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Lifelong learning online for free

Posted by kiwiscanfly on May 6, 2007

Google is working under the radar supporting free online education; why not take advantage of it?

Learning online for free is not easy; it requires putting together information from countless sources, which can sometimes lead to “fuzzy” ideas if you don’t take notes. Of course the flip side is that the learning is truly self directed, you can literally learn whatever you want, whenever you want, and however you want. Plus everything can be explained from different perspectives; if you don’t understand a concept from the way one person explains it, you can hear it from someone else. Videos definitely have their advantages; the visual nature is good for diagrams and such, but like real life, the body language idiosyncrasies can be quite off-putting in some of them. These are smart people, not presenters, and it must be quite difficult to talk to a camera & pretend it’s a classroom. Audio-only can be pretty good, but easier for the real world to barge in and distract, this is especially true if you listen while doing mundane tasks. Text is best to fill in the blanks; this is why taking notes is so important, so that you can see what you don’t know.

The cycles of learning are fundamentally the same for everyone; they occur naturally but I find that the whole process works best when working to the following 5 stages.

Conception is when you state your
learning objectives or think “I need to learn more about that”, think of any test projects that you could create in the deep dive phase.

Definition is your first search query, your trip to Wikipedia, your chat with someone (expert) who knows something about the general topic that your problem(s) surround (problem domain), that sort of thing.

Exploration is middle-clicking on the links in your Wikipedia article, it’s scooba-diving over the general topics that surround your learning objectives. Get your resources, read the blogs, define any terms you don’t understand, they’ll bite you in the arse if you don’t understand them during your deep dive.

Deep dive into your objectives as soon as you think you understand the general domain, you’ll soon find out if you do, this is where you tackle the difficult problems, the exceptions to the rules, the frontiers of the ideas.

Evaluate the process, what were you thinking? How many crazy ideas did you have during your definition phase that were proven completely wrong during the deep dive?

Berkeley has quite a few videos of their lectures on google video the first of which was Physics 10: Physics for future presidents, I certainly enjoyed it although it did get dry in places. SIMS 141Search Engines: Technology, Society, and Business looks pretty good, but not my cup of tea. AST 210/EE 213Applied Science & Technology 210 / Electrical Engineering 213: Soft X-Rays and Extreme Ultraviolet Radiation might also be good.

has some really good offerings with their Stanford on iTunes site, where they have their full lectures freely available. For their shorter entrepreneur centric content Stanford has their educators corner.

Google is a really popular source of good educational content; the Google EDU lecture series is particularly notable.

Learn out Loud offers both free and pay content on their website but has the “Internet’s largest directory of free audio & video learning resources”, expect to be searching for hours.

Instructables has videos for the DIY enthusiast in their web collaboration tool.

Free Science Online is a blog that offers links to numerous videos, has a really comprehensive list of streaming, downloadable, & courseware courses available from universities.

BBC has a collection of download-able courses and an incredibly massive collection of interactive doodads.

Free-Ed offers simple courses based on free e-books.

Microsoft has had for a while a plethora of videos available for developers, project managers, business people, etc.

The Teaching Company gives out free “chapters” of their high quality audio books on their website.

CourseWare A massive directory of download-able courses with content that include video and other media.


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