Do you watch cute animal videos, binge watch Game of Thrones, play video games, or spend hours liking, sharing, and posting? Be honest…(Of course, I do it too. How do you think I came up with this topic?) Then, like me, you have the time and means to:
- Redefine yourself
- Become more valuable at work
- Increase your life options
- Determine your own fate
What is online learning?
Online learning—available to anyone, any time—takes many forms:
- Webinars (recorded or live lectures)
- Video demonstrations (YouTube)
- Educational animation (Prager University)
- Articles with links and test questions for professional credit
I first discovered online learning when my kids went to Hawaii Technology Academy and used K12, a national curriculum combining books and computer learning. Since parents acted as learning coaches. it was not strictly independent learning.
However, most webinars and online classes for adults are meant to be used without books or teachers. Classes can be a series of short videos, multiple articles with questions, or one long video. Online learning is intended to be interesting, informational, and applicable.
To give you an idea of the variety of classes out there, these are a few courses I have taken:
- Epidemiology (disease detecting and fighting using statistics)
- Boy Scout Venturing Youth Advisor Training
- Deck Connections
- Erosion and Sediment Control Plan Coordinating
- English Composition 101
Learning online is different from traditional education.
- You can rewind, pause, and repeat videos
- You can read the video transcripts
- Go at your pace or follow a schedule
- Repeat audited, college courses if needed
- Interact with international peers on course forums
- Learn from multiple instructors and a variety of materials for a larger knowledge base instead of one teacher, one textbook, and one teacher assistant
- Choose from different instructors on the same subject
- IT’S FREE
Why take an online class?
Free, free, and…FREE
There are a lot of free learning opportunities now. Grab ’em now because it may not last. ALL MIT classes are free online. See below.
To Increase Knowledge
The epidemiology classes helped me coach kids for Science Olympiad. Unexpectedly, the material was fascinating, gross, and fun (mostly for me, the kids, not so much). StormwaterOne training and Master of Land and Water Systems videos helped me better understand sustainability and city planning.
To Add Value
Erosion and sediment control plan (ESCP) coordination is required for all residential and commercial building permit applications in Hawaii. As an ESCP Coordinator, I provide a crucial service to my dad’s architecture business. And at middle-age, I’m learning a new trade!
Some classes, learning platforms, and credits cost money; but a lot don’t.
The English Composition course I took through EdX was free for me because I audited instead of getting credit. Taught by Arizona State University instructors, my classmates were global citizens of all ages. The students who needed the college credits were paying more than $600 dollars for this course I took for free. We had the same instruction, homework, and interaction with other students.
To better understand her high school science course, my teenager watched free physics lectures taught by an MIT physics professor on YouTube. She saw the same lectures as the high-tuition paying MIT students in the video.
Many libraries offer free courses. The Hawaii State Library System has more than 70 foreign language classes via Mango and other subjects through Gale Courses. Other libraries provide patrons with free access to Lynda.com! Los Angeles Public Library and San Luis Obispo Public Libraries are two. Check with your library.
Photo by Jereme Raukman on Flikr.
Another amazing, free online resource is freeCodeCamp. Yes, you can learn to program using project-based learning FOR FREE. When students are done, they can contribute to open source coding and work on non-profit organizations’ projects to build their portfolio. You can also listen to the freeCodeCamp podcast with interviews of successful students who started in other fields.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology makes ALL of its courses and course materials available FOR FREE. Put your eyeballs back in your head and get on over there now!
Professor Gilbert Strang, MIT math and engineering instructor, is highly recommended by one MIT alumnus who occasionally retakes his courses for work.
Examples of industry and company websites course providers
StormwaterOne offers free training on low-impact development and storm water management
Architecture and Construction Industries
Simpson Strong-Tie has free classes on building a deck, metallurgy, and other topics related to its metal connector pieces for wood and steel structures.
Continuing Education Center Construction and Architecture offers AIA (The American Institute of Architects) certified academies on community resilience, building with wood, and multifamily housing, among other interesting topics.
These are my examples. Look for free courses and webinars in your field, and on industry and professional organization websites.
Free sites also have paid options. Although Coursera and EdX show a fee for some courses, there is still a free option if you do not need a Verified Certificate or college credits. How cool is that?!
These online learning platforms charge monthly fees for unlimited classes:
- Lynda.com (now LinkedIn Learning) – creative, business, technology, and writing skills. FREE at some libraries!
- Skillshare – creative, business, technology, and lifestyle classes
Watch out. It’s addicting…
Only limited by time
Even if you cannot afford internet, a smartphone, or a home computer, you can reserve a computer at the library to create a free email and take online classes.
If you do have a smartphone, you can learn on the bus, on the can, or in line at the DMV.
Education is no longer limited to expensive institutions, youth, and money. If you don’t need credits and you just want to learn, for any of the previously stated reasons, learning has become open access. Your only limits are time and attention—your most precious resources.
Free, accessible education and increasing competition for quality instruction and interesting courses benefits life-long learners willing to look outside traditional educational institutions.
There has never been a better time for education and self-improvement or a better country in which we can strive to become MORE.
Peruse these resources and see if something tickles your fancy. If you try a course and change your mind, it doesn’t go on your permanent record. A galaxy of opportunity is ready for exploration. Will you boldly go?