The internet : A land of free learning

As we approach one year since the first lockdown, let’s get back to being productive and learn online

The Internet is possibly the greatest invention of our time, and the reason is simple yet powerful: it provides access to an immense amount of information. While daily news, social media, business purposes, communicating with friends across the world, and unlimited entertainment are all perfectly wonderful reasons to use the Web, let us not forget about learning for free – something that makes the Internet, truly a blessing.

Not all of us can pay thousands of dollars and fly across the world to pursue an amazing course or degree; thus, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are a saviour. From Introduction to Machine Learning (York University from Canada offers this) to Climate Change Mitigation in Developing Countries (designed by the University of Cape Town), courses offered online range across subject areas like: the social sciences, history, science, IT, math, business management, arts, health, education, personal development skills, and even specific fields of study like architecture, law, psychology, religion, philosophy, astronomy and natural sciences. These aren’t casual blog style educational videos but actual courses with professionally-designed curriculums, weekly syllabi, homework assignments, student discussion forums, user reviews and ratings, and official certificates from the institute that you can receive upon successfully completing the course – but of course, you have to pay for that last one.

Two of the biggest names in the online learning platform market are Coursera and EdX. Both offer courses from some of the biggest institutional names in education, such as Yale, Stanford, Harvard, University of Michigan, UC Berkeley, Wharton, Cambridge and more. Coursera currently offers 3000+ courses by partnering with universities across the globe, while EdX, a non-profit company, offers about 2,650 and was born from the idea of free and accessible education for all. Coursera’s strength lies in computer science and business courses while EdX excels at humanities and earth science courses, but both provide a wide gamut of courses that need to be sifted through using their website search bar and filters.

For those who don’t want to commit long hours and prefer bite-sized videos, TedEd is perfect. From the makers of the famous Ted Talks, TedEd spreads ideas with animated video lessons that feed curious cats and offer great content for teachers and school students. Teachers can also create customised lessons, structure an assignment around a video and assess students’ engagement online.

Back-to-School season goes remote, Saniaa Shah

OpenCulture is a great aggregator website of excellent free educational resources, with over 1500 courses listed on it, along with over 1000 movies, free ebooks, and much more.

Udemy is a great option for those who want short, skill-smart videos that help build skills and navigate the job market or let you pursue a hobby you always wanted to, such as learning the ukulele. The platform takes a democratic, by-all-for-all approach, which means that the course creators and instructors aren’t academically recognised but trained by Udemy to effectively administer a unique course. Udemy courses aren’t free, but they are extremely affordable and a bang for the buck.

FutureLearn is England’s answer to Coursera, a lesser-known quality-conscious platform that partners with leading British and Australian universities or organisations to offer 2500 odd online courses to over 10 million learners and counting.

For those looking for something off the beaten track, Alison and Udacity offer courses developed by themselves that are gentler paced, and they’re well-known for online programming courses. They also offer diploma courses and learning paths that offer related courses so that you can specialise better.

Kadenze is cool option for those who are interested in the arts and creative technology. It brings together artists, musicians and engineers to deliver niche creative arts education with passion and professional excellence. Kadenze fills the gap of arts-focused platforms, reassuring students and parents that arts and technology can also lead to immensely successful, fulfilling careers that aren’t the conventional definition of a promising path.

Some of us want to spend time learning but also use the opportunity to add value to our LinkedIn profile. For this, look no further than MOOCs from the best American universities; Harvard Extension, Stanford Online, Open Yale Courses, UC Berkeley Class Central, MIT OpenCourseWare and the Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative are all great names to note.

Being able to log into class in your pajamas at any time of the day or night, saving time on commutes, maintaining digital records of all learning material and being able to use video, a highly engaging format, to process information, are all excellent advantages of online courses. But lack of peer-to-peer collaboration and real interaction, being unable to raise your hand and ask questions and not getting an immersive classroom experience are all valid drawbacks. Nepal is still a place where a college degree and “real institute” are considered legitimate and valid, whereas online courses aren’t trusted enough, making it questionable on the resume.

Saniaa Shah