SOCIAL MEDIA

10 April 2015

Getting Educated...For Free!

Let me start by saying that in my opinion, education is a worthwhile investment of money. I believe that teachers and tutors should be paid well, and that it's worth it to pay good money for high-quality educational curricula, textbooks, and computer programs. My absolute favorite homeschool curriculum is a very pricey one, and I think the education it provides is worth every penny.

But!

I have a preK-12th grade private home education, a B.A. from a private university, a cosmetology license from a 10-month course, and a TEFL certificate.

Thousands upon thousands of dollars have already been invested in my education, and at some point, I just want to be able to continue learning on my own without having to continually pay for more courses.


Here are a few of the resources I've found helpful in my studies recently:

Khan Academy

I heard about this through my almost 16 year old sister, who is using it for SAT prep.  I decided that with a brother working on his computer engineering degree and a long-standing history as a writer on the internet, it wouldn't be a bad idea for me to get more comfortable with the world of computers, so I've already worked my way through their intro to computer programming course and have started on the second, with plans to work my way through all of their computer courses. This website seems strongly math-focused, with math courses from kindergarten level all the way up to college-level, so if I ever decide to regret that I only took one math course in college, I know exactly where to go.

DuoLingo

I think this program is really cool, but I'll admit that I don't really make use of it. It's all about language learning, but currently, the only available languages are European in origin, and I tend to not be interested in learning European languages. But I'm keeping it in mind for when I want to polish up my Spanish.

Memrise

I've used this solely for Mandarin Chinese, but that's not what it's all about. There are many, many different courses available--my parents have used a few of their Bahasa Indonesia courses. They have non-language courses, too. This program works a lot like digital flashcards, so it's great for memorizing vocabulary words, but not so great for learning how to put sentences together.

WolframAlpha

This site is an incredibly detailed data-providing search engine. You know how whenever you want to quick learn some facts about a random person or historical event, you'll go to Wikipedia? I think the best way to describe this site is a little like Wikipedia, only with a much better looking design, and with the ability to answer far more questions. The site is heavily loaded with data, so if you're looking for numerical facts, or answers to scientific or mathematical problems, it's fantastic!

Popup Chinese

This is an amazing, free audio resource. Thousands of podcasts and accompanying dialogue transcripts are available at every level from beginner Mandarin to very advanced, and they are free to listen to online, although a premium membership (with a fee) will allow you to download them all. The nature of these podcasts means that they provide far more listening practice and grammar instruction than Memrise ever could. I've been faithfully listening to intermediate-level podcasts from the archives every day, and I've come to really appreciate the slightly twisted sense of humor which appears to be their trademark.

Yoyo Chinese

This is not really free, or, at least the number of free video lessons is very small compared to the number of lessons available for paid students. Video lessons from Yoyo Chinese are loaded onto Youtube by the user Yang Yang Cheng, and although comparatively few of them are actually free, I am extremely impressed by the design of the videos as well as by her teaching style. I would consider paying for this program except that from the sample videos, what's available is a bit below my level. Still, the videos available on Youtube are very fun to watch and provide great listening practice, so I've tried to convince Angel to watch these Youtube videos as our evening entertainment. I'm signed up for her weekly emails, which sometimes have cool resources--recently she sent out one with a link to the Youtube video of a Mandarin pop song that's actually understandable at my level, and I thought that was a lot of fun--I tend to find songs pretty difficult to understand (it's not like I can understand all English pop songs, after all....). If you're interested, check out Lao Shu Ai Da Mi ("Mice Love Rice"). It's silly, but I can understand the song and even sing it and write the lyrics so I'm impressed with myself. Are we allowed to say things like that?

Growing Up with Chinese

Apparently, I'm really into internet-based language learning tools. This is a 100 episode series produced in conjunction with CCTV. The early episodes are very basic, but I started watching somewhere in the middle of the series, and have enjoyed the listening practice they offer, as well as the introduction to various Chinese idioms (my knowledge of idioms is regrettably lacking). I'm finding myself getting weirdly invested into the continuing stories surrounding Xiao Ming and Lan Lan. Maybe I need a break from watching educational videos...

edX

University courses in which lecture materials have been uploaded online. You can choose which courses you're interested in and work your way through them at your own pace (usually). I think there are some options for paying for a "Verified Certificate" that you have completed the course, but I'm skeptical of that service as I don't see a huge value in Certificates purchased via the internet. Still, the courses are very interesting--it's fun to hear actual college lectures again without the pressure of looming exams. I enrolled myself in a few, including one on the Art of Teaching, which doesn't start till next week. I love my job, and it can't be a bad idea to learn more about it, right?

Obviously, these websites are skewed toward my particular interests, which are, perennially, Mandarin Chinese and other languages, and lately, computer stuff. What sites have you found useful in your own educational pursuits?

26 comments :

  1. These are awesome resources! I really need to brush up on my Mandarin and I'd love to teach myself Spanish, so I'm definitely gonna be looking into these! :]

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  2. I had heard of a few of these but I didn't realize there were so many options! I will have to check them out!

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  3. This is an amazing resource! I love edX and I've heard so much about Duolingo. There is also a free website called Coursera that is similar to edX, which you might be interested in. Thanks for writing this - I am such a nerd about these things, so I will definitely be bookmarking it!

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  4. i'm using duolingo to learn some spanish before I move to spain this summer! <3

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  5. These are really useful courses. Shawn has been doing a maths course on Khan academy for the past 4 or so months, starting from basically 5yro maths up to university level. He's really enjoying! I started doing a cooking science course with Edx, which was so interesting, but we were traveling at the time so I couldn't do the pracs :(

    And I'm like you, I've spent maybe $60,000 - $70,000 (and paid it all off a few years ago, yay for paying off student loans!) on a law degree and a media degree, so I'm all for the free education lately!

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  6. I heard about a young student from Mongolia signing on to take a free class offered from an Ivy League school (can't remember which one) he passed with flying colors and was essentially offered a full scholarship! So cool!

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  7. This is really cool to read about! Thanks for sharing!
    Melanie @ meandmr.com

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  8. Great post, Rachel....I take a few EdX courses a year (to keep my brain a little beyond just fatigued/barely ticking over) and I'm always absolutely amazed that they're offered for free. It's really incredible there's such a resource there, free! I didn't know about WolframAlpha...thanks for that recommendation.

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  9. Great resources! I'm pretty sure I'm done with formal education after graduating from college, but I never want to stop learning so it's good to know there are options for free education out there!

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  10. Love this!! I am all about homemade learning and these are fantastic resources. Can't wait to check them out :)

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  11. I'd also recommend Coursera... I'm going to be checking out memrise and see what Hindi resource exist!

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  12. This is awesome and so much useful information. Thanks for sharing this.

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  13. So cool! I am between high school and college and recently started some courses from Great Courses...they aren't are pricey but not bad if you get them on sale...I love learning, especially without the pressure of deadlines, tests or deadlines. Also, I've heard Coursera has some free courses as well but I haven't had a chance to check them out yet. Thanks for sharing!

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  14. DuoLingo and Wolfram Alpha are such great resources! And I've had so many teachers recommend Khan Academy. I think one of my favorite websites has got to be https://www.ted.com/ though; practically every course I've ever taken has shown a video lecture from this organization!

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  15. I use DuoLingo now for Spanish and it is great! I'm going to save the Mandarin sites for my son as he keeps asking me to learn it and I've been at a loss for resources. Great list - thank you for sharing!

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  16. I have used DuoLingo for Italian, but haven't heard of the other sites you mentioned. Thank you for that list, I will be checking out a few sites.

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  17. I love DuoLingo, but I agree--I don't use it nearly enough! I use it to brush up Spanish but I would love to add in Dutch, Italian, Irish, and German...we'll see! I will definitely be checking out some of these other ones. I've been using Codeacademy as well to teach myself more about coding and CSS. I'm definitely someone who never wants to stop learning. I'm considering TEFL...would you recomend it?

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  18. Khan academy is very good and I use Coursera, you would love it - it has a ton of courses. :) I'm taking two neruoscience courses on there and they are WONDERFUL! I highly recommend it, it's easy to use and accessible via any device so it is great. :) I agree, I value education so greatly and I LOVE learning but it can be very expensive and I'm still paying mine off so I while I am taking a breather I am still educating myself. Have a great weekend Rachel! -Iva

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  19. This is awesome! Thanks for providing an awesome list of resources! Truth be told, I haven't worked on my education since completing my Bachelor's. Unless you count homesteading studies....haha! I've learned a lot this past year about growing food and creating my own biosystem. And permaculture. But other than that, I tend to leave the more prestigious studies, such as those of languages, arts, and literature, on the "someday" side of my priority list. Once those days come (I'm thinking when I start suffering from empty-nest syndrome) your post is going to be the first one I reference!! BETTER STILL BE BLOGGING IN 18 years!!!! :)

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  20. gah, you're so right! i have an MA in art history, and after getting that - well - i feel like i should be good-to-go with paying for school. there are lots of things i still want to learn, and would LOVE to take from a local university (in-person and whatnot). problem is, i feel like it's about time i stop paying for classes and learn to make a profit doing something? hehe :) i guess the other problem is i'm not a very good 'online learner' - i really need people and discussion and hands-on work. so... who knows. maybe i'll take a community ed class?

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  21. I love free quality education, especially courses that can help me expand my career horizons. May as well take advantage of them.

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  22. Duolingo is great, I love it. I would add Coursera to the list.

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  23. EdX is pretty cool! Some universities also have some free online course content or video lectures; I've have a few computer science ones bookmarked but haven't really looked into them.

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  24. How awesome is this? Thank you for sharing some amazing resources, I'm definitely looking into these!

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  25. I'm a big fan of iTunes U (took a great Yale political philosophy course recently) and Future Learn!

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  26. Great advice, but easier said than done . In 2006, Germany started charging students for college and university tuition. Yes, you read that right, Germany started charging college tuition in 2006. As in 8 years ago. The cost went up to about $630 a year when students were forced to take out loans to pay for tuition and living expenses. There were large protests, but Germany kept the policy in place until this past week. That’s when they eliminated all tuition fees, saying that they don’t want to discourage young adults from getting a higher education.

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