What is the least painful way to get a graduate degree if you hate being in the classroom? Is there such a thing as an alternative graduate school, or an institution that uses more hands-on and engaging teaching methods?

Answers

Jessie Voigts, Travel writer, international educator, mom

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You might be surprised that graduate school is markedly different from undergrad. I was! In undergrad, I was bored, didn't love my classes (especially those general classes that were required for my degree), and did a lot of independent study to fuel my learning passions.

That all changed in Graduate School. Here were classes - ALL OF THEM! - that were my passion. Here, too, were professors that interacted with us, and worked on projects with us, and helped fuel our drive to learn and excel and explore the field. I wasn't bored. I wasn't off topic. I WAS highly interested, spent a lot of time doing things I loved, and pursuing my academic passions. I wrote articles with professors, spoke at conferences, built my professional career. Graduate school was so VERY different from undergrad - they are entirely different experiences.

Ask, in your field, where the best places to study are. Explore those campuses, talk with graduate students and professors. Ascertain what actually goes on in the classroom (and out of it). You might be pleasantly surprised, too.

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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You have so many options. Now you say you have being in a classroom. Have you considered an online graduate program? Penn State has over fifty graduate degrees you can earn online, for example. Online learning has come a long way, but you do need to be self-motivated and good at time management.

Pamela Petrease Felder, Finding a Graduate School

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This is an important question and the other experts have offered some helpful advice. Graduate school requires deep intellectual commitment. In many cases, emerging specialists and scholars become some of our nation's greatest leaders. We look to them to guide the development of practice and policy in ways that will strengthen our country. That being said, there are great programs out there that use alternative teaching methods to support your growth and development. Fit is critical here as it relates to your learning style and discipline. I encourage you to make a list of your priorities that support your interests and perspective and look for programs that align with them.

Anonymous, Former graduate student

I can understand not wanting to be in a classroom. However, the grand majority of any graduate program will most likely involve hours spent in a classroom or lecture hall with a professor. While I don't think there's an easy or "least painful way" around most of these cases, there are a few ways that you can minimize classroom time.

Graduate school may include research and lab hours as well. If you must absolutely avoid being in a classroom setting with homework, tests, etc., you can always look into doing more research. Being in a research lab often counts as units and you can look into doing research to replace taking actual classes. Again, while you may not be able to completely displace having lectures, you can definitely tip the ratio of classrooms and research in your favor by opting to do more research. Also, as a plus, I would say research typically looks better on a resume/CV than taking a class.

Another way to avoid the classroom is to take your graduate courses online. While this doesn't avoid homework and tests, if you're looking to literally stay away from classrooms, this may be your best bet. My graduate program at USC allowed students to attend lecture via a live feed from an HD camera at the back of the class. These distance students could watch live directly from home and pass the class without ever stepping foot into the lecture hall. They were just like the rest of us, with the exception of not physically being there. Now I'm sure that USC isn't the only school that offers an online program like this, but having this option would definitely allow you to take classes without going into a classroom.

Anonymous, Former graduate student

I can understand not wanting to be in a classroom. However, the grand majority of any graduate program will most likely involve hours spent in a classroom or lecture hall with a professor. While I don't think there's an easy or "least painful way" around most of these cases, there are a few ways that you can minimize classroom time.

Graduate school may include research and lab hours as well. If you must absolutely avoid being in a classroom setting with homework, tests, etc., you can always look into doing more research. Being in a research lab often counts as units and you can look into doing research to replace taking actual classes. Again, while you may not be able to completely displace having lectures, you can definitely tip the ratio of classrooms and research in your favor by opting to do more research. Also, as a plus, I would say research typically looks better on a resume/CV than taking a class.

Another way to avoid the classroom is to take your graduate courses online. While this doesn't avoid homework and tests, if you're looking to literally stay away from classrooms, this may be your best bet. My graduate program at USC allowed students to attend lecture via a live feed from an HD camera at the back of the class. These distance students could watch live directly from home and pass the class without ever stepping foot into the lecture hall. They were just like the rest of us, with the exception of not physically being there. Now I'm sure that USC isn't the only school that offers an online program like this, but having this option would definitely allow you to take classes without going into a classroom.

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