Educating oneself does not have to be done in the context of the classroom with an instructor. Education is a matter of picking any topic in the world and immersing oneself in the subject. The following are some of the avenues available to pursue self education: the public library, the internet, people that you know, and professional or trade associations. While professional and trade associations are more costly, a number of the resources mentioned are free or low cost.
Public libraries offer their resources for free or low cost with the only requirement being that a patron register for a card. As a bonus, many libraries offer access to the internet. If the titles you are interested in are unavailable at the library, libraries often have loan policies where the book may be obtained and sent to your library. Librarians are also a great resource; ask them for help in searching for information on topics or locating materials.
The internet has made it possible to find almost any topic in which you have an interest. Conduct a simple Google search on your topic and you will find numerous websites containing information about that topic. An internet search of Wikipedia will provide general background. However, information from Wikipedia should be taken with a grain of salt as anyone can write an entry. If a Google search is conducted on the “topic + the word forum”, it is possible to find others who are interacting through posts. A number of institutions have courses online for free if you want to take coursework, but not earn a degree. These courses can be found on the internet by conducting a search on the word “open courseware”. MIT is one example of an institution offering courses. Another use of the internet is to listen to podcasts. Podcasts exist on almost any topic. Free university podcasts can be downloaded through the Apple Store. If you want to use the internet to meet people in real time, log onto www.meetup.com. There, you will be able to search your topic of interest and your location to find others who share your interest. It is possible to form your own group if none exists in your area.
If you want to get some hands on experience, think about searching for volunteer opportunities that will allow you to test your skill. Do not underestimate the people that you know. List the people that you know, this is your network. Ask if they have the knowledge or skill that you want to learn. Another way to meet people is to attend trade shows or demonstrations. For example, attend a home show if you are interested in learning a do-it-yourself skill. Another method would be to join a trade association dealing with the topic in which you are interested. This may be pricey, but you can gain networking contacts and opportunities to learn.
The internet has made it easier than ever to teach oneself. There are many sources available with internet access. Do not forget free opportunities such as contacts that you already have and local and university libraries. All you have to have is curiosity and the resources are available.