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Published on May 6, 2021

10 Tools That Make Learning At Home More Efficient

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10 Tools That Make Learning At Home More Efficient

In a world where everybody is going more remote every day, it’s critical to keep a constant eye on your development and growth. You can never stop learning, so it’s more critical than ever to have the right tools for learning at your disposal and keep yourself on that path.

Whether you are a student or a professional continuing your education, the year 2020 has proved to be a metaphorical wrench thrown in the wheels of your learning. You found yourself physically isolated from your tribes and disconnected from your learning environments. Once again, technology came to the rescue, and many companies put out great new tools for learning meant to fill that very gap.

Some tools existed before, but they took off as their popularity exploded in recent years. You should take from this that these tools are not only saving grace in dire times, but you can also use them in your day-to-day process to make learning more efficient.

There are many aspects of learning, but in this context, I wanted to focus on four primary areas that are critical when it comes to distance learning or learning on your own:

  • Reading – the basic source of knowledge
  • Courses – advanced learning programs
  • Retaining information – making learning stick
  • Archiving your knowledge – finding and accessing your knowledgebase easily

“Learn as though you would never be able to master it; hold it as though you would be in fear of losing it.”—Confucius

Reading – The Source of Knowledge

A vast majority of learning happens through reading, and we often find sources of inspiration for our knowledge in books. You might find it challenging to identify the books you should read and, sometimes, you invest in a book only to learn mid-way that you’re not enjoying the style or that it simply doesn’t address what you need.

That’s why I believe that two apps, in particular, will come very handy to allow you to identify what to read while also getting a few golden nuggets along the way.

These apps are also beneficial when trying to find something new to learn, perhaps something totally outside of your comfort zone. They will help you sort through the tons of books out there and quickly figure out what sparks your interest.

1. Blinkist

    I’m an avid reader, and my biggest problem after going through the essential books on specific topics is finding new things to learn from. Especially since self-publishing became a thing, it’s becoming harder and harder to sort through all the options out there and pick something that will help and that you will enjoy, too.

    When I discovered Blinkist, I never looked back, and I must’ve read about fifty different books due to that. Blinkist picks books and summarizes them in a series of short audio snippets called blinks. Typically, a Blinkist entry takes about 15 minutes to listen to (or read, if you prefer).

    The app has a robust tagging system so you can select the books you need based on the type or based on others you’ve already read. This app will improve your efficiency in identifying new books to read and learn from. Also, it will help you waste a minimal amount of time finding out what books you shouldn’t waste your time on.

    Get Blinkist: Website | Apple iOS | Android

    2. Headway

      Headway is similar to Blinkist, but it’s a newer addition to the market. Their app is clean, and the user interface is intuitive and easy to use.

      The tool is excellent at identifying your reading patterns and suggests what to read next based on your history. Although their library is not as extensive as Blinkist’s for the time being, they put efforts into creating summaries for new books that hit the shelves, as well as some of the more widely known non-fiction books.

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      Get HeadwayWebsite | Apple iOS | Android

      Courses – Going Deeper

      The online course market is another industry that has exploded over the past few years. You can find courses on everything for all levels. Teachers come from all walks of life, sharing their specific knowledge through these convenient tools for learning.

      I must have gone through a dozen courses in the last year, and I found them easy to digest and consume and highly efficient. You can install these tools on your phone or tablet and use them while driving, during your workout, or before bedtime.

      Because the courses have different levels, you can start from a beginner course and see if that works for you. Later, you can upgrade to higher levels and continue to learn on that subject. You’ll find it particularly effective to combine a book you’ve identified with a course available on one of these apps in the same category.

      3. Udemy

        Udemy is a site and app that provides online learning through video courses. The content is varied, and it’s geared toward personal and professional development.

        The site itself is user-friendly, and finding what you need is straightforward. Because thousands of users are using the app, you benefit from many reviews and testimonials for each course.

        The one drawback for Udemy is that they don’t have a subscription model, so if you want to take many classes, you have to pay for each one individually. However, the app often provides significant discounts as the company is trying to attract more students.

        I love this site, and it’s one of my to-go every time I want to learn something new.

        Get UdemyWebsite | Apple iOS | Android

        4. Coursera

          Coursera is another excellent tool for learning, especially if you are looking to get a certificate and use it to apply for a job. Unlike Udemy, Coursera is more focused on academics, and for a fee, you can get a certificate that attests that you’ve completed the course.

          It’s not surprising that Coursera offers such accreditation since two professors from Stanford University created the platform. Currently, the site claims to have served 70 million students in 2020, with a year-over-year growth of 60%, which is a pretty impressive number.[1]

          What I love about Coursera is that they provide a subscription model that gives you access to all courses, unlimited, with certificates included. Of course, all courses are self-paced, so they are perfectly designed for effective learning from home or on the go.

          Get CourseraWebsite | Apple iOS | Android

          5. The Great Courses

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            If Coursera is geared mainly toward professional skills, The Great Courses offers a broader variety of classes for almost every hobby you can think of. The Great Courses has an upgrade program called The Great Courses Plus which offers a subscription model that gives unlimited access to their rich content.

            One great thing about The Great Courses is that they have professionally designed video courses led by some of the world’s best instructors and masters of each field. In addition to having a user-friendly interface, The Great Courses also integrates directly into the Roku TV player and is also available on Amazon Kindle.

            Get The Great CoursesWebsite | Apple iOS | Android

            Retaining Information – Long-Term Learning

            Retaining information is a critical part of learning. If you go through dozens of courses and read hundreds of books—although it’s good for you—it won’t be as good if you can’t retain most of it.

            Keep in mind that retaining doesn’t mean blindly memorizing everything you read or hear. It means organizing the essential aspects of what you learn in a way that makes it easy to search and access when you need it.

            That is why it’s important to have a system in place that is always at your fingertips and allows you to accumulate and create your personal learning database. Such tools for learning will organize, store, and logically connect all the bits and pieces of your education. At a later time, you’ll be able to retrieve the information and use it effectively.

            6. Anki

              Anki is a tool that will help you remember what you learn and retain information with more precision and for a longer time. It’s a study method that mimics that of paper flashcards, but its creators designed it to be more efficient than other traditional learning methods.

              The basic idea is that the system adapts to your current level and adjusts your learning accordingly. So, let’s say you are learning a new language, and you go through a set of flashcards. The app registers the answers you know, and you won’t get those question cards again for two weeks. Those that you don’t know at all will appear again tomorrow.

              By focusing on the power of repetition but avoiding things you already know well, you will learn and retain information highly efficiently.

              One of the best things about Anki? It’s free. The second best thing? You can find it as a download for both Windows and Mac, and also on mobile devices.

              Anki is an excellent tool for learning that will improve your memory and save you lots of time.

              Get AnkiWebsite | Apple iOS | Android

              7. Quizlet

                Quizlet is another app that aims to help you retain information. It’s a study aid that turns a simplistic flashcard system into a full-fledged learning system through its intelligent features.

                Quizlet is a perfect tool for learning at home at your own pace. The AI features built in the app allow it to adapt your learning path over time by targeting those areas where you struggle and limiting the recycling of information you’ve already got a good grip on.

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                At first sight, it might look like this app is limited to K-12 students. Still, it’s very well suited for advanced learners, including university students and professionals who want to sharpen their knowledge and skills.

                Get QuizletWebsite | Apple iOS | Android

                Archiving and Maintaining Your Knowledge Base

                No matter how good your memory is, you cannot rely exclusively on it, especially when your goal is to optimize your efficiency. That’s why you must add a robust system to your learning process that allows you to store what you learn and access it quickly when you need it.

                The goal here is to have the notes from your courses, book highlights, videos, and audio files, adequately organized, tagged, and labeled so that you can retrieve them with a few clicks.

                8. Diigo

                  Diigo is a beautiful addition to your tools for learning arsenal. As the time you spend online grows, the chances you encounter interesting information increases as well.

                  There are opportunities to learn all around you, but often they fly right by due to the sheer volume and speed of information—but not if you use a tool like Diigo.

                  Diigo is a personal information management and organization system that allows you to bookmark, highlight or outline, tag, and archive any information you encounter on the web. You capture data on the go, and you put it in your learning queue for later.

                  Get DiigoWebsite | Apple iOS | Android | Chrome

                  9. Evernote

                    Evernote is one of the veteran apps in the note-taking universe. It started in the early 2000s and was among the first companies to fully embrace mobile integration and cross-device synchronization.

                    There are similarities between Diigo and Evernote, but the main difference is that Diigo is focused on collecting content, whereas Evernote also allows users to create content.

                    You can take notes using their intuitive WYSIWYG editor, and share and organize them in folders, by tags, or in notebooks.

                    Overall, I believe Evernote is a crucial app to use if you want to become more efficient in your learning. Their apps allow you to take photo snapshots, convert them to PDF, and archive them. If the scan can be converted to text, then it is also indexed for easy search.

                    Get EvernoteWebsite | Apple iOS | Android | Chrome

                    10. Notion

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                      Notion is a lot more than a note-taking app. It’s an entire system that you can set up as your personal learning hub. At its core, Notion is a database that you can design to hold your notes intuitively and provides you easy access to your information.

                      Because it works with any media, you can save video webinars, audio courses, or entire books or PDFs. There’s almost nothing that you can’t do in Notion, and it almost sounds too good to be true.

                      There’s a catch, of course. Notion has a little bit of a learning curve, and most people don’t find it easy to use from the get-go. But with a bit of practice and a little time, I think it will do wonders for your learning, and soon you will drop all other methods of collecting knowledge.

                      Get NotionWebsite | Apple iOS | Android

                      Bonus: Brain Training – Keeping Yourself Sharp

                      There’s one more category I want to add as a bonus. Keeping your mind fresh and active is vital no matter where you are in life. Your brain is like a muscle and, when it comes to learning, consistency over intensity is critical.

                      Small bursts of brain activation over time will improve your creative thinking and will make your brain more effective at learning. So, I consider these apps an integral part of your tools for learning arsenal.

                      Because we are looking at improving your effectiveness, these tools are perfect because they provide small lessons and exercises that can be practice anytime and won’t take long. You might find yourself opening these apps while waiting in a long line at the grocery store or while waiting to see your doctor.

                      Overall, they provide you with a quick and effective way to sharpen your brain, which will improve your ability to learn and retain information over time.

                      Here are three excellent brain training apps to help you boost your learning.

                      Final Thoughts

                      Learning is not a requirement but a responsibility. The idea that you complete your learning during school and then life follows is antiquated, and we need to change that mindset for good.

                      Every one of us has room to grow, and when learning falls at the bottom of our priority list, you will plateau sooner or later. Only by allocating deliberate time for learning and showing up every day will you be able to grow, improve yourself, and lead a happier and fulfilled life.

                      When you learn on your own at home, the danger is falling prey to procrastination or lacking direction. That is why having the right tools for learning at your disposal is so critical. They will improve your efficiency, motivate you, and help you track your progress, simulating the classroom environment.

                      However, these tools for learning are just the beginning. I urge you never to stop questioning your status quo and constantly asking yourself, “what else can I learn? Where else can I find information that is easy to get, quick to digest, and will help me and my life?”

                      Happy learning!

                      More Tips for Self-Learners

                      Featured photo credit: Maxim Ilyahov via unsplash.com

                      Reference

                      [1] Coursera: Coursera Impact Report

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                      Iulian Ionescu

                      Passionate about self-growth and productivity

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                      Last Updated on August 11, 2021

                      23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

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                      23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

                      Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless. Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent, free online education awaits on the following 23 sites.

                      1. Coursera

                      Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

                      Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

                      Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups. However, the free courses are now quite limited, so you’ll have to

                      2. Khan Academy

                      Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well-organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

                      Among the more well-known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly user-friendly, which may make it easier to keep learning goals. If you’re looking for a free online education, you can’t go wrong with Khan Academy.

                      3. Open Culture Online Courses

                      If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos, and podcasts from universities around the world.

                      The site features a lot of material found only on universities’ private sites, all in easy-to-browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses without having to visit and search each university’s site.

                      Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales, and many state universities around the United States. It’s a very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

                      4. Udemy 

                      Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

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                      Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top-quality content. This is another site, however, that mixes free and paid content.

                      5. Lifehack Fast Track Class

                      Lifehack believes in skills that multiply your time, energy, and overall quality of life.

                      In this rapidly changing world, traditional education skills just don’t cut it anymore. You can’t afford to take years learning a skill you’ll never really practice. Besides offering some paid courses that will help you become a better self, it offers a list of free courses which aim to train some of the Core Life Multipliers including:

                      These are cross-functional skills that work across many aspects of life.

                      6. Academic Earth

                      Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

                      Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

                      7. edX

                      Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics from universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley, meaning a high-quality, free online education is entirely possible here.

                      8. Alison

                      Unlike the previous sites on this list, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

                      It’s a great option if users need a professional certificate for their learning, as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

                      9. iTunesU Free Courses

                      A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

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                      Desktop users can access iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

                      Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including by genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos and paid content.

                      iTunesU does include courses on a variety of topics, but it does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

                      10. Stanford Online

                      Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session-based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

                      Stanford Online is a great site for high-quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school. If you’re looking for free courses, make sure to mark the “free” option on the left-hand side.

                      11. Open Yale Courses

                      Open Yale Courses echoes Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses but learn better by watching than by reading.

                      12. UC Berkeley Class Central

                      Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but it includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts, and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

                      13. MIT OpenCourseWare

                      Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, and it includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

                      14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

                      Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list. However, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics, but for the topics that are covered, impressive, in-depth material is available.

                      15. Codecademy

                      Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

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                      The courses at Codecademy are well-written and easy to follow, and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, and it organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

                      16. Code

                      Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high-quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

                      In addition to kid-friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics, and Javascript.

                      Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

                      17. University of Oxford Podcasts

                      The University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

                      The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. This is another great site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

                      18. BBC Podcasts

                      For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

                      Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

                      19. TED-Ed

                      Another great destination for more general learning and free online education is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all-encompassing, motivational web series comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

                      Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, but it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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                      20. LessonPaths

                      LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high-quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

                      21. Memrise

                      Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

                      Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

                      22. National Geographic Kids

                      The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid-friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keep kids interested on this site.

                      National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

                      23. Fun Brain

                      Fun Brain is another great option for kids looking for free online education, as it focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game-based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

                      Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and it is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

                      The Bottom Line

                      With so many amazing free online education resources, everyone has the ability to boost their skills and knowledge. Whether you’re interested in picking up some interesting trivia for your next party, improve your resume with some coding or business skills, or become a more well-rounded person, these resources are perfect for you.

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                      Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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