Knowledge should be free. And as global access to the Internet grows, it can now be the case.
Over the past decade, online learning has advanced far beyond expensive curriculums from universities, and into something that has become accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. From crowd-sourced learning sites like Memrise and Khan Academy, to curriculum-structured learning sites like edX and coursera, the possibilities are truly endless.
Skeptical? Here are some benefits to online learning to convince you otherwise:
1) Flexibility – You can to learn what you want, when you want. Nowadays, there are many commitments in life that doesn’t leave room for education. With online learning, people are able to fit their studying around work and family, instead of the other way round.
2) Study at your own pace – In school, if you were unable to keep up with any topics, teachers rarely stop and guide you step-by-step. Most simply move on and leave you choking on the dust of your failed comprehensions. With online learning, you have time to absorb the material, and only proceed on when you feel that it’s time.
3) You can save quite a lot of money – except on your internet connection perhaps. The websites listed below are mostly free resources, so you can gain plenty of knowledge without breaking the bank.
For those interested, yet are unsure of where to start, here is an introduction to some online learning websites, each structured differently to suit people with different learning methods.
Established in 2009, Memrise is an online learning platform that makes use of advanced memory techniques as a learning foundation.
After comprehensive step-by-step learning of each piece of information, users are then frequently tested on what they have just learnt. This helps to reinforce the memories of newly acquired knowledge, ensuring that they are not easily forgotten.
Besides offering the standard language and science courses, they have categories like Trivia and Entertainment too, which is something you don’t see too often on other online learning sites. This ranges from courses like Morse Code, a course on Billboard’s No. 1 hits, to the more unusual ones like Pokémon (there’s a whole category on them) and All About Gollum (really.)
For those who pride themselves as experts on any given topic, Memrise could use your expertise as well. As a crowd-sourced website, any user who has an account is able to create their own courses and share their knowledge with the world. However, this also runs the risk of diluting the quality of the material on the site, as there are some user-created content which definitely do not qualify under the category of conventional learning.
But for those who used to love memorising their exam notes over and over again, this website may work very well for you. It certainly helped me understand all of Gollum’s riddles.
For those who require visual stimulation or get bored easily with words, Khan Academy may just be the learning solution for you.
Started in 2008 by Salman Khan, Khan Academy consists of mostly videos that walk the viewer step-by-step through complicated concepts and formulas. There are also quizzes interspersed in between lessons, designed to help users recap on what they have learnt so far. Similar to Memrise, Khan Academy is also a crowd-sourced site; any user with an account is able to create a video course for use on the website.
Focusing mainly on science and math subjects, Khan Academy makes sure that users of any level are able to jump in and learn something new from their videos. For example, in the math section, they have included the very basics like early math (counting, addition and subtraction), all the way to lessons useful for the advanced mathletics (multivariable calculus).
Khan Academy is also in partnership with many prominent establishments like The Museum of Modern Art, Stanford School of Medicine, NASA, and more. With these partnerships, Khan Academy is able to provide their users with specialist content straight from the specialists themselves.
A merger of Massachusetts Institude of Technology’s (MIT) MITx and Harvard’s Harvardx, edX offers free online coursework of multiple courses by the founders and their partner universities, which include famous schools like Berklee School of Music, Peking University, Columbia University, and more.
This online learning site is different than the two above. edX’s learning system is much more structured; there is a definitely start date to every course, and pre-registration for the course is needed to gain access to the course materials, tests, as well as the discussion forum. Courses are also led by the offering universities faculty lecturers, so users can be assured that the quality of the courses are set at a high standard.
Want to take your learning a step further? Users can pursue a verified certificate of achievement, which will allow them to use the results for the completed course towards job and school applications. However, it is likely that a minimum fee is required for verified certificates; so do check out the fees first before committing.
Should you feel that the above does not suit you, there are still many others unmentioned; coursera, Udemy, iTunes U, Udacity to name a few. The courses they offer comes in many varieties, but most of them are still free, and with others only requiring a nominal fee.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, what matters most is not where you learnt something, but how you learnt it. To effectively learn through online learning, one still needs to the qualities of a traditional student; hard work, passion, and perseverance. Otherwise, no amount of mouse-clicking is going to get you the knowledge you crave.
With the internet revolution, online learning has opened many doors to new knowledge everywhere. So, is there something you had wanted to learn for forever? There is no better time to start.