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Published on September 3, 2020

10 Free Learning Tools Best for Self Learners

10 Free Learning Tools Best for Self Learners

Having both the curiosity and passion to explore the world in all of its aspects is rewarding in itself. Acquiring new skills without having to take expensive university or adult-learning courses and learning tools can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

Most of all, self-learning is an invaluable and productive way to channel energy during difficult times. COVID-19 pandemic lockdown is one of those times, with countless people stuck at home and struggling with low learning and working productivity.

To help you on your journey of self-growth and discovery, here are 10 of the best free learning tools currently available for self-learners. Study on!

1. Khan Academy

Khan Academy is one of the most popular learning tools out there. From Macroeconomics to Shakespeare, Khan Academy offers over 4000 free courses from a huge variety of disciplines. A personalized learning dashboard lets learners track their progress.

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One of the best things about the platform is that it is available in many other languages other than English, such as French and Spanish. It also has a mobile app to keep your learning on the go.

2. Duolingo

Speaking of learning on-the-go, Duolingo is also one of the most popular mobile learning apps out there and for good reason. The app offers you the opportunity to learn a language in bite-sized units.

Flashcards, multiple-choice questions, and translation exercises help you pick up vocabulary and grammar. If you want to get started learning a new language—from Spanish to Mandarin Chinese—Duolingo can give you an excellent foundation, if not complete fluency.

3. SoloLearn

Coding is among the most valuable skills in today’s job market. SoloLearn provides learning tools that can help you acquire coding skills for free, requiring only your time and effort. It offers a massive collection of free learning content for all levels—from beginner coders to experts in staple languages, such as C++, Python, and JavaScript.

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4. Coursera

Often hailed as the best online learning platform out there, Coursera collaborates with almost 200 top educational institutions and companies involved in various fields of research. From tech giants like Google and IBM to Ivy League schools, online course content is available for free in this platform.

5. Bookboon

If you’re the learner type who likes text and text only—no explanatory videos required, thank you very much!—then Bookboon is a great resource for you. This site offers over 50 million eBooks and textbooks on just about any subject that you can think of. From an introduction to essay writing to the philosophy of artificial intelligence, Bookboon has you covered.

6. The University of Oxford

England’s oldest university offers over 600 online courses, sets of teaching materials, and lecture series on its open education platform. This makes it one of the most invaluable learning tools on the internet.

Unlike on other platforms such as Coursera and Khan Academy, Oxford’s courses and lectures are not laid out to give introductions to broad topics. Instead, learners can deep-dive into specific mesmerizing subjects, such as hegemonic narratives, the late works of Schumann, or the performance history of Medea.

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7. edX

Much broader in terms of online courses is edX. Like Coursera, it partners with numerous universities and learning institutions to provide courses in topics from computer science to engineering. The levels this platform provides range from introductory courses—like Entrepreneurship 101—to those covering advanced content—like the Economics of Energy Transition.

8. iTunesU

Apple users may be more familiar with this learning tool. Available as an iOS app, Apple’s iTunesU offers courses on a wide variety of subjects.

From an introduction to financial markets and a how-to for founding a startup to AP Biology and developing iOS Apps with Swift, this platform makes a variety of topics accessible at the high school and university levels. Another plus—it offers access to many of The Open University’s resources.

9. Codecademy

Like SoloLearn, Codecademy is a platform that will give you a doorway to the fantastic world of programming—for free. From R and Python to Ruby, Javascript, and C++, Codecademy can provide you with the tools to tackle everything from web design to game development.

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10. Udemy

Finally, Udemy is another repository of online courses with over 150,000 courses taught in 65 languages. Subjects range from photography over blogging to finance. Lectures include a variety of text, audio, and video elements, as well as multiple-choice questions and mini-quizzes.

This learning platform allows you to take your learning content with you wherever you go since Udemy also offers apps for iOS and Android.

Final Thoughts

If you know where to look, the internet is a paradise for autodidacts. Learning and higher education have never been more accessible. Though some sites above may require payment for certificates, their courses offer the opportunity to acquire new knowledge and skills for free.

With enough passion and dedication, these resources and learning tools can help you boost your personal development and abilities—and to discover the world, one lesson at a time.

More Learning Tools That You Can Use

Featured photo credit: Avel Chuklanov via unsplash.com

More by this author

Tanvir Zafar

The founder of ISU Technologies, passionate in writing about productivity, creativity, entrepreneurship, work and technology.

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Published on January 19, 2021

What Is Learning by Doing And Why Is It Effective?

What Is Learning by Doing And Why Is It Effective?

The list of teaching techniques is ever-expanding as there are multiple ways for us to gain knowledge. As a result, there are multiple techniques out there that leverage those particular skills. One such technique I want to share with you is learning by doing.

This technique has been around for a long time, and it’s a surprisingly effective one thanks to the various perks that come with it. Also called experiential learning, I’ll be sharing with you my knowledge on the subject, what it is deep down, and why it’s such an effective learning tool.

What Is Learning by Doing?

Learning by doing is the simple idea that we are capable of learning more about something when we perform the action.

For example, say you’re looking to play a musical instrument and were wondering how all of them sound and mix. In most other techniques, you’d be playing the instrument all by yourself in a studio. Learning by doing instead gives you a basic understanding of how to play the instrument and puts you up on a stage to play an improvised piece with other musicians.

Another way to think about this is by taking a more active approach to something as opposed to you passively learning about it. The argument is that active engagement provides deeper learning and that it’s okay if you make mistakes as you learn from those as well. This mentality brought forth a new name for this technique: experiential learning.

What Are Its Benefits?

Experimental learning has been around for eons now. It was Aristotle who wrote that “for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

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Over the years, that way of thinking changed and developed and for a time was lost once computers were integrated into schools. It’s only been in recent years where schools have adopted this technique again. It’s clear why teachers are encouraging this as it offers five big benefits.

1. It’s More Engaging and More Memorable

The first benefit is that it’s more engaging and memorable. Since this requires action on your part, you’re not going to be able to weaken your performance. This is big since, traditionally, you’d learn from lectures, books, or articles, and learners could easily read—or not read—the text and walk away with no knowledge at all from it.

When you are forced into a situation where you have to do what you need to learn, it’s easier to remember those things. Every action provides personalized learning experiences, and it’s where motivation is built. That motivation connects to what is learned and felt. It teaches that learning is relevant and meaningful.

Beyond that, this experience allows the opportunity for learners to go through the learning cycle that involves extended effort, mistakes, and reflection, followed by refinement of strategies.

2. It Is More Personal

Stemming from the reason mentioned above, learning by doing offers a personal experience. Referring back to the cycle of effort, mistakes, reflection, and refinement, this cycle is only possible through personal emotions—the motivation and realization of knowledge of a particular topic tying into your values and ideals.

This connection is powerful and thus, offers a richer experience than reading from a book or articles such as this one. That personal connection is more important as it encourages exploration and curiosity from learners.

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If you’ve always wanted to bake a cake or cook a unique dish, you could read up on it or watch a video. Or you could get the ingredients and start going through it all yourself. Even if you make mistakes now, you have a better grasp of what to do for the next time you try it out. You’re also more invested in that since that’s food that you made with the intention of you having it.

3. It Is Community-Connected

Learning by doing involves the world at large rather than sitting alone in your room or a library stuck in a book. Since the whole city is your classroom technically, you’re able to leverage all kinds of things. You’re able to gather local assets and partners and connect local issues to larger global themes.

This leans more into the personal aspect that this technique encourages. You are part of a community, and this form of learning allows you to interact more and make a connection with it—not necessarily with the residents but certainly the environment around it.

4. It’s More Integrated Into People’s Lives

This form of learning is deeply integrated into our lives as well. Deep learning occurs best when learners can apply what they’ve learned in a classroom setting to answer questions around them that they care about.

Even though there is a lot of information out there, people are still always asking “what’s in it for me?” Even when it comes to learning, people will be more interested if they know that what they are learning is vital to their very way of life in some fashion. It’s forgettable if they’re unable to tie knowledge in with personal aspects of their lives. Thus, experiential learning makes the application of knowledge simpler.

5. It Builds Success Skills

The final benefit of learning by doing is that it builds up your skills for success. Learning by doing encourages you to step out of your comfort zone, discover something new, and try things out for the first time. You’re bound to make a mistake or two, but this technique doesn’t shame you for it.

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As a result, learning by doing can build your initiative for new things as well as persistence towards growth and development in a field. This could also lead to team management and collaboration skill growth. These are all vital things in personal growth as we move towards the future.

How to Get Started

While all these perks are helpful for you, how are you going to start? Well, there are several different approaches that you can take with this. Here are some of them that come to mind.

1. Low-Stakes Quizzes

In classroom settings, one way to introduce this technique is to have many low-stakes quizzes. These quizzes aren’t based on assessing one’s performance. Instead, these quizzes are designed to have learners engage with the content and to generate the learned information themselves.

Research shows that this method is an effective learning technique.[1] It allows students to improve their understanding and recall and promotes the “transfer” of knowledge to other settings.

2. Type of Mental Doing

Another approach is one that Psychologist Rich Mayer put together. According to him, learning is a generative activity.[2] His knowledge and the research done in his lab at Santa Barbara have repeatedly shown that we gain expertise by doing an action, but the action is based on what we already know.

For example, say you want to learn more about the Soviet dictator Stalin. All you need to do is link what you do know—that Stalin was a dictator—and link it to what you want to learn and retain. Stalin grew up in Georgia, killed millions of people, centralized power in Russia, and assisted in the victory of World War 2. This technique even applies to the most simple of memory tasks as our brain learns and relearns.

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3. Other Mental Activities

The final method I’ll share with you is taking the literal approach—getting out there and getting your hands dirty so to speak. But how you go about that is up to you. You could try reading an article and then going out and applying it immediately—like you could with this article. Or maybe you could find further engagement through puzzles or making a game out of the activity that you’re doing.

For example, if you wanted to learn about animal behavior patterns, you can read about them, go out to watch animals, and see if they perform the specific behaviors that you read about.

Final Thoughts

Learning by doing encourages active engagement with available materials and forces you to work harder to remember the material. It’s an effective technique because it helps ingrain knowledge into your memory. After all, you have a deeper personal connection to that knowledge, and you’ll be more motivated to use it in the future.

With that in mind, I encourage you to take what you’ve learned from reading this article and apply that in the real world. It’s only going to benefit you as you grow.

Featured photo credit: Van Tay Media via unsplash.com

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