I know this is totally the biggest secret, but I’m kind of a fan of education. That is, I love when people actually want to learn things. It makes the work of a teacher or instructor infinitely more easy, but it also means a lot to you when someone genuinely appreciates the content that you put together for a course.
When I was teaching students on academic probation, I knew that nobody was in that classroom with me by choice. Yeah, sort of trial-by-fire for a new university lecturer. Anyway, I got through the term and a good number of students showed up reliably every week, which was encouraging.
On the last day of class, one of my students stopped by on the way out. “I really appreciate what I learned from this course,” they told me. “Thanks for running it.”
Well, that compliment really kept me going for a long time! And it really brought home the idea that nothing is going to appeal to everyone. But everything is going to appeal to someone.
Anyways, beyond my sappy anecdote, I really do love learning. So I occasionally take online courses or teach myself new things using online resources.
I’m only going to promote things on this post that I have personally used. These are resources that are just as good quality as a university course, in my opinion. It’s just a matter of being interested, invested, and active in your own education. You can teach yourself almost anything with enough hard work and internet access!
Additionally, none of these companies, websites, or programs have sponsored this post. I just really like them!
FutureLearn is my first choice in terms of online free courses. It’s easy to use, easy to register, and all the courses are put on by legitimate universities. Depending on where you’re from, you may not be familiar with the university names – many of them are in the UK or in Australia – but you can quickly look them up if you’re not convinced.
This site breaks down its courses by category, or program – if you want to actually invest some money into it, I believe there are structures in place for certificates and maybe even advance placement into degree programs. I haven’t explored this aspect. I stick to the free stuff, and there is ample to choose from.
Courses are usually a mix of reading and watching videos, with a discussion open at the bottom of every course page. There are sometimes assignments (not in too many courses that I’ve taken) but often quizzes, which aren’t too challenging. You’ll have a window of access to the course and all the content up front, but it’s structured so you should be able to pace yourself with a certain numbers of work per week.
If you’re a big Apple product user, you maybe already know about iTunes University – it used to exist solely as a tab within iTunes but has since been migrated into its own app entirely. I believe you can still access content through the iTunes Store, however.
First of all, it can be used by teachers to connect with students who all have their own iPads. I’m too old to have ever been in a classroom this high tech, but I love learning about tools for doing this.
But more relevant is the fact that many universities host lectures or even entire courses for free. This is particularly great if you’re a big video-watcher, and need to be looking at a human to engage with content (which is totally legitimate). The Open University, for instance, offers a lot of educational content, and you can explore that more on their website before diving into the iTunes experience if you’d like.
I’m fairly certain that anyone, regardless of their Apple affiliation, can access this stuff by simply downloading iTunes to their computer.
Listen, I don’t think there is anyone that shouldn’t learn a bit of basic coding. Especially if you work online or spend a lot of time on the internet, it’s a language that will (at the very least) help you appreciate what it is you’re interacting with on your computer.
W3Schools offers the clearest and simplest instructions for learning coding languages online. Additionally, they have an awesome reference section that I have used many times when tweaking this website. Once you know the basics, you can do a lot.
If you’re completely new to this and want to start with something easy, I recommend starting with their HTML tutorial. It’s a well structured and easy to follow program that gets you actually working with code and seeing the results. It’s also a lot of fun!
Maybe tech and coding isn’t your thing. What about mythology?
So, I’m a Classicist. I’m well aware of the absolute deluge of information about Greek and Roman mythology online. Also, of how much of this is separate from the actual mythology and texts that we get from the ancient world.
Theoi is a fantastic resources because it uses actual translations from the Greek, Roman, or other languages. That way, you’re working with more authentic materials
The pages are set up with summaries and basic information, with quotes from ancient literature pertinent to the topic later down the page. You can learn a lot about ancient cultures from reading their literature, so cruise through what Theoi has to offer and gain the basics of a first year Mythology lecture! (Well, maybe borrow a theory textbook from the library, too!)
I’ve tried out several different language teaching software and apps, and I think that DuoLingo is the best of the free ones.
Now, I will say that it’s frustratingly easy to overlook the actual grammar and structure lessons and just focus on the vocabulary games. And that may not be a bad thing at all if you’re going to be, for example, heading out on holiday and want to be able to read a menu or street signs. But if you’re going for a more thorough understanding of a language, make sure you take the time to do all the work.
What I like about DuoLingo, aside from the intuitive design and game-like application, is that it doesn’t take things too seriously. Maybe this is just from taking so many Greek and Latin courses, but I hate when introductory language courses are too stuffy! I like there to be an element of fun as well as practicality to the things you learn.
You can access DuoLingo from your computer, laptop, or phone, so there’s no excuse not to try out learning a new language (or refreshing an old one! Canadians, how recently have you used your French???)
It would take too long to list all the amazing resources on Youtube or other social sharing sites for learning, so I’m going to just pick one format: podcasts.
I’m a big podcast listener, mostly because I’m not good at doing a single thing at a time. If I’m doing something other than writing (the only thing I can’t focus on while people are talking at me!), I want some sort of discussion going on that I can tune in and out of. On the other hand, if the podcast is about something I really want to learn, being able to do something small to keep my attention (like painting, knitting, or playing a game on my phone) while listening works perfectly.
Nowadays the podcast bubble has kind of mushroomed out and there is something for quite literally everyone out there. Pretty much every subject has a podcast about it, or at least an episode mentioning it.
I listen to a lot of productivity and creativity podcasts, so I’ll recommend Magic Lessons for writing and creative inspo, Overdue Podcast for awesome book reports, The History of Egypt Podcast for an excellent and thorough history lesson, and Sawbones for an entertaining yet informative lesson on medical history.
Cover photo for this post comes from the George Eastman House Collection, c. 1915.