Why even think of educational online courses?
In my opinion, full freedom implies self-improvement and the ability to learn new things every day. And you know what? I don’t really think that joining the university is absolutely the best way to do it.
I guess I’m not the only one here who has a feeling that education in the traditional meaning of this word is dying in the 21st Century. Sounds like a bold statement, but it’s true. Even now, in 2010 amount of the information available for free is unbelievable. And it’s increasing exponentially. If you still have doubts I recommend you to watch this truly amazing video:
I’m not sure about you, but it definitely made me think a lot. Old traditional universities with big names won’t disappear overnight, of course not. Degree is still the best available indicator of credibility, top universities still have an opportunity to provide their students with the wide range of various subjects and classes. The point is if you worry about practical knowledge more than about degree and credits there are some alternatives available for you. Probably, you just don’t have that much time to spend on educating yourself in a traditional way or probably you don’t want to settle down in one place for a few years?
The change in the educational system is not going to be revolution. It resembles evolution more. And we can see it now: more and more universities (even the top ones) discover alternative ways of providing people with opportunity to learn and acquire the knowledge. Currently, it’s possible to find lots of free courses on economics, psychology or science and study any time that’s comfortable for you.
Okay, let’s make the long story short. I guess everybody knows how to use Google and/or wikipedia here. That’s true, you can get virtually any piece of information using these two tools. But there are a lot more opportunities for distant learning and broadening you mental outlook. So, what are the best places to search for free and high-quality educational videos, lectures and cases?
Here is the brief list of sources I personally liked and highly recommend you to try:
1. Academic Earth.
Academic Earth is a website which offers free online video lectures from universities such as UC Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale  in the subjects of Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, Engineering, English, Entrepreneurship, History, Law, Mathematics, Medicine, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, and Religion.
Free. Online. Video. Lectures. If you feel like watching something online and stupid youtube “funny videos” isn’t quite for you, then Academic Earth should be your first choice. Every lecture can be viewed in either text, mp3 or video format.
If you have difficult time deciding where to start I can suggest you try the Yale course of the Introduction to Psychology lectures by Paul Bloom, it’s insightful, funny and extremely easy to understand at the same time.
This site alone is almost infinite source of interesting, insightful and various lectures that will make you forget about your TV for a long time (in case you didn’t give up on it yet).
2. TED conference.
I’m totally in love with TED! This is where you can find the most amazing presentations given by the most interesting people!
TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design)
is an annual conference that defines its mission as “ideas worth spreading”. The lectures, also called TED Talks, cover a broad set of topics including science, arts and design, politics, education, culture, business, global issues, technology and development, and entertainment. Speakers have included such people as former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Nobel laureates James D. Watson, Murray Gell-Mann, and Al Gore, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and Billy Graham.
I’m personally subscribed to the TED youtube channel and TED blog via RSS. I honestly consider TED the best online video channel that I’m aware of at the moment. Speakers vary from the entrepreneurs to scientists and politicians. Topics vary from the cutting-edge technology to the hunger in Africa. But few things remain the same: amazing speakers, incredible topics, leadership, insights and vision. The only reason why this is on the second place after Academic Earth is because it’s partially entertaining and not totally educational. The objective here is not really to educate you in the specific narrow field, but to widen your horizons, to make you think about things you normally wouldn’t think about and to inspire you to discover more on the presented subjects yourself.
Here are some of my favorites:
Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenges the idea that well be miserable if we dont get what we want. Our “psychological immune system” lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned.
Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.
Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened — as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding — she studied and remembered every moment.
With the drama and urgency of a sportscaster, statistics guru Hans Rosling uses an amazing new presentation tool, Gapminder, to debunk several myths about world development.
Speaking at the most recent EG conference, author, philosopher, prankster and journalist A.J. Jacobs talks about the year he spent living biblically — following the rules in the Bible as literally as possible.
At the EG conference in December 2007, artist Jonathan Harris discusses his latest projects, which involve collecting stories: his own, strangers’, and stories collected from the Internet, including his amazing “We Feel Fine.”
Of course, there are hundreds more that you’ll probably like more than these, so feel free to explore the TED site.
3. The best way to learn languages online for free
There are at least two web-sites that can help a lot with your foreign languages learning:
Livemocha is the world’s largest language learning community with over 2 million members. A lot of learning courses for all the aspects of learning: reading, writing, speaking, etc. Plus, the social aspect and opportunity to connect with people learning languages and foreign cultures around the world.
Another great source.
4. Open Universities
Open Yale courses
MIT free courses
5. Business Education
Sloan School of Management
One of the first business schools that made a lot of materials available online. Management, psychology, economics, entrepreneurship or finance, pick what interests you most.
Distance Learning topic @ businessweek
Case Study of Harvard Business School
If you don’t mind paying for your distant education there are a lot of paid courses available for you at Harvard web-site.
List of universities and websites offering free business and entrepreneurship courses online
99 Free Online Classes on Business and Entrepreneurship
6. Other resources
If you are looking for more these links may help:
Wikipedia article about distance learning (not a bad place to begin with)
Dmoz Directory: Distance learning (dozens of links to the online courses, institutions and so on)
Best distance learning courses available on the internet list created by British Council (lots of highly useful links)
Distance learn @ about.com (this site is mostly focused on the online colleges as an option to get a distance education)
List of cultural and educational video sites:
I guess this is more than enough for now. Hope, you have more time than me to spend on these sites!