You can learn how to skydive in other ways but the most thrilling is to do it with the AAF (Accelerated Free Fall).
Accelerated Free Fall has first been used as a fast training method since 1982. It's a fast learning process compared to the traditional static line training. With AFF you can get a true image of the modern skydiving.
The ground training of Accelerated Free Fall is more extensive than static line, and that's a good thing since you will be doing a 50 second drop on your first jump. The jump will occur when the aircraft will be at about 10.000 - 12,000 feet, you will be jumping with two other jump masters that will assist you during your fall.
They will maintain grip to you from the moment of the jump until you open your parachute. They will assist you to keep stable. You will get to pull the ripcord at about 4000 ft.
The Accelerated Free Fall is a program divided in 7 levels. The 1, 2, and 3 levels require two jump masters to jump with you. On these levels you get to learn about basic safety skills like altitude awareness, body position, stability during free fall and during the pull sequence.
The most important skill is the successful ripcord pull. When level three is reached you get to free fall for your own for the first time.
The rest of the levels, 4, 5, 6 and 7 will require only one free fall jump master, meaning less money, and teach you skills like turning, forward movement and docking with other people. You will also learn about frontloops, backloops and "superman" exit from the plane among many other.
With Accelerated Free Fall, you move on from level to level on each jump if the objectives have been completed. The required training is of about 45 minutes.
After level 7, the level is entering what is called "Level 8". At this skill the student gets to practice and improve their skills until they reach 20 free falls, qualifying for the A skydiver license.
The benefits of AFF over tandem jumping is that you learn at such a quicker pace. Only people who are completely comfortable and dedicated to learning all of the skills to skydiving should choose this path.
If you are just out to try it for a first time thrill, stick with tandem until you know this is a path that you want to pursue.