Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Expand Your Mind With These Free Online Learning Resources

College is expensive. The thought of six figure student loans can keep even the most devoted learner from furthering his or her education. But going to school isn't the only way to learn new things. Adults committed to life-long learning or looking for alternative education options can find a wealth of free and low-cost resources online. Try out some of these content-rich, interactive websites to start expanding your mind.

TED Talks

Fast-paced, entertaining talks by experts from all reaches of the globe are included in TED Talks. The short lectures come from T.E.D. (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) conferences that began in the 1980s as venues for sharing ideas among different disciplines. When TED talks went online, they drew such an audience that TED now presents hundreds of videos on their website. Topics vary from global issues to business to design.


One of many growing MOOC platforms, Coursera is an online depository for free courses from colleges and universities all over the world. Users register for and participate in classes using Coursera's website and technology. Courses are free, though students may sign up for Signature Track, a service that verifies class completion.


Differences in learning styles make it difficult for many people pick up a foreign language simply by reading a book. LiveMocha has created an online community of people who speak dozens of different languages. The site provides interactive language lessons, which utilize visual and auditory teaching methods, for varying skill levels. Participants may receive feedback from native speakers or help to other users who are learning a language they speak fluently. Moving beyond the few languages offered on many learning services, LiveMocha offers courses in 38 languages, including Urdu, Latvian, Icelandic, and Slovak. There are both free and paid options for learners.

BBC Online Learning

BBC Online Learning provides a broad scope of information and resources for adult learners. Short, text-based guides teach users skills like singing, gardening, job searching cooking, and computing. The guides are easy to follow and take the guesswork out of finding reputable information in a sea of Internet search results.


For those looking to dip their toes into computer programming, Codecademy is a free, interactive interface for learning programming languages. Comprehensive learning modules take beginners through the basics before moving on to more and more complex lessons that teach through hands-on assignments and projects. New programmers may choose to try their hands at JavaScript, HTML/CSS, PHP, Python, Ruby, or APIs. A well-used support forum helps users with solving problems and mastering difficult concepts.

Open Yale Courses

Open Yale Courses provides online access to pre-recorded lecture videos and accompanying class material for some classes taught at Yale College. There is no need to register for classes, and the resources are offered to the public at no cost. While participants do not earn credit for Open Yale Courses, they are able to gain knowledge on a broad selection of topics, ranging from physics to art history.

Mind Tools

Career-minded learners improve their job skills with Mind Tools. The site helps professionals by offering a library of tools to develop skills in communication, leadership, project management, creativity, and teamwork. A plethora of material is offered for free, but users may join the site to gain access to members-only resources such as online classes and forums.
While each of the above resources have much to offer, individuals may find some sites more appealing than others. The range of free and low-cost choices in online education opens up opportunities for learners of all kinds. A user may try out several different sites to find a resource that works best for her individual learning style and interests. As the price of traditional education rises, online learning resources are becoming invaluable for developing adults' skills and knowledge.

Scott Belford writes on topics related to business, entertainment, and the intersection of technology and education - such as the online degree programs and career training programs at Westwood College, which helps working adults acquire the skills and knowledge they need to advance their careers.