Learning from Beyond the Classroom

Typically on a US university campus, a lot of learning happens outside the classroom. For example:

  • Students play and watch sports.

  • Students attend and organize lectures/engagements, competitions, and events to expand their horizons.

  • Students engage in a diversity of cultural activities - both student-led and via access to prominent professional theatre, orchestra, and dance.

  • And of course, there is a lot of informal conversation over meals, study-groups, and in housing/roommate situations that are critical to the university experience/learnings.

These engagements/interactions are important for students’ overall development.

The vibrancy of a college campus may be difficult to recreate in an online environment. So, many are rethinking the pursuit of a degree. However, if you choose to engage in online education, you should strive to find different out-of-classroom ways to apply or question what you have learned, and to experiment for deeper understanding of who you are and how you would like to walk in the world.

A few suggestions:

  1. Have conversations with your parents, grandparents, siblings or cousins (those close to you) about some of the concepts you are learning. Get their perspective, life experience, and case-studies on how these apply in their daily lives. It is powerful to see complicated concepts relate to simple everyday activities. For a further outward rippling, understand the perspectives of those concepts from people of different states, socio-economic backgrounds, formal education levels, and points of view. Two worthwhile learnings (1) Compare textbook theory with how these concepts/policies manifest in the real world, and (2) Challenge singular narratives by expanding beyond textbooks and those in the front of the classroom (include the people who are not traditionally asked).

  2. Explore the interdisciplinary nature of things:

  • Choose a thing/concept/policy/program and look at it from a multiplicity of lens/perspectives/disciplines. It can be absolutely anything from elements in nature, to materials, to food, to music, to societal constructs, etc.

  • Do a deeper dive and explore the origins, history, economics, health implications, sustainability, cultural nuance, artistic renditions, science, mathematics, etc.

  1. Listen deeply to understand more than what is said. Understand motivation. Understand context. Understand the history of what makes this possible. Understand what chess moves need to happen for a more equitable future. Understand the vested interests that may oppose or undermine the changes you hope will benefit society.

  2. Step out of your comfort zone. Try new things. Question your conditioning. Experiment. Know your boundaries. Create safe spaces to reflect, discuss, and recalibrate.

  3. Express yourself - write poems, draw, paint, dance, sing, make a video, and/or whatever brings you joy! That will help you use different parts of your brain to process, absorb, and retain learnings. It might also be a good way to share what you are learning and who you are becoming with others. It is also the basis to appreciate genuine maestros who channel/inspire greatness.