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The term crash course refers to intensive or brief learning, which may be taken in emergency situations. Often however, the term applies simply to a brief introduction to material that will allow one to understand more in depth material.
If one looks on the Internet, one will see “crash course” applied to virtually anything one can learn. Usually these courses are free. For example one can find introductory courses on HTML, on French history, Constitutional law, or guitar chords.
Such brief introductions are usually meant to give a cursory understanding of a topic. Particularly if someone wishes to do something right away, like try to program a website, a crash course in HTML, or Java, may give just enough information to help one begin.
In contrast, the true crash course is not usually sought. It is often learning that occurs in an emergency situation, forcing a “learn by doing” scenario. For example, if a woman cannot make it to the hospital to have a baby, her husband might be in an emergency situation where he must deliver the baby himself. With help from a 911 operator, the husband may suddenly find himself taking a crash course in obstetrics.
In the above situation, the husband undergoes a crash course that is definitely not of his seeking. He must learn how to deliver a baby, right now! Thus his acquired learning is done quickly and in an emergency situation.
Moreover, driving schools love using crash course to describe driving lessons. Often they may be called “Crash Course” driving schools because the goal is to teach a driver to learn quickly through intensive lessons. Related to the term, the goal is also to teach the driver not to “crash.” Some schools even offer training in what to do if one might have an accident, or a spin out.
Generally, though, one can take crash courses in just about any field. Voluntarily participating in intense studies does not have the negative implications of such courses taken in emergency situations. Though both provide learning experiences, the latter is clearly more stressful.