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Teaching Yourself: Can it Work?

By: Suzanne Elvidge BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 14 Oct 2012 |
Study Learning Arts Science Language

Sometimes, fitting a course into everyday life just seems impossible – it’s hard to get the time off for daytime courses, or childcare makes evening courses impossible. Even online courses can sometimes seem too restrictive. It’s at times like this that a teach yourself course could be the best option, whether it’s from a book, using CDs or CD-ROMs, or following studies online.

Teaching Yourself from Books

The advantage of teaching yourself from books is that it’s possible to study anywhere – on the tube, train or bus, in bed, on the beach, even in the bath. The English Universities Press brought out the original ‘Teach Yourself’ series in 1938, and then Hodder & Stoughton took this over in 1974. The early books focused on languages, but the series gradually began to expand into other topics. There are a number of other publishers that also produce teach yourself-style books, including the ‘For Dummies’ and ‘Complete Idiot’s Guide’ series.

Books to teach yourself are available from beginner level to advanced, and cover a wide range of topics, from Arts & Crafts to Sports & Games. Try the local library or bookshop for the most recent titles, and go to a secondhand bookshop for the older books. These might be cheaper and will still be useful for subjects like sports and languages.

Teaching Yourself from CDs

Listening to people speak is a very natural way to learn languages, and this is why it’s easier to learn a language when visiting or living in a foreign country. Not everyone has that luxury, and language CDs (or tapes) can help. Make the most of time spent in the car or on the train, or even in the gym or out running, by listening to language lessons. Audio courses are also available for a range of other subjects, and are ideal for subjects like music.

Teaching Yourself from CD-ROMs

Audio learning is good for languages, but some subjects, such as arts and sciences, need visual material as well. Interactive CD-ROMs help by adding in images, animations and videos, and some have exercises and tests as well. Teaching yourself CD-ROMs also cover life skills, literature, vocational topics, and office and software skills – just about everything!

Teaching Yourself Online

Online courses are also interactive, and many include self-tests, and can save previous scores. Some are free and some have to be paid for. Online courses are particularly useful for computer and office skills, including touch typing, and for revision for exams like GCSEs, but there are lots of courses on the internet for lots of different subjects.

Keeping Going

Teaching yourself does require a lot of willpower, because there are no tutors with deadlines and no fellow students for support – try setting deadlines in an electronic diary or on a big wall planner, and see if there is any kind of study support group online (or set one up!) Some subjects will be easier to teach yourself than others – teaching yourself languages can be difficult, as there is no-one to correct pronunciation (though some computer-based courses do have voice recognition) and no-one to practice with, but it can be a good backup to a language course in a school or college.

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