One of the biggest benefits of the Internet is the huge amount of information we all have available at our fingertips. Yet the biggest challenge for many of us is making sense of all that information.
There are many opportunities for learning, but the information is often spread out in various places and not presented in an organized way that makes learning easy.
several organizations – both nonprofits and businesses – have jumped
into this niche and have developed online courses that draw upon this
vast wealth of available knowledge. These eight free websites allow you
to take educational courses in the comfort of your home, expanding your
knowledge and understanding of the world at your convenience.
Coursera is one of the leading providers of MOOCs – massive open online courses. Coursera offers a wide selection of college courses on a variety of subjects and includes lectures taught by university professors, discussion forums and quizzes. Some Coursera courses provide certificates of completion to recognize that you passed the class. If you enjoy learning in a structured classroom-style environment and want to do this at home, Coursera is a great place to start.
Duolingo is a tool for learning new languages such as Spanish, French, Italian and German and provides a lesson-based structure in which you gradually learn new words and grammar. The site integrates visual, audio and written learning, so you become comfortable with the new language as a whole. Using Duolingo feels like playing a game, but after completing the full track of a language, you’ll be able to carry on a basic conversation.
Khan Academy is an organized series of mini lectures and interactive problems on a variety of topics including mathematics, history, science and more. The lectures are short and share a handful of information at a time, but build on each other as you progress. If you like the idea of learning about a topic in short bursts, Khan Academy is the right resource for you.
provides integrated video and audio learning right inside the iTunes
program many people use to manage their music and audio devices. The
tool offers online courses with full lectures, the ability to take notes
on those lectures and assignments to continue learning outside of the
lecture environment. iTunes U does the best job of integrating free
online learning with the iPad and iPhone, so if you’re a user of those
devices, take a look at what iTunes U has to offer.
MIT OpenCourseWare is a treasure trove of course material from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; it provides lectures, lecture notes, homework assignments, sample tests and many other materials from the actual courses at MIT. MIT OpenCourseWare stands out from the pack if you’re looking to learn more about science, computer and engineering topics, as MIT is a leading university for those subjects.
EdX is similar in presentation to Coursera in that it offers full online courses with teachers, discussion boards, quizzes, and so on, but it tends to focus on (and excel at) courses in math, the sciences and engineering. Much like Coursera, it has arrangements with a number of universities – from Harvard to the University of Hong Kong – to provide material. If you like the idea of a highly structured course environment and are looking for science, math, and engineering courses, take a serious look at EdX.
Livemocha, like Duolingo, is a tool for learning foreign languages, but rather than offering interactive lessons, Livemocha pairs you up with speakers of other languages so you can teach each other your native language. When you invest time in teaching someone your language by having conversations and walking them through their grammatical challenges, someone else will invest that time in you. If the idea of conversing with native speakers in order to learn a new language sounds compelling, Livemocha is perfect for your needs.
These eight resources provide only a sample of the opportunities for free online learning available to anyone with a Web browser and an Internet connection. The only thing you need to succeed is a curious mind and a willingness to learn.