Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Top Free Online Educational Resources

Once upon a time I attended a forum at my university where I studied for my undergrad. At the forum a student asked the speaker with consternation in her voice, how she could continue to learn once she had graduated. I was so shocked by her question, I mean it is definitely something we need to keep doing. I just was surprised that this college student hadn't learned yet, how to learn on her own. As I sat there I ran down a list in my head of the many ways that I like to learn that were not a part of my formal educational experience. I don't know anyone in my circle of friends or anyone who reads my blog that doesn't already know how to learn on their own. However, I thought I might put up a few free online resources. And perhaps they will be of use to someone.

Formal Lecture Style:
Khan Academy: This website has over 2,700 video lectures on subjects from mathematics to humanities or even test preparation. It is really a great resource to supplement classes you are taking. For that matter they are great if you aren't taking any classes and want to learn the subjects on your own.

iTunes U(iTunes Required)
Many of the world's best universities have provided a number of lectures that anyone can download. Perhaps there is a subject in college that you always wanted to take but never had time or money to do it. Well, the good news is iTunes U allows you to essentially audit just about any kind of class you want. And you can take the classes from any number of the world's top universities for free. Many of the Podcast lectures are available outside of iTunes. However, iTunes U does a great job organizing and aggregating the free lectures into one easy place. A few years ago I was taking a genetics class and as part of my study, I would listen to lectures from a Stanford genetics class to supplement my education. It made a huge difference, I came to class very prepared. One summer while working, I listened to a European history class,  I enjoyed it so much I tracked down the e-mail address of the professor who taught it and thanked her. She responded and ended up giving me exclusive access to content she provided normally only to her students. The bottom line iTunes U has great content and offers a great user experience.

MIT's OpenCourseWare: MIT has had some lectures up for a few years now, however they recently expanded their offering with a dedicated website with over 2,000 classes to choose from. You can receive an incredible education for free. Even cooler if you so desire you can obtain certificates for completing courses.


Radio Lab is one of the best podcasts, definitely top three in my book or my blog... ha ha, sorry (bad joke) I couldn't resist. Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich entertain with rich and creative use of sound to illustrate intriguing human stories and science. These podcasts are intellectually stimulating and are delightfully entertaining. Give this podcast a shot you will not be sorry.

This American Life provides an intimate look at lives of Americans, go figure. There is a great mix between real stories and short works of fiction. Each podcast is topical and provides a number of angles and insights to life. The stories are entertaining: they will make you laugh out loud, nod in agreement, and sometimes feel somber with sympathy. The stories are well vetted and worth listening to.

Freaknomics Radio looks at a number of different aspects of culture and society but from a very analytical perspective, think quantitative, think economic. This results in a fresh and very interesting look into the world we live in. I highly recommend this podcast.

TED has a tagline that does well to describe what it is all about, "Ideas that are worth sharing". This organization finds and promotes people and more so their ideas. The presentations often comforts and inspires me. TED reminds me that there are actually people in the world that are actively trying to make it a better place. (More TED)

Grammar Girl These casts are really short, but they offer valuable tips on writing and grammar. They are fun, valuable, and they can be pretty entertaining too.

99% Invisible has been receiving great reviews and was recently featured on Radio Lab. This design podcast covers an array of interesting design topics. For example I recently listened to an episode on music design and they talked about an iOS app called RJDJ, this app uses your mobile device's mic to influence the sound being produced, creating a soundtrack. I have played with this app for about two years now, it is pretty interesting. If you want to hear an example of this app in action click the link to download a recording I made in the NYC JFK Airport (download). I really recommend listening to 99% invisible, it is worth it.

Stuff You Missed in History Class I have listened to over hundred of these short fact filled casts. The hosts are history gurus, they share mini-classes on different events or people of historical note. In short these podcasts are are a great way to get your history fix.

This list could go on and on... because there are podcasts on just about any subject you may be interested.

YouTube EDU Is similar to iTunes U in that it has a great deal of college lectures on there. There are some pros and cons to YouTube EDU. First the good is that it is accessible on just about any device and browser. This means that it can be far more handy than iTunes U. The bad however, is this resource is not nearly as organized as iTunes U. 

There are number of other resources that are out there. These are just some of my favorite resources to turn to for free education. I will add more to this post later.


NessaAnn said...

Dear Britton,
I am glad we have the exact same podcast list. :) We SHOULD be friends!

Britton Stanfill said...


Having the same podcast list as you totally validates their awesomeness!