How to learn on your own

Created by: Roger Grosse
Intended for: everyone

We all have cases where we want to learn something outside the school context. Maybe you need to pick up some skills for your job. Maybe you're trying to learn skills for a side project. Maybe you read something surprising in the newspaper and want to know the details.

Unfortunately, today's educational system up through college is based on micromanaging the learning process, and it does little to prepare you for independent study. (talk about Ph.D.?)

(talk about Metacademy)

Here are a few things this roadmap does not cover:

  • The humanities. While there's value to being cultured and well-read, I don't have any particular advice in this area. Most of what I say is oriented towards STEM subjects, and maybe some related areas such as cognitive science. If your goal is to be generally well-read, you might want to check out Mortimer Adler's excellent book, How to Read a Book.
  • Unschooling. Managing your own education in its entirety is a tall order, but some people manage to do it. I admire the initiative they have taken, and hope that Metacademy can contribute to making it possible. But I went through a traditional education, so I have no advice to offer here either. This roadmap is oriented towards people who have something specific they want to learn.
  • Test prep. If you need to take the MCATs next week, there are lots of other resources out there. I'm assuming here that you have a real desire to learn something -- either for its own sake, or because you need it for some other end.

In short, this roadmap is really about how to learn specific technical topics that you're interested in. I'll highlight various strategies I've used, as well as resources that I've found useful.

Let me insert the major caveat that there aren't any recipes for learning on your own. Different people have different learning styles, and what worked for me might not work for you. Ultimately, you will need to experiment to figure out how you learn.