I know the word "free" often makes us all sit up and take notice-after all, who doesn't like being able to get something for nothing? Well, I have discovered that there are a plethora (I have loved that word ever since I first heard it spoken by El Guapo in The Three Amigos) of free online education courses from the article, "How to Go to College for Free", in Reader's Digest. The list in the article was not extensive, but I took the author's advice and searched the web for "Free Online Courses" and was blown away by the number of educational opportunities that are available to anyone willing to take the time to devote to expanding their knowledge.
First, I must mention the library has a huge CD and DVD collection of free courses that can be found by typing in "The Great Courses" as a keyword search in the catalog. At this time there are over 493 items! Some of the selections we have are, "The Origin of Civilization", "The Medieval World" and "Building Great Sentences" to name a few.
There are also databases through the library's Resource Center that customers can access using their library card from their home computer. Some of the great learning tools you can use are:
--The Learning Express Library has hundreds of tests that can be taken to brush up on skills for college or different careers that require tests such as police officers, civil service, or nursing.
--Our BYKI language database allows you to practice on 80 different languages.
--The Global Road Warrior allows you to study different countries and cultures
--and, our huge collection of Info-Trac databases have thousands of articles from newspapers, journals, and magazines on everything from pop-culture to physics.
The author of the Reader's Digest article, David Hochman, really pumped up my geek factor and through my own Google search I found so many websites dedicated to providing open courseware that I couldn't wait to try them all. I managed to contain my enthusiasm and whittled my ever-growing list to what I think are some of the best, which are:
--Openculture.com One of the best websites out there! Not only is there access to free educational courses, but there are hundreds of links to audiobooks, podcasts, and over 300 hundred movies that you can watch online. Click the link on the right side of the page under the caption "Videos and Movies", then click "Free Movies Online". You can watch classics such as Bringing Up Baby, Moby Dick or Yellow Submarine. The "Intelligent Videos" link will take you to an A-Z listing of documentary websites, some of which include the "Australian Screen Archive", the "Europa Film Treasures" or "Snagfilms", which has a huge offering of films.
--Khanacademy.org is a wonderful learning site for people of all ages. It has math lessons ranging from developmental math to trigonometry. Science lessons to include, chemistry, biology and cosmology. All done in video no less! Underneath the video it will have links to download or get exercises.
--Academicearth.org This site has courses from art to writing, with many of the them taught by some of the country's top scholars, such as Donald Kagan from Yale, Walter Lewin from MIT and Michael Sandel from Harvard.
--TheProblemsite.com has hundreds of educational puzzles-math games, word games, strategy games and a section on reference and resource, plus daily puzzles and even a section for juniors.
Also, for you Apple enthusiasts out there that may not have yet run across iTunesU, this is another great application that can be used to learn online and can be accessed right from your device or on your computer through the iTunes software.
These are just a small sampling of places on the internet where you can get free courses to help further your education or to help enrich your life, so the next time someone asks if you know what a quasar is or how the Hawaiian islands were formed you will be able to answer without a blank look on your face!