Alternative Places Of Learning
December 24, 2005 4:02 AM   Subscribe

Alternative colleges, universities, and other forms of post-secondary learning worldwide - any suggestions?

I'm looking for suggestions for alternative colleges/universities/post-secondary-school educational places around the world.

By "alternative" I mean having any combination of the following attributes:

(a) Nonconventional method of studying and/or structure of courses (e.g. colleges with independent degrees, courses aligned by topic [like Evergreen]), etc

(b) Nonconventional method of evaluation (e.g. colleges that write detailed evaluations as opposed to grades)

(c) Just nonconventional period (e.g. Semester At Sea, Up With People)

I've already got a ton of names for places in the USA so I'd really appreciate places from other countries too. Do explain how they're unconventional/alternative/out-of-the-box.

Thank you!
posted by divabat to Education (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Admittedly this does not quite fulfill your criteria but in all seriousness I found 6 months truly independent travel (ie. off the backpacker routes) was some of the best education I have ever received.
posted by numberstation at 5:05 AM on December 24, 2005


Looks like you know about Evergreen already. :) If you have any questions about it specifically, I'd be glad to answer (though it's been a decade since I graduated).
posted by litlnemo at 5:07 AM on December 24, 2005


Response by poster: numberstation - well, that too, but something that actually gives you college credit would be good. ;)

I've had it with conventional college but still need to at least look at options for colleges or college-like places. I like to learn, but conventional structure bothers me.
posted by divabat at 5:14 AM on December 24, 2005


If conventional structures of learning bother you but yet you still require some physical qualification to show for your time then what about something like the Open University?. A prestigious degree, a huge range of modules available,and you can take it whilst living/working in another country. Truly an alternative way of learning.
posted by numberstation at 5:21 AM on December 24, 2005


If you already have suggestions for US based programs, you probably already know about Empire State College - it's a design your own degree program.
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 5:55 AM on December 24, 2005


Response by poster: Ooh, haven't heard that one CPBC - thank you!

The ones I've heard of (besides those suggested here and mentioned in my question):

Hampshire
Northeastern (I count the Coop thing as alternative, though I don't know if it's really common elsewhere)
NYC's Gallatin school
Reed
Oberlin
QUT's Creative Studies (Interdisplinary) seems rather like a design-your-own-degree thing

as you can see, predominantly US (except for QUT). Anywhere else have such unis or is it only an American thing?
posted by divabat at 6:04 AM on December 24, 2005


College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Me. Small (maybe about 400 now), intense. Degree in Human Ecology. I haven't figured out how to link yet, or I would have.
posted by Hobgoblin at 6:22 AM on December 24, 2005


I don't know if this counts, but I teach online courses for a University in my state - I have students from all over the world (although 90% are local). I would say that the educational experience of the students is somewhat limited in the sense that interaction with the prof. is restricted to email, and interaction with the other students is restricted to discussion rooms; however, for general ed. courses I think it's a good thing. The advantage, obviously, is that you could sign up for a course then go travelling all over the planet while you study. Just be sure to be near an internet cafe when test time rolls around.
posted by crapples at 6:31 AM on December 24, 2005


Sarah Lawrence has outcome-based education (written evaluations instead of grades).
posted by hootch at 8:50 AM on December 24, 2005


Shimer College in Waukegan, Illinois has a curriculum focused on 'Great Books' and original sources. So if your biology class were covering evolution, the assinged reading would be Darwin's The Origin of Species and Mendel's Experiments in Plant Hybridization.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:00 AM on December 24, 2005


Goddard College in Vermont might be worth considering.
posted by acridrabbit at 9:26 AM on December 24, 2005


By the way, Northeastern doesn't really do anything like what you're talking about. The classes are traditional. The co-op thing is just like doing an internship.
posted by acridrabbit at 9:28 AM on December 24, 2005


St. John's College in Annapolis and Santa Fe has a great books curriculum. Everyone reads the same books, takes the same classes, no skipping years, etc. All based around discussion and writing--I don't think they give letter grades (but I could be wrong). I believe someone here (can't remember who exactly) went there and could probably give you a better idea--I visited and was entranced by it, but the financials didn't work out. :(
posted by fuzzbean at 9:44 AM on December 24, 2005


Antioch College is Ohio is an alternative college. It requires co-ops every few terms.
posted by k8t at 9:47 AM on December 24, 2005


Mild self-plug:
Brown University has no requirements outside of one's concentration except that you pass 32 courses in total. You're never forced to take anything you don't want to. Also, any course can be taken pass/fail (although that would be a poor idea if you're looking at continuing your education in any way).
posted by awesomebrad at 11:38 AM on December 24, 2005


New College in Sarasota, FL. written evaluations, contract system, (7 successful contracts required to graduate) Independent Study project for the month of january three times and then a final Thesis Project, which is defended bacc style. Students get contract advisors.

feel free to email renee dot phillips at gmail dot com with questions.
posted by bilabial at 12:14 PM on December 24, 2005


Cornell College in Iowa (my alma mater) and Colorado College off "one-course-at-a-time" (ocaat) type semesters.

Instead of taking several classes each semester, each class lasts 3&1/2 weeks and the final is the last Wednesday of the "month." You get 3&1/2 days off, then start another class. 9 sessions over 9 months.

Cornell College is in the middle of bumfuck Mt. Vernon, IA - very, very small town and living in the dorms residences was pretty much "required."

However, there aren't any TA's, just fulltime PhD professors. Class sizes are small (smallest clast I was in - Symbolic Logic - had 3 people total, largest classes I was in were capped at 25 people). Although it's a "Liberal Arts" school, I came out of it 4 years with majors in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology, Zoology, and Philosophy with far far more laboratory experience than friends and acquaintences who attended large Universities.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 12:48 PM on December 24, 2005


acridrabbit, Goddard closed a few years ago. Now they just host conventions and things.
posted by k8t at 12:48 PM on December 24, 2005


I think????
posted by k8t at 12:48 PM on December 24, 2005


Oh, and CC offers "Bachelor of Special Studies" (we called them "BS degrees") where you, the student, designs the curiculum with the help of (one or more) faculty advisors.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 12:49 PM on December 24, 2005


Reed College and St. John's College stand out in my mind. Neither places an emphasis on grades. St. Johns has a fixed great-books humanities curriculum, Reed has a more traditional major-based curriculum. Both are amazing schools.
posted by devilsbrigade at 2:26 PM on December 24, 2005


Nope, k8t, Goddard offers both bachelor's and master's degrees, but everything's done off-campus/independently. I'm starting grad school there in 3 weeks.
posted by acridrabbit at 6:24 PM on December 24, 2005


I'm not sure it'll fit into your definition of 'alternative,' divabit, but you might also want to check out some of the international programs at European universities. Often, you'll have to take final oral exams (at the end of the year, sometimes with, sometimes without written prep). For me, coming from a us school, that was quite an alternative means of evaluation, and it gives one alot of freedom (too much?) up until the exam.

On the other hand, at such institutions the professors oftentimes teach 'ex cathedra,' i.e. there can be a lofty cant to their lectures and a haughtiness to their manner, and that might not really be unconventional enough for you. (Or is it indeed given the trends in collegiate pedagogy in the states?)
posted by rudster at 6:01 AM on December 25, 2005


Deep Springs is an all-male liberal arts college located on a self-sustaining cattle-ranch and alfalfa farm in California's High Desert. The 27 members of the student body form a close community engaged in an intense educational project delineated by what Deep Springs' founder, L. L. Nunn, termed the "three pillars": academics, labor and self-governance. The principle underlying the three pillars is that manual labor and political deliberation are necessary supplements to the liberal arts in the training of future servants to humanity. Students attend for two years (after which most transfer to a four-year institution) and receive a full scholarship valued at over $50,000 per year."
posted by ootsocsid at 6:09 AM on December 25, 2005


Reed is quite traditional, and does not closely meet any of the criteria. It may be closest w/r/t: B) Grades. You are graded, but you are not compelled to monitor your progress/achievements via the grade system. Nobody will ask what your GPA is; it's just a number in a computer somewhere. Reed was not right for me ('91 to '93) but I will never dispute its' overall excellence. I am proud to have been a Reedie.

Hampshire does meet the listed criteria. For those students for whom it is the right place - it is the only place. For others (me, '94-'95) it can be a trainwreck. My problem with Hampshire is that there is an deeply-ingrained institutional fascination with novelty.. That translates into never doing anything twice the same way - even things that benefit from iterative refinement. That means many professors teaching courses for the first time. That means many syllabi that have never been taught. That means the course catalog published in April bears little resemblance to what is offered in September. That means that the string of coursework in a particular concentration may add up to less than the sum of the parts. In short, it means that everybody is collectively making it up as they go along. A decade later, I have very little nice to say about Hampshire, academically (except Eqbal, Ken and Herb, they're alright) There are other Hamp alums here, and they may have different views, especially w/r/t film and art, which I can't speak to. My email is in my MetaChat profile if'n you want more.
posted by Triode at 1:05 PM on December 25, 2005


Response by poster: I suppose I should clarify where I'm from - I'm in Malaysia, where stuff like coops and the idea of a "classical education" (ala Reed) would be very much alternative.

rudster - ha! I suppose that's more of a style difference rather than anything "alternative" ;)
posted by divabat at 7:43 PM on December 25, 2005


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