look like, check out Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies in Houston. 

2. Enroll in a Massive Open Online Course. 

Massive Open Online Course, also known as a MOOC, is the latest trend in education technology. A MOOC is essentially a free course, usually offered through an established university that encourages the participation of students from around the world and has virtually no cap on the number of students who can participate. The most successful MOOC to date was an artificial intelligence course offered through Stanford. 160,000 students enrolled including several Stanford students, and 23,000 students ended up completing the course. The professor who taught the course gave a certificate to each student who completed the class as well as a grade. 248 students received a grade of 100 percent, and none of these students were from Stanford. MOOCS provide retired, lifelong learners the opportunity to learn in a collaborative environment for free, all the while being taught by world-class professors and improving their computer skills. 

3. Join a club or organization. 

Sometimes being self-taught is the best way to go if you want to learn a new skill. It’s also the cheapest way. At the same time, learning in a group setting can spur motivation and help you learn more efficiently from those who are more skilled. One way I learned to speak Russian fairly fluently was by teaching myself using different books, coupled by joining a Russian language MeetUp group. is a great way to find a local learning group that focuses on whatever skill you endeavor to pick up. 

Of course, none of the above ideas is necessarily comparable to enrolling in a full degree program. At the same time, if the learning is what you're looking for, and not the credential, the above all great options for learning without having to pay an arm and a leg. Good luck! 

Katheryn Rivas is a freelance writer and former educator. She enjoys writing about trends in higher education, college life, and lifelong learning. Check out more of her advice and reporting at Feel free to share your comments and questions below!

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