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20 Places to Educate Yourself Online for Free

20 Places to Educate Yourself Online for Free

It seems like these days you can learn just about anything online for free, but of course some of that information is better than others. The good news is there are plenty of reputable places to educate yourself online for free, and here’s a good 20 of them to get you started.

1. Coursera

The coolest thing about Internet learning is that you can take college courses which in the past were only available to people who forked over immense sums of money to attend elite colleges. Coursera brings a bunch of those classes together into one site, offering nearly 400 courses ranging from Introduction to Guitar from Berklee College of Music to Constitutional Law from Yale.

Courses typically include videos and certain coursework (such as online quizzes) that must be completed in a certain amount of time, as these courses are monitored by a professor. Stop by regularly to see what’s new, or search for topics that interest you can put them on a watch list so you’ll be notified when a new class begins.

Coursera

    2. Khan Academy

    Home to more than 3,000 videos on subjects ranging from SAT prep to cosmology, art history to calculus, Khan Academy is a great place to learn. Detailed courses are broken into smaller sections of text or videos for ease of learning that fits into your schedule, and all are self-paced so you can spend as much or as little time with the subject as you like.

    You can also leave comments or ask questions if you want more information or if something isn’t clear in the lessons.

    Khan Academy

      3. OpenCourseWare

      The OpenCourseWare Consortium is a worldwide effort to make college and university level course materials accessible for free on the Internet. Search for a specific topic that interests you, or search by language (20 are available) or the source of the coursework.

      There are more than 5,000 classes in English alone, covering everything from statistical thermodynamics (Middle East Technical University) to Epidemics in South African History (University of Cape Town) and Creole Language and Culture (University of Notre Dame).

      OpenCourseWare

        4. ALISON

        A global-learning resource with courses in English, French and German, ALISON covers everything from SAT prep to health and safety courses required in Ireland. There are lessons on everything from study skills to American copyright law, currency exchange to nonprofit fundraising, and general accounting to negotiating when buying a house.

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        Completion of a course grants you “certification,” which is a British designation, but it’s still kind of fun.

        Screen Shot 2013-07-22 at 12.20.33 PM

          5. MIT Open Courseware

          If you always wanted to attend a big-name school like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, now you can do the next best thing by taking many of its courses for free from your home on your own time. The MIT Open Courseware site posts course materials from a wide variety of classes you can search by department.

          Choosing a course will show you when it was originally taught and by whom, and will give you access to the syllabus, course calendar, readings, assignments and study materials. You can download the course materials and work through the course at your own pace.

          MIT Open Courseware

            6. Academic Earth

            If you’d like a broader collection of courses than MIT provides, Academic Earth is a great place to look. This free course aggregator has a stunning collection of courses from around 50 universities across the globe. You can search by source or general subject.

            Don’t miss the curated playlists on topics such as natural laws, the nature of evil and the economic crisis. The video electives—with subjects like how to take a punch and why World War II made us fat—are lots of fun, too.

            Academic Earth

              7. Open Learning Institute

              The Open Learning Institute from Carnegie Mellon University allows access to a handful of course materials so you can learn at your own pace from the same kind of materials and self-guided assessments that would be used in a classroom. Their offerings are limited, but there’s a lot of detail in the coursework. Instructor-led courses are also sometimes available.

              Open Learning Institute

                8. Open Culture

                This site isn’t very pretty, but Open Culture does boast a collection of more than 700 downloadable courses, including college-level, certificate-bearing classes, language lessons, educational materials for K-12 and more.

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                There are also just some interesting links that aren’t to courses but you’ll still learn something from, such as this post on a reading list suggested by Ernest Hemingway.

                One culture

                  9. Open Education Database

                  The well-designed Open Education Database claims more than 10,000 courses from universities from around the world. Search by topic and you’ll see the number of full courses, as well as which courses have audio lessons, video lessons or mixed media, so you can learn in whatever way you like.

                  You can also use this site to learn about online and offline schools, should you choose to continue your education in a more formal way.

                  Open Education Database

                    10. iTunes U

                    Many of these same online courses can be accessed away from your computer with the help of iTunes U, a free app that can be downloaded to you iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. It says that it includes 500,000 different courses, with material ranging from elementary school to college-level.

                    There’s also educational material here from respected institutions like the New York Public Library and MoMA. You can also add notes to the videos, share with friends and keep your course materials in iBooks so you have everything you need to learn wherever you are.

                    iTunes U

                      11. TED

                      The TED talks are a legendary source of information on all sorts of topics, and any discussion of how to educate yourself for free online needs to include them. There are now thousands of videos on all sorts of topics available on the site.

                      If you’re a fan of whimsy you can also get the site to suggest a fascinating, beautiful or informative video for you, among other tags. This may not be formal education but it certainly can be life-changing.

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                      TED

                        12. 99U

                        Love videos by experts on all sorts of topics? After you visit TED, check out 99U, which is another great source of educational videos on all sorts of topics. It has a strong focus on the subject of creativity, business development and innovation, so it’s sure to be of interest if you’re an entrepreneur or in a creative line of work.

                        99U

                          13. Ignite

                          If you want to learn something new and you’re really pressed for time, check out Ignite videos. The purpose of this series of speaking events is to have each person share something innovative or inspiring in just five minutes. Sounds silly, but you can get a big dose of greatness in a short amount of time.

                          Ignite

                            14. Wikiversity

                            If you prefer your learning to be text-based, check out Wikiversity. As you might imagine, this site is part of the Wikimedia Foundation and includes detailed pages on a variety of subjects. It includes information of value to learners from preschool to college and beyond, and like other wiki projects is open-source and collaborative.

                            This is a good site or browsing, and the “random” button is a lot of fun.

                            Wikiversity

                              15. Project Gutenberg

                              Access more than 4,200 free ebooks at Project Gutenberg, an excellent source for public domain books from throughout history as well as contemporary free ebooks. You’ll find literature, historic documents, nonfiction books on all sorts of subjects and much more, all free and downloadable to your computer or ereader.

                              Screen Shot 2013-07-22 at 12.30.13 PM

                                16. Bartleby

                                A similar resource is Bartleby, which boasts a large collection of reference works, poetry, fiction and nonfiction. There are some really great resources here such as The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction, Oxford Shakespeare, Bullfinch’s Mythology, Bartlett’s Quotations and much more.

                                This is a great site to look at if you’re looking for quotes about a specific subject or just want to delve into the classics you probably should have read in school.

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                                Bartleby

                                  17. The Free Library

                                  Boasting a collection of more than 21 million free articles and books, The Free Library is the place to go for access to newspapers, magazines, journal articles (from 1984 to the present) and classic books. It’s a great place to start if you’re doing research for an academic paper or just want to find out more about a particular topic.

                                  You can search by keyword or browse by source, topic or author, or just look at random articles and see what develops.

                                  The Free Library
                                    udacity

                                      18. Udacity

                                      Video courses in math, computer science, business, physics and psychology are available for free at Udacity. This clean site is easy to navigate and has the added bonus of a little icon next to the videos that shows you how advanced a course is so you know to start with an easier course if you’re new to a subject.

                                      Screen Shot 2013-07-22 at 12.42.26 PM

                                        19. YouTube

                                        It seems that just about anything you could ever want to learn is available these days on YouTube for instant, bite-sized, free consumption. Browse channels to find general topics that interest you, or search for the specific thing you want to learn and you’ll be on your way in no time.

                                        There are more than 6,000 channels in the science and education section, more than 600 in cooking and nearly 2,000 in DIY, so whatever you want to educate yourself about you’re sure to find something good here.

                                        youtube

                                          20. Google, etc.

                                          The search engines are a great place to start if you have something specific you are looking for. Google in particular provides a great overview of subjects right in your browser. Search for a person and you’ll get a mini bio without clicking on any other pages, and you’ll have lots of places to go for more information. This is your best bet if you’re looking for specialized information, because all of these sites are general and Google can let you know the best places to go to find exactly what you’re looking for.

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                                          Last Updated on January 6, 2021

                                          14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

                                          14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

                                          Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

                                          In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

                                          For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

                                          For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

                                          Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

                                          Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

                                          Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

                                          How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

                                          Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

                                          1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

                                          Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

                                          For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

                                          2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

                                          Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

                                          Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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                                          Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

                                          3. Create a System

                                          Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

                                          This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

                                          You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

                                          Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

                                          Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

                                          4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

                                          We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

                                          If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

                                          Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

                                          Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

                                          5. Use a Ratings Scale

                                          Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

                                          Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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                                          It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

                                          6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

                                          This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

                                          You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

                                          You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

                                          7. Offer Feedback Forms

                                          Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

                                          First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

                                          Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

                                          You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

                                          8. Track Cost Effectiveness

                                          This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

                                          Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

                                          Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

                                          9. Use Self-Evaluations

                                          Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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                                          Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

                                          10. Monitor Time Management

                                          This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

                                          Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

                                            The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

                                            While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

                                            11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

                                            We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

                                            Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

                                            For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

                                            Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

                                            Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

                                            From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

                                            12. Utilize Peer Feedback

                                            This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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                                            Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

                                            Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

                                            It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

                                            13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

                                            When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

                                            Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

                                            Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

                                            14. Use an External Evaluator

                                            Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

                                            They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

                                            While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

                                            Final Thoughts

                                            These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

                                            The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

                                            The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

                                            More Productivity Tips

                                            Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

                                            Reference

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