September 1972 Popular Electronics
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
When I ran across this "A Guide to Home Study Education in Electronics" article in a 1972 issue of Popular Electronics (PE), I did a double-take upon seeing the author's name. This author wrote pieces for National Radio Institute (NRI*) home study courses like the one appearing in a 1971 issue of NRI Journal, which supports his qualification for penning this particular article. He has appeared in '73 and Ham Radio (and other amateur radio) magazines since the 1970s. His name still regularly shows up in the bylines of articles in Electronic Design, Microwaves & RF, and Nuts and Volts. Many books have been published in his name including Principles of Electronic Communication Systems (and the attendant Experiments Manual), Handbook of Serial Communications Interfaces, Electronics Explained: The New Systems Approach to Learning Electronics, Contemporary Electronics, Fundamentals, Devices, Circuits and Systems, and even one entitled How to Become a VP: Achieving Personal Success in Your Organization. At this point in time, there are not a whole lot of people who could claim the accomplishments in terms of having been so widely read over so many years by laymen, hobbyists, students, and professionals.
* BTW, I completed an NRI Electronic Design Technology course in 1987.
A Guide to Home Study Education in Electronics
This Article Will Help You Make up Your Mind About Which School to Select for Your Needs
By Louis E. Frenzel, Jr.
Success in electronics, whether it is your career or simply an avocation, is almost always directly traceable to a good understanding of electronics fundamentals. This understanding is, in turn, usually the result of a good education in electronics; and one of the most efficient ways to get this basic education is through home study.
However, correspondence schools and their home study courses seem to be an enigma to some people, despite their wide appeal and popularity for many others. If you've considered taking a home study course, but can't make up your mind, perhaps we can help you decide.
Putting Home Study in Perspective. Home study is an excellent learning: method. It is widely recognized in government, business, and industry because of its effectiveness. It is also the lowest in cost and most convenient method of education in existence today.
It costs many thousands of dollars to complete a college or resident technical school education, but the cost of a good home study course is usually in the $100 to $1,000 range. Compared to resident classes, that's a real bargain.
Home study is also the most convenient method of education. The school comes to you. When you enroll, the school sends you an of the materials you need to learn the subject. You study the lesson texts and work with the other training materials, such as kits and audio/visual devices, to learn the subject matter. You study on your own schedule and by your own method.
Private Home Study Schools
* The National Home Study Council (NHSC) is designated by the U.S. Office of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency. Write them at 1601 18th St., NW., Washington DC 20009, for specific information on accreditation. The Association of Career Training Schools (ACTS) is a trade association of home study schools that sets standards for member schools. All of above schools are VA approved meaning that the Veterans Administration will pay for the entire course for you if you are eligible for benefits under the G.I. Bill.
Home Study vs. Self Study.
Many people say, "Why should I enroll for a formal home study course in electronics and pay several hundred dollars when I can go to the public library, check out the books that I need, and learn the material from them myself?" The fact is, you can; self study does work. It is quite possible to find the appropriate books, study, and learn the subject yourself. However, it is probably the most difficult and demanding method of education. It can be difficult to find textbooks or other materials that cover the subject matter adequately. Should you be lucky enough to find suitable material at the library or a bookstore, there is the problem of disciplining yourself to sit down, read the material, and work appropriate problems. Very few people have the perseverance it takes to do this.
A home study course is similar in many ways to self study in that you read and study the material yourself. However, the formal home study course has quite a bit more going for it. First, the course is a formal package of educational materials planned to teach you a particular subject at a specific level. It is put together by technically qualified educators who know the subject matter and know how to present it for best results. The school provides you with all of the study materials necessary.
A formal home study course also helps to motivate you. Because you have paid a certain amount of money for the course, you feel some incentive and obligation to study and complete it.
The home study school provides many additional services and benefits not available in the self study method. Qualified instructors are on hand to answer your technical questions about the course and usually about related subjects as well. In addition, upon completion of the course your achievement is recognized by the awarding of an appropriate diploma which carries a certain amount of weight and prestige. Some schools even have alumni associations, periodic magazines or newsletters, and job location assistance. All of these are things that you do not get with self study. Although self study works, you will learn your subject faster and more thoroughly with a formal home study program.
As for resident schools, you wouldn't ordinarily think that home study schools would compete, but in reality there are many cases where they do.
For example, what happens if you can't get into the college or resident technical school of your choice for academic or other reasons? 'What if there isn't a college or appropriate school available where you live? What if there is an appropriate school in your area but it does not offer night courses, the only type of course that you can take because you work full time? What if you cannot afford the cost of the school? If you are prevented from attending a college or resident technical school for any one of these reasons, then you should consider a home study course.
Why Take a Home Study Course?
So now that you are thinking about taking a course, you want to know what's really in it for you. Let's take a look at some of the benefits that you might obtain.
1. You will obtain a greater knowledge of your specialty. A good home study course in electronics is going to give you a good background in electronics fundamentals. You will learn theory that will open your mind and give you new insights into your work. A lot of things that you may have worked with before but not fully understood will finally become perfectly clear.
2. Your increased knowledge of electronics will permit you to do a better job. You will be more competent and will, therefore, have a greater confidence in your work. This could possibly lead to a raise or a promotion with its increased responsibility and the need for greater technical knowledge.
3. Your newly gained knowledge could qualify you for a different and better job. You may find that, with your increased knowledge and confidence, your present job is no longer suitable or satisfying. A new job could bring you even greater success.
4. Your increased knowledge may permit you to meet some special goal which you have set for yourself. For example, you may want or need a first class radio telephone license. The course you take may qualify you to pass the FCC exam for this license. Then again, your improved competency could help you pass the test for a particular job or for that important service promotion that you have been wanting.
5. Last, and perhaps the most important benefit of all, is the fact that completing a home study course and gaining the knowledge it contains will give you greater confidence and self respect, two characteristics that will help you to move ahead more than anything else.
Although all of these things can result from taking a correspondence course, you should also have the proper attitude about it. Most employers will recognize such work since it shows perseverance, a desire to get ahead, and a certain level of education and competence. But you may also find that some employers virtually fail to recognize it at all. They are not aware of its benefits, but that is their loss. Don't be discouraged if you run across this attitude. Maintain your confidence and keep going. The benefits of a home study education are more subtle than bold and obvious.
Which Course Should You Take?
Once you have decided that you are going to take a home study course, the next step is to set yourself a specific goal that you wish to achieve. You have to know what you want to do before you can determine which course to take. You may wish to review basic electronics to ensure your knowledge of fundamentals. Then again, you may just want specialized advanced training in some subject area such as computers, communications, or mathematics. Try to determine your specific goal before you choose a school and course.
Once you have set your goal you can proceed to locate a school offering the course you want. The table accompanying this article gives a list of home study schools offering courses in electronics and related areas. Simply drop a post card to those schools in the list. Don't overlook the postage-paid insert cards accompanying the ads for some schools in this magazine. Each of them will gladly send you a catalog and complete information on their school and its courses. Accumulate all of this information first and study it carefully. You will find some schools that meet your specific goals and others that do not. Narrow the choice down to possibly one or two schools. Then study each of these schools and their course selections carefully. Find the one best suited to your needs. If the catalog information sent to you by the school does not answer all your questions, by all means write the school with your specific questions. He absolutely sure that the course and school are right for you before you make the investment.
Some schools employ sales representatives. Instead of getting a catalog from the school, you may receive a call from a salesman. The salesman will give you complete details on the school and the various courses. Just remember that these representatives are salesmen and will encourage you to enroll promptly. Take your time, however, and study each school carefully before you make a decision.
Courses with Kits
When you are investigating the schools and courses, you will find a number of the courses include kits. These kits will teach you to solder, build and use various pieces of electronic equipment, run experiments, make tests, collect data and draw conclusions. You may even build and use several very interesting and useful end products, such as test equipment, a TV set, or a digital computer.
Kits in a course can be extremely beneficial, especially if you are not experienced in handling electronic hardware. They permit you to put theory into practice. After all, as a technician or an engineer, you will be working with hardware. Nothing is better than actual experience with real hardware.
On the other hand, if you have had some experience in electronics and have worked with hardware, tools, instruments, and components, then you may wish to take a course without kits, and save some time and money.
College Home Study Courses
The home study schools and courses listed in the table are private schools. The courses they offer are modern, up-to-date, and very effective. However, often overlooked as sources of home study education are the colleges and universities themselves. Many of the larger state universities offer home study courses for college credit. In most cases these courses duplicate the same courses offered in residence at the college or university. If the course is completed satisfactorily, standard college quarter credits or semester hour credits are awarded. In many instances you can achieve from one-fourth to one-half of all of the college credits needed for a Bachelor's degree by correspondence. The exact requirements vary depending upon the subject area and the college in which you do your work. Generally speaking, however, the first two college years can be completed through correspondence.
For more information on this subject, send fifty cents to the National University Extension Association, 900 Silver Spring Avenue, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910 and ask for their bulletin "A Guide to Correspondence Study in Colleges and Universities." This will give you complete information on all the colleges and universities offering courses for college credit.
Starting and Finishing a Course
Once you have decided upon a course and school, the next step is to enroll. This is generally a very easy procedure since it only involves filling out a simple form and sending it in with the necessary money. With a small down payment you can get started immediately. Reasonable monthly payments can then be made over a period of two to three years, the time limit generally given in which to complete your course. Keep in mind that when you enroll in most schools you are signing a contract. This contract obligates you to make the payments monthly whether you study the course or not. It is your obligation to see that you get your money's worth.
There are many hundreds of thousands of successful correspondence course graduates, but there are probably thousands of others who have started a home study course and not completed it.
Most people are quite enthusiastic about a home study course when they first enroll. They get right to work when the course materials arrive. However, this initial enthusiasm can taper off if you don't stay with it. If you study regularly, you won't lose interest.
No doubt there are many who enrolled in a home study course at one time or another but dropped out or discontinued studies for some reason. Maybe you weren't aware of the effort involved in completing such a course. Perhaps the course is not what you expected. Just remember that your failure to complete the course is generally your fault rather than that of the school. Most schools want you to complete the course and will make every effort to help you do so. If you are having trouble under-standing the material or developing the proper study habits, don't hesitate to write the school and tell them about it. They have dealt with these problems for years and are experienced in handling them.
It is always a good idea to try to complete what you start. It will give you great personal satisfaction.
In addition, it will give you the self-respect and confidence that are so important to success in electronics. You won't know what this satisfaction is really like until you experience it. In many ways this self-satisfaction and confidence in your own ability may be a more important factor than the actual education in electronics obtained from the course.
Posted December 5, 2019