When I was in school, the LAST thing I wanted to do was learn anything. I was much more interested in being with my friends and having fun. That “fun” ranged from playing “Lost in Space” with my BFF Andrea on the playground in elementary school, to a different version of “Lost in Space” in high school that had more to do with Saturday night parties than 60’s television shows.. But education? … Background noise!
Thankfully, despite all my efforts to the contrary, I landed on a college major that really meant something to me: Mass Communications. What a perfect way for a blabbermouth like me to do just what I wanted to do – communicate … to MASSES!!
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that “lifelong learning” is actually very important to me. I also realized that learning is a LOT MORE FUN when you’re doing it because you WANT TO than HAVE TO! I think that’s why my college education was so exciting for me … I was actually learning what I wanted to learn.
As I’ve grown older and am not confined by time and topics that apply mainly to my work, my choices have become a lot more wide-ranging. A class about computer programming? I’m in. A book about snakes? Rattle me that one, Joker! A course on the Middle Ages? Templars and torture devices … oh yeah!
That’s not to say I remember everything I learn … ha, not by a long shot! But sometimes on Jeopardy, I’ll hear an answer like, “During the Middle Ages, it was thought that women could prevent pregnancy by wearing what around their necks?” and I’ll know what the “question” is! (“What are weasel testicles, Alex?”)
The best part is, there are SO MANY WAYS to learn FOR FREE that there’s just no reason not to pursue ANYTHING that you want to. Here are a few sites to get your started.
You know you can search for classes and ANY information through any search engine (Google, Firefox, Bing, etc.), but don’t forget YouTube when you want to learn … anything!
The second largest search engine behind Google, with more than three billion searches per month, YouTube is not just a website on which your children and grandchildren watch trending videos like “iPhone 12 and 12 Pro Unboxing!” and “Minecraft Speedrunner VS 4 Hunters REMATCH” (the two highest-trending videos right now … [(confused face]). You can also search YouTube and find free documentaries, video podcasts, movies, and short videos on practically anything you want to learn.
Vetted free college courses
There are lots of sites for free online college courses, but my go-to source is Class Central. Its super-easy-to-use platform aggregates courses from providers like edX, Coursera, and Udacity. You’ll find “the best courses on almost any subject, wherever they exist.”
Class Central is a search engine and reviews site for free online courses popularly known as MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses. You can find courses, review courses you’ve taken (and read other people’s reviews), follow universities, subjects and courses to receive personalized updates, and plan and track your learning.
They also publish TheReport, featuring “news and trends in online learning” as well as several lists including “Free Online Learning Due to Coronavirus” (updated continuously) and “Free Online Ivy League Courses,” and a list of 115 courses with certificates that Coursera is offering for free (many “MOOCs” offer certificates indicating – typically to potential employers – successful course completion and ensuring the authenticity and value of the credential. There is usually a cost for the certificate option).
Class Central is funded through advertising and affiliate links. They clearly denote ads and sponsored search results, and their affiliate and advertising relationships don’t influence the course listing, nor do they affect user reviews.
A great site to explore your creativity for free is Skillshare. There you’ll find an online learning community with thousands of classes for creative and curious people, on topics including illustration, design, photography, video, freelancing, and more. Note: Skillshare also offers a “Premium” membership for deeper dives into many courses.
Cultural and educational
Open Culture, the self-proclaimed “best free cultural and educational media on the web,” scours the internet for the best educational media. There you’ll find “the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons and educational videos you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between.” Open Culture is eclectic! I found things like “Seven Tips From Ernest Hemingway on How to Write Fiction,” “Ezra Pound’s Fiery 1939 Reading of His Early Poem, ‘Sestina: Altaforte’,” “John Wayne: 26 Free Western Films Online,” and “Learn 48 Languages Online for Free: Spanish, Chinese, English & More.”
And speaking of languages
While we’re on language, there are some great sources for free language lessons online. Take a look at Learn a Language, Duolingo, Busuu, Sign Language 101, and Galludet University.
There are millions of sources of free education on the internet (I feel a little bit like Dr. Evil right now … there are probably more like “billions” of them) as long as we’re “not yet dead” they’re right at our fingertips. Let’s enjoy every one of those Jeopardy answers we can still … answer? … ask? Whatever.