Be Curious! / Be Inspired!

Five Great Free Resources for Lifelong Learning

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Let’s learn a little more in 2013.

In the two+ years since the Big Scout Project launched, I’ve stumbled into an amazing array of really remarkable resources, tutorials, and online knowledge that go way beyond Wikipedia and YouTube.

That’s why I’m launching a monthly series called “That Time of the Month.” Each month, I’ll share with you, dear readers, some pre-screened recommendations that may just provoke you to try something new.

Since the BSP is dedicated to lifelong learning, let’s kick off the series with some exceptional resources for serious online learning. Whether you want to deepen an area of expertise, build skills for your résumé, or just try something altogether new, there’s a resource here for you.

It’s That Time of the Month: Five Great Free Resources for (Serious!) Lifelong Learning

Have you heard of MOOC? It’s a pretty new acronym. It stands for “massive open online courses,” and it’s purpose is to open up free, serious learning opportunities to anyone with an Internet connection.

One Laptop Per Child, Afghani girls

Students in developing countries are learning to link with the developed world, like these girls in Afghanistan, through the One Laptop Per Child program (http://laptop.org).

This is an incredibly exciting shift in learning. Here in the U.S., as many students (and parents) question the value of an expensive college education relative to the debt incurred, MOOC liberates learning and may end up leveling the playing field for anyone who wishes to learn.

In developing nations, as Internet access spreads and laptops become more available to children, MOOC’s potential to educate large populations may have a positive impact in lifting them out of poverty.

MOOC courses are generally driven by video lecture but may include interactive problem solving, tests, reading and writing assignments, and collaboration with other students online. Expectations may, in fact, be pretty rigorous.

While you won’t earn an official degree this way, you may be able to earn certificates of completion for courses from some of the best universities in the world. And that’s not nothin.’ Here are my top five MOOCs:

1. Coursera

Here’s a one-stop shop for university-level courses, taught by master professors from across the country and beyond. Classes last an average of six weeks, and registration is easy. Expectations vary from class to class, but you’ll probably watch lectures online, do some reading, perhaps write an essay or take a test, and even connect with other students online. Many classes offer a certificate of completion once you’ve successfully finished the course. I’ve signed up for three classes in the next few months — my first one begins this week, and I’m really excited to take it.

2. edX 

The newest entry into the world of MOOC is edX, a non-profit founded jointly by Harvard and MIT. In it’s first semester this past fall, over a quarter of a million people registered for their initial class offerings. EdX is expanding, too. Look for courses from U.C. Berkeley, Georgetown, Wellesley, and the University of Texas to come online soon. Registration appears to be pretty straightforward and easy. EdX describes learning as “rigorous,” and students who complete coursework will receive a certificate. In addition to this amazing learning opportunity, edX will use this as an opportunity to collect important data on the online learning process that can be used to improve the way courses are offered in the future.

3. Open Courseware Consortium

Predating edX, the Open Courseware Consortium is a global community of hundreds of colleges and universities that offer courses online for free. This link will allow you to search available courses across the globe. Unlike Coursera or edX, you’ll have to register through each institution’s website, and each school may have a different process for registration. These free classes aren’t going to get you credits towards a degree, but some may offer certificates of completion that verify you’ve done some learning.

4. The Faculty Project

Like Coursera, the Faculty Project brings together professors from a wide array of colleges and universities. Unlike Coursera, however, free Faculty Project courses are set up for self-paced self-study, and enrolled students may return to videos and materials whenever they wish. Click on the enrollment link, and you’ll be sent to Udemy.com, another online course provider whose offerings are not always free.

5. Khan Academy

Want to do some learning but just can’t imagine watching a 120 minute lecture on your laptop twice a week? Khan Academy is right for you. This non-profit offers over 3800 quality videos, each about 10 minutes long, intended to teach concepts and build skills. Courses include interactive exercises to build proficiency. Users can get a small sampling of just about anything, or design an extensive course structure for themselves. The site will even keep track of where you are and help you choose the next logical courses.

Have I missed a great MOOC that belongs on this list? Let me know! And look for a thoroughly different resources on an array of topics every few weeks in “That Time of the Month.

Jean Synodinos, Jean Synodinos, Jean Synodinos, Jean Synodinos, Jean Synodinos

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4 thoughts on “Five Great Free Resources for Lifelong Learning

  1. Pingback: Robert JR Graham » Teaching Life Long Learning

  2. Pingback: There’s No Reason to be Stupid

  3. Pingback: Five Great Free Resources for Lifelong Learning | Halina's Blog

  4. Pingback: Lifelong Learning as a Substitute for School — Not Only Luck

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