Free Lifelong Learning

Lifelong learning.

Learning is something that people should strive to continue for their entire lives. It is not something that should end upon receiving a diploma or degree. Fortunately there are many resources out there for continuing your education that are freely available. Learning new things can bolster your career or maybe even help you move into a new career. It’s never too late to learn something and better your life. I’ve compiled the below linked resources from a variety of places including my own searching [1-4].

Resources for continuing education.

I’ve tried to collect a few of the myriad options available online for furthering education in nearly any area. There is no way that this list will be comprehensive. Also many of these would fit under a variety of sub-headings but I placed them where I thought they fit best.

Languages

As a member of a global community, learning a second language is probably one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself. However, it can also be one of the most difficult. There is not really one language I would suggest over any other. They all have benefits in terms of global perspective and expanding your brains capacity for creativity and learning [5].

  • duolingo: While the languages available on duolingo are limited at the moment (at the time of writing: Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese), the methods employed for language acquisition have been proven to be effective [6]. Has an Android app for learning on the go.
  • mem_rise: mem_rise is actually a site which hosts user contributed courses in just about any topic based on the spacing effect. Language acquisition just tends to be really popular as a usage scenario for the methods used. Also available as an Android app.
  • Lang-8: You write in the language you are trying to learn. Native speakers correct your writing. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
  • Livemocha: A great site for language learning that works similar to Rosetta Stone. In fact it was recently acquired by Rosetta Stone so it is hard to say if it will survive or be shut down or change dramatically as a result.
  • Anki: More of a general tool for creating flash cards but many people have found this great for learning languages.

Programming

The ability to code/program is likely going to be one of the most highly sought-after career skills for some time. Further, having at least a basic level of programming experience or knowledge can help you in your everyday life by automating routine tasks.

  • Codecademy: A free site for learning to code in a variety of languages. Walks you through the process interactively from very basic to more advanced.
  • code.org: Started as part of a recent push to teach more people to code, the Hour of Code idea helps you learn the basics of programming relatively quickly.

Engineering

  • Stanford Engineering Everywhere: Free online engineering courses available from Stanford.
  • Engineer Guy: Entertaining and informative videos by Bill Hammack. Learn about the engineering behind almost anything.
  • Brain Waves Videos: Videos on math, electronics, and other engineering topics put out by Purdue.
  • the Physics Classroom: A collection of articles on a variety of topics relevant to introductory physics.
  • All About Circuits: Learn about electronics and circuit design. A huge field that is important and affects most branches of engineering.
  • Computer Science E-1: An open course on “Understanding Computers and the Internet” from Harvard’s Extension School.
  • FE Exam Reference Handbook: The reference handbook for the Fundamentals of Engineering exam is a fantastic concise resource that includes a summarization of the basics of engineering. Can be purchased in hard copy or downloaded for free.
  • Of course there are engineering topics contained within many of the resources listed below.

General topics

Universities with open course curriculum

Other entities with open courses

  • Khan Academy: The obvious option for free online learning in a variety of topics. Many videos that are usually easy to follow.
  • University of Reddit: Many free courses created by users of Reddit on a very wide variety of topics.
  • Coursera: Free courses developed by university faculty. Some offer certificates of completion for a fee.
  • Udacity: Free to watch lectures and access notes. Can pay for certification and additional resources.
  • edX: Free courses. Some with certification. Some possibly with a fee structure.
  • Open Tapestry: A collection of links to open courses sorted by topic area.
  • Open Courseware Consortium: An aggregator of open courses mostly from universities.
  • Academic Earth: Linked list to open courses at various universities.
  • Peer 2 Peer University: Community developed courses. Uses badges to award completion of a course or indicate gained knowledge.
  • Education for All: A variety of open courses offered for free.
  • Education Portal: Free courses. Geared more towards college prep or exam prep. Some fees for getting credit or certifications.
  • Wikiversity: A project of the Wikimedia Foundation to create courses in a wiki environment.
  • YouTube EDU: Massive YouTube curated collection of educational videos.
  • Cosmo Learning: Free, open video based courses.

Other topic specific resources

  • ExcelExposure: Learn the basics of working in Excel. Lots of helpful tips for working more efficiently is what is probably the most widely used piece of software for data handling and general calculations. Started as a course on University of Reddit.
  • Think Tutorial: Easy to digest tutorials for a variety of computer related tasks ranging from simple to advanced.
  • Typing speed: So much of people’s time is now spent typing at a computer. Why not make that process faster? typeracer, 10fastfingers, Ratatype.
  • Practical Typography: You want your documents, memos, correspondence to look nice, don’t you? Learn how to get the most out or your written communications.
  • Drawspace: Being able to draw is not reserved for those with natural born talent. Learn how to communicate effectively or express your creativity through sketching/drafting. Especially important for engineers and designers.
  • Photography: An important communication tool or maybe just a fun pass-time. Exposure Guide, Cambridge in Colour
  • Better Explained: Articles on everything from business to calculus explained in an easy-to-understand manner.
  • TED: TED Talks are video lectures from experts in a variety of topics. Tend to be focused on transformative future technologies and emerging research. Usually pretty interesting and can change your outlook on things.
  • Lizard Point: Games and quizzes to enhance your knowledge of geography, mathematics, finance, etc.
  • Justin Guitar: A great site for learning to play guitar. The beginner’s course is exceptional.
  • Nerd Fitness: A site with information to help you get in shape. Focused on providing evidence based methodologies.
  • Simple Science Fitness: Another evidence based fitness site. Not as quirky by very informative.
  • Investopedia: Learn how to be smart with your money and help it grow. In reality Bogleheads is probably where you should start.

Life skills

  • The Art of Manliness: A humorous site that actually gives some useful tips on how to do basic everyday life things a little better.
  • Cooking for Engineers: Well laid out instructions for cooking/baking targeted towards people who are more process driven.

Reading

Reading is kind of the classical way to learn new topics and expand your knowledge base. There are almost infinitely many places to get books for free. Your first stop should be the local library or the library’s website which likely has options for renting ebooks.

  • Project Gutenberg: A library of over 42,000 free ebooks. Most books here are out of copyright and thus freely available.
  • Other repositories: A list of other free ebook sources.
  • The Free Library: A huge resource for books, periodicals, articles, etc.
  • Wikibooks: Wikipedia like site but with information organized into book format.
  • Textbook Revolution: A search engine for free PDF textbooks.
  • Directory of Open Access Journals: A great resource for finding articles on cutting edge research that is freely accessible to anyone.
  • Questionable options: The following options provided for informational purposes only. 1, 2. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. Use at your own risk.

Need more?

An even larger list that contains most (all?) of what I’ve included here plus many more can be found on the No Excuse List.

References

  1. Reddit comment.
  2. Reddit comment.
  3. Reddit comment.
  4. Reddit comment.
  5. Johan Martensson, Johan Eriksson, Nils Christian Bodammer, Magnus Lindgren, Mikael Johansson, Lars Nyberg, Martin Lovden. Growth of language-related brain areas after foreign language learning. NeuroImage, 2012; 63 (1): 240 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.06.043
  6. Roumen Vesselinov, John Grego. Duolingo effectiveness study. PDF

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