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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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                                          Sarah White

                                          Freelance Writer, Editor, Professional Crafter

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                                          Last Updated on March 21, 2019

                                          11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

                                          11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

                                          Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

                                          You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

                                          But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

                                          To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

                                          It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

                                          “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

                                          The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

                                          In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

                                          Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

                                          1. Start Small

                                          The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

                                          Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

                                          Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

                                          Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

                                          Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

                                          Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

                                          It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

                                          Do less today to do more in a year.

                                          2. Stay Small

                                          There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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                                          But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

                                          If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

                                          When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

                                          I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

                                          Why?

                                          Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

                                          The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

                                          Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

                                          3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

                                          No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

                                          There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

                                          What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

                                          Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

                                          This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

                                          This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

                                          4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

                                          When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

                                          There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

                                          Peter Drucker said,

                                          “What you track is what you do.”

                                          So track it to do it — it really helps.

                                          But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

                                          5. Measure Once, Do Twice

                                          Peter Drucker also said,

                                          “What you measure is what you improve.”

                                          So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

                                          For reading, it’s 20 pages.
                                          For writing, it’s 500 words.
                                          For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
                                          For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

                                          Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

                                          6. All Days Make a Difference

                                          Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

                                          Will two? They won’t.

                                          Will three? They won’t.

                                          Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

                                          What happened? Which one made you fit?

                                          The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

                                          No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

                                          7. They Are Never Fully Automated

                                          Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

                                          But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

                                          What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

                                          It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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                                          The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

                                          It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

                                          It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

                                          8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

                                          Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

                                          Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

                                          When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

                                          The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

                                          Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

                                          9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

                                          The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

                                          Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

                                          You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

                                          But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

                                          So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

                                          If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

                                          This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

                                          The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

                                          Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

                                          10. Punish Yourself

                                          Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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                                          I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

                                          It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

                                          You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

                                          No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

                                          The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

                                          But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

                                          11. Reward Yourself

                                          When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

                                          Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

                                          The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

                                          After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

                                          If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

                                          Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

                                          If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

                                          In the End, It Matters

                                          What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

                                          When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

                                          And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

                                          “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

                                          Keep going.

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                                          More Resources to Help You Build Habits

                                          Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

                                          Reference

                                          [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
                                          [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
                                          [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
                                          [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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