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Continuing Education: The Importance of Experimentation

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I went to a three-hour lesson on pod-casting on Sunday afternoon. It was the first in a two-part course I'm taking at London's adult learning centre, CityLit. The course is designed to introduce beginners to the art of internet broadcasting.

I'm a big fan of taking classes in adulthood. Since moving to London four years ago, I've taken classes in fiction writing and acting. In Chicago, I took classes in freelance writing and memoir. And once, many moons ago, I took a class in beginning Hebrew (not to mention the continuing ed. class to end all continuing ed. classes: I'm Jewish, You're Not.)

According to a report released jointly by the Penn State University Office of Outreach Marketing and Communications and University Continuing Education Association in 2006, up to 45 percent of colleges and university enrollment in the United States is from adult learners. Revenues for continuing education rose 67 percent at the institutions surveyed in this report from 2004.

People go back to school as grown-ups for lots of different reasons. Sometimes, it's to pursue a hobby. You try something new (or return to something old.) You meet new people. You get out of your comfort zone. Above all, you have fun. (And yes, for the record, I'm still eying that course at CityLit entitled Actors Singing From West End to Broadway.)

Sometimes you go back to school because you need to re-tool professionally. From 2008 to 2018, the labor force is projected to grow more diverse and have more workers age 55 and older. Simultaneously, the highest-paying jobs -- those that require at least a bachelor's degree -- are expected to increase at a rate faster than that of overall job growth, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. So it's a good bet that we'll be seeing more Americans -- particularly boomers -- sharpening their pencils and buying new notebooks as they gear up for a second or third career.

But the main advantage of adult education is that it enables you to experiment. Chris Brogan -- guru of all things social media -- talked about this recently. Brogan thinks about experimentation in terms of labs. (He's currently experimenting with a new travel site called "Man On The Go").

His main point is that experimentation is crucial to growth. Why? Because you test drive new ideas. You collaborate. You enjoy the fun of failure, as Gretchen Rubin likes to put it. Above all, you create ideas of your own, rather than just reporting on the ideas of others.

Which is why I'm learning how to podcast. I'm not yet sure exactly how I'll incorporate podcasting into my life, and whether it will be more of a hobby or something that I use in work. But I have a few ideas. More importantly, I know that if I don't start experimenting now -- creating a lab, as it were -- I'll never find out.

And who knows? Maybe I'll be the next Cezanne...

Around the Web

Adult Education - Specialized Programs (CA Dept of Education)

Adult education - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Continuing Education - Info for the Non-Traditional Student and ...

Metropolitan Education District

Distance Learning | Adult Education | Continuing Education

Adult Basic Education

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