From the Forum – Taking university classes?

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Taking university classes?

“I’m interested in taking a class at one of the local universities, just for fun. No degree or job training or any other purpose. I used to live in Los Angeles and UCLA had this great program called UCLA Extension. Classes were in the $200-$300 range. I was looking at the “non-degree” offerings from GW and Georgetown, and they appear to charge the same as they do full-time enrolled students, which is around $1100 per credit. I’m a GW alumna, but that didn’t seem to make a difference. Does anyone know of any similar programs at any of the DC universities? UCLA Extension is a completely different business with a completely different website than UCLA, so it may (hopefully) be that I’m just looking in the wrong place.”

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38 Comment

  • I would check again with GW’s alumni office and inquire about the regular classes. I’m an AU grad, and AU lets alumni audit regular classes (not for credit) for $100 each.

  • University of Maryland University College is exactly what you are looking for. They have a lot of courses online, but I took a couple of math courses on campus in College Park a couple years ago and they were actually really well taught (though the student body left much to be desired – lots of ex-military people who were using their education benefits but were totally disengaged and had an endless litany of complaints about how hard the coursework was despite literally never doing the homework).

    • Can I ask how much it was? I’ve been looking at applying for some analyst positions that require more experience with SPSS/SAS and while I have some from grad school, I was thinking of taking a stats course as a refresher.

  • Check out the Graduate School USA (formerly USDA grad school). They have a wide range of topics (science, econ, languages, etc.) and many classes meet in the evenings and weekends and cost ~$400. I’ve had friends who took classes for fun and enjoyed them.

  • Try the USDA grad school, not entirely exciting options for courses, but they have language classes that are pretty rigorous and only around $300

    • For what it’s worth… my experience with USDA Graduate School (now “Graduate School USA”) language classes was that they were WAY less rigorous than college-level language classes.
      I took three terms of intermediate-ish Japanese and two terms each of beginning Spanish and beginning Portuguese. The Japanese class was the only one that even had any homework, and it was less rigorous than similar-level Japanese classes I’d taken at a university. The Portuguese instructor was particularly slack — we didn’t even have a syllabus, and large portions of the class would consist of her talking monologue-style in Portuguese while we struggled to understand.

      • Sounds like my experience studying abroad in developing countries. Was she a fulbright scholar by chance?

  • The Graduate School formerly USDA graduate school. Most classes are about 400.

  • GW lets local alumni audit courses for $125 or less. Google GW Alumni audit. If you’re over 60, you don’t even need to be an alum.

    • I agree. I’ve taken several courses through GW’s alumni course audit program and each one was $125.

  • You can audit classes at GW if you’re an alum:

  • I had a terrible experience with the USDA grad school – tried to take a math class, and during the first class the teacher spent the entire time going around the room having us talk about why we wanted to learn math and what we were hoping to cover in the course. it’s not like a creative writing class; the way to teach algebra is pretty much settled art and doesn’t require 3 hours of input from a bunch of people looking to learn it. I demanded a refund and never came back.

    • On the other hand, a class like that likely has students with quite different school experiences and expectations. If I were the teacher, attempting to tailor my instruction to the needs of the students, it would help me a lot to have a bit of information about my students. Teaching to students who want practical application vs students who need to pass a particular test and or who need it to fill a job requirement vs students who are doing it for fun and personal enrichment would be things that I’d like to know and prepare for — if only to make it more interesting for the students. So it could have been done as a time-filling/time-wasting activity, or it could have been a genuine effort to get a sense of the needs and academic experiences of a diverse group of students.

      • No, it was her being clueless and unprepared. The syllabus was clearly laid out in the course description, along with prerequisites. There’s really no room for discussion about how to approach teaching algebra.

        • I’m a mathematician. Yes, there is LOTS of room for discussion about how to approach teaching algebra.

  • If you are just looking for something to exercise your brain and not so much for the social aspect, you should look into MOOCs, massive open online courses. Both and have some really cool classes taught by some big name academics you might know, all for free. If you want an in-person experience these obviously aren’t for you but they are a pretty cool option if that aspect isn’t as important to you.

  • To commenter at April 3, 2014 at 2:48 pm:

    Remarkably short-sighted view. I’ve taught classes at the university level (in econometrics, at a national university). Spending some time to ask the students their interest pays off many times over throughout the course. As an instructor, I would use the initial input to tailor my examples to topics they already care about. It was much (much, much) easier to keep the students engaged. An additional benefit is that most students have one particular reason for why they’re interested in the course. This reason is not the same across all students, and “forcing” the students to hear why others are interested often reinforces their own interest, again increasing engagement.

    • Good point, but the OP said the instructor took three hours for the “Why are you taking this class?” explanations. Seems like an hour would’ve been sufficient; three hours sounds like overkill.

    • maybe for econometrix, definitely not for algebra.

  • Also check out UDC — they have interesting associate’s level courses and the costs are either DC, metro area, or outside metro area.

    • Taking classes at UDC was the worst decision I’ve ever made, that place is a hot mess

      • What’s so bad about it? I was thinking about picking up an extra class when I move to the neighborhood (I teach elsewhere).

        • I imagine it varies a lot by department, but I took a linear algebra class at UDC and it was terrible (the professor was very nice, but she was disorganized and just not a very good teacher). Montgomery College has better math classes because they’re preparing undergrads to transfer to UMCP’s engineering program. USDA is hit or miss depending on the professor.

  • Check edX. Free online courses from good colleges.

  • Have you checked out Montgomery College or UDC? I think your cheapest bet is likely to audit classes at GW, but some of the community college options should be reasonably priced, particularly if they have the option of auditing vs taking the classes for credit.

  • UCLA Extension is/was awesome. Such a great resource for SoCal. Glad someone asked this — I’ve been wondering the same, though I’m not an alum of any local universities.

  • I’m the person that asked the original question – thanks for all of the feedback! I did learn more about GW alumni auditing. Definitely something to look into for the fall, but their summer offerings are pretty limited. I’m definitely looking for some sort of a social aspect, which is why I”m not interested in online courses. The great thing about UCLA extension was the variety of classes they offered. They had academic classes, but they also had wine certificate classes, a coming attractions class where we would watch soon-to-be-released films then have a discussion afterward,. etc. I loved the entertainment classes, but I suppose a lot of that was due to the location of being in Los Angeles. There are a few academic classes that I would be very interested in, but I’m not looking to learn math or science or language. Just an activity where I might meet people and learn something interesting at the same time!

    • The Grad School USA does have some natural hisotry classes, if you”re at all interested in the local nature. But since it’s geared toward the feds, not so much movie discussions. Though that would be a cool way top spend a few Tuesday nights!!

    • You might want to also look into options beyond the university/college systems. The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, the Hill Center, Strathmore, JCC, the Smithsonian, as well as for-profit options such as the Learning Annex might also have classes that would suit you.

      • Looking beyond university/college systems is a great suggestion. I’ve audited classes at GW and I personally didn’t find them to have much of a social aspect. Assuming you work regular hours, most class options are in the evening with part-time students who also work full-time.

        If you like art, I would suggest a studio art class. You usually end up chatting during the entire class while you work.

  • Adult education – Arlington Public Schools.

    They have some really good courses. I took a couple of writing courses.

  • I have taken 4 math classes at USDA night/grad school. 3 were excellent with excellent professors and 1 was terrible with a terrible professor–but I still taught myself a good amount of linear algebra. It’s like anything in life, you get back what you put in. For ~$300 I highly recommend giving yourself the chance to improve. It has worked for me.

  • I did a lot of research into this topic because I needed to take some quantitative courses before beginning a grad program. When it comes to cost, ease of registration, class schedule, location (I suppose this is relative) and overall education quality, I found Grad School USA to be the best option. I compared it to UDC, Montgomery College, UMUC, Georgetown Extensions School and several others.

    From my experience, Grad School USA teachers are not “career professors/researchers,” but often work a day job in the fields that they teach. I’m not sure how the school selects and screens its teachers, but I heard from a classmate who had a particularly atrocious economics teacher that the school refunded her money and said good riddance to the teacher. To me this says a lot about the school’s prioritization of quality.

    The only issue I take with Grad School USA is that there are few resources outside of class available to students who want additional help with homework. I felt that if I didn’t understand something, I was on my own. I think this can vary depending on how engaged your teacher is with the class. I supplemented my learning with Khan Academy lectures and help from knowledgeable from friends. In the end, it all worked out.


    Less rigorous, more collegial. Lots of art options.

  • I’m really happy that this was asked. I am constantly ‘googling’ for free/affordable classes to take in the evening as A.) a way to meet those who share similar interests; and B.) to learn something new/further my knowledge in a subject. To date, I have yet to find something affordable.

    The language class options are appalling. GLN, while great in theory, didn’t allow me to enroll. I’ve applied for classes for almost 2 years, but am continuously waitlisted (regardless of whether I applied immediately or waited).

    Has anyone found alternatives to GLN? With similar pricing? Its hard to find regular classes on a low-income salary. Thus far, I’ve been limited to Groupon yoga vouchers and DC Kickball (which leaves much to be desired).

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