Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Self-Learners Rejoice!

There is an education revolution going on, and we are right in the middle of it! Do you realize how lucky we are that this is happening right now? We still have all our faculties (Well, I hope you still do!), we have curious minds that still want to know, plus we have all this free time in retirement to take advantage of the situation.

I wrote a post back in February - one of my first - about Life-Long Learning right after I discovered Open Culture. I was very excited about all of the opportunities this website offers to anyone who wants to learn any of a huge variety of topics. It turns out that that was just the tip of the iceberg.  Wait until you see what else I've discovered!

OpenCourseWare

Last week I saw a reference to free classes offered by MIT, Harvard, and UC Berkeley. That seemed pretty cool, so I checked it out. It turns out that they, along with quite a few more Universities, have been teeming up to offer free classes to anyone who wants to learn. Their goal is to provide free, searchable access to course materials for educators, students, and self-learners around the world.

Generally, what they are giving us is the class syllabus, the reading list with links to the books, videos of lectures, sometimes lecture notes, and all kinds of additional information about the topic. We don't get access to the professors. And no degrees at this bargain price, but what would we want that for, anyway?

MIT OpenCourseWare offers lots of different classes under headings like: Architecture, Engineering, Health Science, Humanities, Art, Social Science, Management, and Science. I immediately started one in Rhetoric, which threatened to get me sidetracked with Ethics and then Philosophy.

Tufts OpenCourseWare gives assignments, lecture notes, and supplementary materials. They've got hundreds of classes, divided into schools such as Dental Medicine, Medical, Nutrition, Veterinary, and others. I might have to check out Nutrition here.

Utah State University has many classes from, among others, a variety of Schools of Engineering. Plus their website has links to lots of other universities that offer OpenCourseWare classes, including Notre Dame, Johns Hopkins, and Paris Tech.

Learning Space

The Open University is a bit more confusing to me. They offer over 600 free classes, but some things have fees based on income (maybe just in the UK?) They say they were founded to open higher education to all, and offer introductory to post-graduate-level classes in a wide variety of topics. The website has a link to Open Research Online via YouTube.

Open Learning Initiative

Carnegie Mellon University offers something a little bit different. They have online courses for anyone who wants to learn or teach. The classes are free to all independent learners. But these classes are interactive. I think students actually turn in assignments and take tests. Learning Science Researchers then gather the data turned in and use it to figure out how to make the classes better.

edX

edX is similar to the idea going on at Carnegie Mellon. They offer interactive study via the web and then researchers study how students learn and how technology can transform learning. Students learn at the same pace as the ones on campus, take the same quizzes and tests, and earn certificates of mastery. The classes, offered by MIT, Harvard, University of Texas, and UC Berkeley seem to lean toward artificial intelligence and software engineering.

iTunes U

Just about the same time that I found Stanford University on iTunes  I got an iMessage from my best friend telling me that she had just discovered Apple also offers free classes available to us on her iPad and my iPod Touch. I called her last night to find out more.

Within just a few minutes, I had downloaded iTunes U and was scrolling through the huge list of schools that are participating. Just to give you an idea, there are 30 colleges and universities starting with the letter A, 23 starting with B, and 56 starting with C. This is going to require some serious study! There are so many choices that I don't know where to start! But if you happen to be into music, Cal State (CSU) Long Beach has tons of music classes.

Khan Academy

As usually happens in conversations with Patty, we had soon jumped to other wonderful learning opportunities including the Khan Academy. They say they offer a "free world-class education for anyone, anywhere". It all started when the founder made some YouTube videos to help his niece understand her math class. When he saw how many people were watching those videos, he realized that he had stumbled into his new career. Then Bill Gates found out what he was doing and donated money to build the program. Google has jumped on the bandwagon, too. 

As the website says, "We are on a mission to help  you learn what you want, when you want, at your own pace." They offer online discussions and students can ask questions and do exercises. They also take quizzes and the site keeps track of where they are and offers recommendations of what to study next.

This is turning public education upside down. Apparently, in some schools, the students are actually learning at home in the evenings via Khan Academy and then doing their homework in class the next day with the help of their regular teacher. Maybe this is the answer for our public education woes.

What's Next?

How can we possibly know? This is almost too much to keep up with. And I was ecstatic with Wikipedia and all the things I could learn there.

I keep thinking about how wonderful this would have been 25 years ago when I was homeschooling my three children. They all thrived academically during those years; I can't even imagine what they would have done with these resources!

As I've said before, the best thing I learned at university 20 years ago was an absolutely insatiable love of learning. This is going to keep me so busy that I won't ever have time to grow old and die. But if I should suddenly quit blogging, you'll have a pretty good idea of where to look for me.

But until then, I hope you'll save some time to keep reading.





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