Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated August 2010
One of the major barriers faced by students who want to go to graduate school is a lack of time due to family obligations, work, or other factors. However, obtaining a graduate degree does not have to interfere with all the other important aspects of your life. With ever-increasing frequency, colleges and universities are offering accelerated programs for graduate students. Schools know that you are busy, and they are striving to accommodate all types of students with all types of needs.
What is accelerated learning?
According to the Center for Accelerated Learning, accelerated learning programs are based upon scientific research on the brain and different learning styles. The brain takes in information immediately and automatically, and we tend to learn better when abstract, verbal learning is translated into concrete activities and images. In other words, once we have information, we are more likely to retain that information if given the opportunity to apply it to the real world.
Students in accelerated courses or programs enjoy a more hands-on learning experience than in traditional courses as it is based more on activities and less on materials, presentations, and lectures. Accelerated learning involves studying multiple subjects at once, and making connections between them. The learning is geared towards creation and retention as opposed to drills and memorization. The learning environment is one of the key elements of accelerated learning; it is designed to be relaxing despite the fact that the courses cover a large amount of information.
Accelerated learning is designed to be in tune with human emotion and to create a stimulating environment physically, emotionally, and socially; it invests the whole person in the experience with a great deal of active engagement and participation. Students in accelerated learning environments engage in a high level of collaboration; this high level of interaction decreases the competition among students. Further, accelerated learning is relevant to all styles of learning, as the education is driven by the learner and his or her individual needs.
Last but not least, accelerated learning often saves students both time, and money.
What to expect
If you are interested in accelerated learning, be ready for an intense commitment. You may have to arrange your life around your classes, but since classes last only a few weeks, there is less scheduling compared to regular classes. There are no summer or winter breaks, but students earn their degrees in a much shorter amount of time. Further, accelerated learning was designed in response to student demand and time constraints and classes are offered with a wide range of scheduling options. Some accelerated classes meet every day for up to four hours for just two weeks while others may meet one night per week for between five and eight weeks. Classes are also sometimes offered on weekends and during the summer, and can be taken online or on-campus. It all depends on the school's programs.
Instructors of accelerated classes facilitate and support learning. They do a good amount of observation and try to keep students motivated, and adjust to what is occurring in the classroom to meet the different needs of individual students. Students often work in groups or teams as part of a collaborative effort, dividing work among the members. This results in students forging close relationships with classmates during the few short weeks they are in the same classroom.
Is it right for you?
Accelerated learning could be for you if you want to earn your degree as soon as possible. If you would like to have the ability to apply previous life experience to your classroom studies, you may find these programs rewarding. Accelerated classes are narrowly focused because the classes spend a concentrated amount of time on just one or two subjects. For more information on accelerated learning, visit the International Alliance for Learning, the Professional Organization for Accelerated Learning.
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