Free Online Tools to Educate Yourself at Home

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We are all learners to some degree throughout our lifetimes. Some of us get college degrees and then go back for more study at the graduate level later on; some of us begin college after we have been in the workforce for a while; some of us take a course here or there to add skills or to fulfill a desire to pursue a particular hobby or avocation. Still others of us just want to satisfy a basic desire to “know.”

Coursework, especially at the college level, can be pretty pricey, and so we sometimes avoid enrolling in courses that could improve our career skills or satisfy our yearning to learn something new. Fortunately, the Internet and some great innovators have changed all of that. An entire world of education and learning is now available for free – from films and documentaries, to lectures, to college coursework.

Free College? Yes, Please!

While it may seem unbelievable to many, considering the costs of a college education today, there are now free web-based college from which you can take a single course, a program of studies, credits toward a degree and, in some instances, a full degree. These are known as MOOC’s (massive open online courses) and they feature video lectures, assignments with deadlines, and plenty of interactive learning with other course enrollees.

Check out just some of the possibilities:

  1. Coursera: this was one of the first online college programs to be established, and it was done so by two retired Stanford professors who had the notion that quality college coursework should be available to all who had the desire. Of all of the MOOC’s, Coursera has by far the largest program offering.
  2. Udacity: this college program focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). For those interested in improving their skills in these areas or who want to make themselves more valuable to their employers in these academic areas, this may be the place!
  3. EdX: MIT, Harvard, and the U. of California – Berkeley have collaborated to establish this online university, and the huge variety of program offerings is a big draw.
  4. MIT – MIT began its massive online program with the goal of ultimately offering virtually every course that currently exists on its physical campus. This goal has almost been reached, and it’s all free.
  5. Khan Academy: Begun by a single individual who was attempting to help his niece with her math homework, the Academy has grown to a huge institution of learning for students from middle school through college. Entire courses are offered in every academic discipline.
  6. Saylor: The feature of Saylor that stands out is this: It is operated by the Saylor Foundation, and it actually offers college credit and a full degree when one completes a specific program of studies.  There are regular assignments and final exams, of course, but the reward is that degree!
  7. World Education University: another university which provides course credit and a degree! This program is funded by on-site advertising, donations, and grants, and it is the goal of the owners that their degree will be fully recognized as one of great quality.

For any of these online schools, participants will earn a certificate of completion and, in many instances, a course grade. While not actual college credit may be earned, the verification of course completion can certainly enhance a resume or a LinkedIn profile. Employers are now recognizing these programs as rigorous and worthy!

Non-College Learning – It’s Everywhere!

Pick a subject – any subject! You will find educational videos, lectures, live streaming, and textbooks all over the web. Here is just a “taste” of what awaits you:

Video Learning Websites

TED: this is a site worth researching. It is filled with 18-minute lectures on virtually any topic, given by authorities in their fields.

YouTube Edu: this is YouTube’s educational channel and it is really worth a look. There’s an amazing amount of educational videos on a huge number of topics, and searching for them is easy with just a few keywords.

Big Think: Another site with educational and training videos on almost any topic

Academic Earth: video lectures from professors and other experts and a user-friendly search tool

Streaming Documentaries

Of course, everyone knows of the Discovery Channel, PBS, and NOVA. These are TV channels that provide educational programming for all ages. Now, however, there are options to view all of these documentaries and more online. Two great websites for this are PBS Videos, and Snag Films.

Digital Skills

If you are looking to improve your skill set in the digital arena, either for work or pleasures, there are great sites that offer such coursework. You will want to check out Udacity, University of Reddit, and Alison for a start.

Free Online Textbooks

The costs of books have been a huge source of contention for students who can pay up to $100 or more for a single book. Several entrepreneurs have decided that this is ridiculous and have found ways to legally post e-copies of a huge number of textbooks for both students and adults who simply want to study a subject. If you are looking for a text, check out Boundless or Open Textbooks (featuring college texts).

Reading the Classics

Certainly, we can all go to the library and check out classic literature, if we wish to read books that we never got around to. On the other hand, we can forego the hassle and just download them free from sites such as Classic Reader, Planet e-Book, Book Yards, or Project Gutenberg.

Ready to Learn a New Language?

Before you put out money for expensive courses, try Duolingo. It’s totally free and teaches a foreign language in a gaming format – loads of fun!

Of course, there are free educational sites all over the Internet, and it would be impossible to locate and name them all. But this gives you a start, no matter what your goals or subject fields may be!

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