View Full Version : Distance Learning Y/N

2 Beers
December 4, 2010, 09:28 PM
In my 50's, and thanks to the economy, have some time on my hands. Gunsmithing has always intrigued me. Would be a hobby, and maybe a little cash ... who knows.

Was considering a book course with online exams, (ie. penn-foster edu), but don't know if learning this way is really valid. Has anyone done this or similar? Comments? Recommendations?

If there's a thread on this already, my apologies. Just point me...


December 4, 2010, 10:31 PM
I've done many online classes. Never for a "hands-on" thing like gunsmithing, but I think I can add a little advice. It amounts to "use the class to teach yourself".

In order to actually learn you need to try to learn the material. In an online class it's too easy just to do what's expected in order to pass without actually absorbing and understanding what is being taught. I took a marketing class once that was like this. Our professor quizzed us on a lot of vocabulary and memorization of basic marketing principals. It was too easy to regurgitate this on an exam, so the class never taught me how marketing works or what is behind it, etc etc. Not having to actually think about what as going on made for a very "in one ear out the other" experience. In order to counter-act this, you need to actually think, actually do the work, and actually try to understand what is going on in the class. This is hard for something people (especially busy college students taking classes not in their major :D). This is how you don't use an online class correctly (but still pass the class).

That being said, online courses are extremely convenient and can be extremely effective. One of my most recent online classes was the NRA's Refuse To Be A Victim Instructor Certification Class. It was convenient because I could log in and do half an hour of work here, an hour there, etc etc. In this class, too, it could have been easy to just figure out what was expected and do that, but I am really interested in the subject matter so I actually watched the videos, thought about what was going on, did extra work on the assignments, even started thinking about how I would run my seminars. That class was invaluable because I used it correctly.

A couple tips on how to learn more from online classes:

Your professor is there to answer questions. They are probably used to the people in my first long paragraph; people just doing it for the grade. So if you e-mail them a thoughtful question they will probably answer it to the nth degree. Every lesson think of a question to ask your professor and email it to them. Even if you can't think of a question to ask, find something related to ask about. They will not only love you for it, but you will get some excellent information.

Find other interesting readings that relate to each lesson. During my RTBAV training I would go out and find related and interesting material to read. I has to be interesting so that you remember it. If we were doing the travelling safety section I would look up polite manner in other culture. This way, I can think of a very important point of travel safety: respecting local culture. For instance, it is very very bad in India to injure a cow because many people in India consider cows holy. Do not mention you eat steak, it is extremely bad form. This is interesting to me, so I remember that part of the lesson. This not only helps me remember the material but gives me actual stuff I can use in my seminars. This step can be extremely easy because many times your professor will provide you with supplemental readings. If not, ask them!

So the point of this long-winded post is that online classes are an extremely valid way of learning, but you have to be willing to put the time, attention, and effort into actually learning and not just passing a class.

December 4, 2010, 11:03 PM
I completed an on-line Masters degree last year. It may have been the 30 years since my Bachelors degree, or just being very religious in meeting schedules, and uber-proactive in on-line discussions and questions to the prof.

The classes were not harder than my Engineering undergrad degree, but the discipline required was much greater. The other major issue I ran into was getting simple answers to questions: In a traditional class, you can ask 4 dependent questions in 2 minutes. On-line, you may get a response to your first question in 24 hours, then another 24 hours for the followup, etc...

I'm glad I did it but I believe the personal effort to make these classes is much greater than a traditional university setting.

Good luck!

December 5, 2010, 02:45 AM
2 Beers,

I've looked into the Sally Struthers "Learn at home in your spare time" courses. Frankly you'd be better off spending ~$100 on books off Amazon, and the other $600-$700 on a bunch of "project guns."

If you're really interested in this, then check out the Master Gunsmithing Program from the American Gunsmithing Institute. They basically send you a whole machine shop in the mail (lathe, drill press, bench grinder, hand grinder, hand tools) plus DVD instruction in machining, welding, and an exhaustive course on gunsmithing.

It's not cheap, not at all. But other than spending 18 months at the Pennsylvania Gunsmith School it's a decent option.

They also offer step down programs, without the machine tools, for less money.

2 Beers
December 6, 2010, 03:20 PM
Appreciate the information and feedback in the reply posts.

Sefner, I understand what you're saying. Appreciate the time, information and advise. TXAZ, I think like Sefner, you're saying the discipline is required anytime you do distance learning.

phydaux, Sally Struthers scares me. Maybe all 3 is an approach… Amazon book and project guns, then depending on progress, step up to the next level. For $700, gut feel is that the foster-penn thing might be worth it as a launching point.

Will consider all you folks have shared, and many thanks again for your input.

December 6, 2010, 09:13 PM
2 Beers,

I've looked at the Penn-Foster program for my own personal development, and near as I can tell if you just picked up Gunsmithing (Stackpole Classic) by Roy F. Dunlap, $29.67 on Amazon.com, or Professional Gunsmithing by Walter J. Howe, $37.14 on Amazon.com, then you'd probably learn as much as you could from the Penn-Foster program.

I got both recently, plus a stack of others.

Contact Penn-Foster and have them send you an info packet. I did, and honestly wasn't impressed.

BTW, Sally Struthers used to do late night commercials for Penn-Foster programs back in the '80s.

"Learn the personal computer, become a medical transcriptionist, or earn your high school diploma..."

You can see the old commercial if you do a youtube search.

While you're at it, search for American Gunsmithing Institute on youtube. They have a bunch of videos. Ignore the ones that look like they're student interviews. Those are marketing BS. Just look for the ones with the middle-aged fat guy.

That's Bob Dunlap, AGI's chief instructor for all their gunsmithing stuff. The guys seems to really know his stuff, and explains things really well. As far as I can tell he also has a good long-term reputation in the gunsmithing community.

2 Beers
December 10, 2010, 12:41 PM
Thanks, phydaux.

Took a look at their site, and ordered the free DVD.

Lots of products, lots of money. But, seems valid and having videos to see how is useful. I work on Harley's, and the howto DVDs I use have been very valuable. Would expect the same here as you learn.

Thanks for the info.

December 10, 2010, 01:25 PM
If you're impressed at all with Penn-Foster's DVDs then you really need to check out AGI.