I plan on going to grad school at some point, but until then I’m exploring different ways to continue my education. I’ve taken advantage of a lot of education alternatives, and I thought I would share with you some of my favorites that I’ve encountered so far. All of these tools are free to use and require a computer or smartphone.
Probably one of the most popular online learning platforms, Coursera is one of the most extensive online learning communities I’ve come across to date. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of students participate in every course, allowing for interesting discussions and connections to be made around the world. With everything from the humanities to mathematics, a free account gives access to a number of courses from some of the top colleges and universities around the world, both self-paced and regularly scheduled. These classes serve as an introduction to a variety of topics that pique students’ curiosity. Opportunities for certificates, both verified and not, indicating completion are available, and can make a great addition to online professional profiles like LinkedIn.
OpenYale posts lectures from popular Yale courses, providing people with the opportunity to peek inside a lecture hall from this prestigious university. No account is required; anyone can access the materials from anywhere there’s an internet connection. Although there isn’t the same kind of learning community that can be found on a platform like Coursera (for example, there aren’t any discussion forums for collaboration between students watching the same lecture), the main course materials like reading lists, syllabi, and the lecture videos and transcripts are available freely. The topics the courses cover vary widely, and more lectures are added all the time on the YaleCourses YouTube channel.
I’ve taken a few computer science and coding classes during college, but I’m sorry to say that I haven’t kept my coding skills as sharp as I probably should. CodeAcademy is an extremely useful platform for not only learning new coding languages, but refreshing those basics I learned as an undergrad. With a free account, I have access to a number of short, self-paced courses that provide an introduction to a number of languages, and I can complete the assignments at my leisure. For anyone interested in dabbling in coding, I definitely recommend CodeAcademy.
I downloaded Duolingo for my phone and I’ve been using it to re-learn all the French I’ve lost since high school. The app takes a very interesting approach to teaching a foreign language. There is a diagnostic test that you can take at the beginning to place you in later lessons if you’ve already had some experience with a language, but you are immediately thrown into learning with phrases that are combined with simple illustrations and an audio recording of the pronunciation. Rather than spending time conjugating verbs with charts and vocab quizzes, as is typical with a classroom environment, the conjugation comes gradually, learned over time as you learn more and more words and phrases. It feels more organic, in a way, similar to how one would learn their first language, by simply hearing phrases over and over and figuring out the rules as time passes. Although I haven’t yet explored the later lessons, from what I can see, more complex grammar and style is introduced as you get more familiar with the language. I definitely recommend it to anyone who’s interested in a more casual learning environment for learning a language.
Have another suggestion for education alternatives? Please feel free to leave a comment!