Mark Twain has been quoted as saying “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” The sad truth is that school can turn many people off to learning by forcing them to learn things in which they have no interest taught in the least appealing way by teachers who have little interest n the subject matter. Not that it is easy for an underpaid teacher under pressure from students, parents and the school to make everyone happy, but the educational system in the United States, and in many other places, turns many people off to learning. With a good internet connection, however, it can be easy to learn interesting things from passionate, intelligent people with fascinating high-tech resources. Here are some websites that will help you learn a thing or two while enjoying the experience.
1. OpenCulture – This is the motherlode of educational materials. They index hundreds of free downloadable audiobooks, courses from ivy league universities in video and audio formats, ebooks, Ted talks, documentaries–you name it. The biggest downside to a website that redirects to every other website is that it can be difficult to search for specifically what you want. It’s best to let yourself browse. You will never run out of interesting things from this site.
2. Your Local Library’s website -Your taxpayer dollars well spent. Many libraries have online resources, such as books, audiobooks, and even critically acclaimed language software such as mango. Many universities also offer access to research paper websites that would otherwise require a subscription. You can log in with your student ID, if it’s still valid.
3. Wikimedia – have you ever found yourself on Wikipedia to look up one thing, and clicking around to other things? Well the wikimedia project hosts several projects, including Wikiversity which is like a wikipedia-style web of text, pictures, video and audio that can be used to learn in a way that almost mimics the university experience, as far as providing class outlines, syllabi, and organized lessons. Wikiversity does not provide beer or make you want to sleep until noon.
4. Google Books- Google has scanned over ten million books so you can search their full content or read them off the screen. You can also use a program to download a book as a pdf file, if you are comfortable with the moral and legal applications of this (it is currently not explicitly illegal). Kids have it so easy these days.
5. The University of People – No, its not completely free (they are planning to charge students), but it will lead you through the courses and give you an actual degree, and the school is working toward accreditation. The goal of this school is to offer a chance at an education to people of developing nations. It is an experiment that has caught the attention of BusinessWeek and the UN.
Hope these suggestions help you learn!