HLN: Online Courses to keep skills sharp during the summer!

Whether you’ ve got kids going on summer break and you’re worried about whether or not they can keep their skills sharp over the next few months, or you’re an adult who wants to learn more, tackle a new field, or just dip your toes into a subject matter, online educational tools and courses are an amazing asset. There are a ton of cool things about these sites & getting an Education Online. For one, you’ve got a flexible schedule. There are no fixed classes or deadlines, so you can work at your own pace. Another advantage is being able to work from anywhere—home, the library, a coffee shop, whatever! Even for sites that charge, it still costs a fraction to learn online compared to what you’d have to spend to take even a continuing ed course at the local community college, and you further save on gas and time by not having to commute to drive your kid to their classes. Finally, online courses can be updated frequently so there’s no need to worry that you’re getting an expired education.

One big thing to keep in mind is that online courses are not for everyone.  In order to do this you need to be a disciplined person that will set the goals and time aside to do this on your own.  You will also need a dedicated computer with broadband internet access, whether at home or somewhere outside the home with reliable access. If you or your children are ready, however, here are some of the best sites:

For the kids

1. Kahn Academy (K-12) – http://www.khanacademy.org/

  • Not-for-profit organization offering FREE education for everyone.
  • Offers over 4200 videos for topics like math, biology, chemistry, physics, econ, history, computer sciences and more.
  • Kids can do it at their own pace.  They can take one lesson or 1500—it doesn’t matter.
  • Their goal is to make education accessible as well as fascinating .
  • Parents and teachers have the opportunity to check up on what the student is doing.
  • Children earn badges and points for learning.

2. Code.org

  • It is a non-profit organization that helps in teaching computer programming to children & lists alot of free programs for youth.
  • Job growth in computer programming is growing at twice the national average & it’s the highest paid college degree.

3. Backpack TV – http://www.backpack.tv/

  • It is a website that is a “library” of hand picked educational videos from many different online sites.
  • Subjects include basic math, calculus, art history, chemistry, US history and more.  They are short and meant to supplement what students are learning in the classroom.
  • The videos have been selected by both high school and college students.
  • Some of the content comes from Khan Academy, Bozeman Science, Yay Math, MIT, Yale and more online sites.

For Adults

And this summer it’s not just about the kids. Many adults can use the summer as a time to enhance their career skills or learn something totally new ALL FOR FREE at MIT.

MIT Open Courseware – http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm

  • Offered by MIT with over 2150 actual MIT courses online.
  • A multitude of subjects are offered from Math and Science to Fine Arts, Health, Teaching and more.
  • FREE-great for adults who are looking to bone up on some new topics or get some refresher info.
  • The faculty contributes their actual teaching materials.
  • More than 125 million people around the world have used this.

Completely Free Options

There are tons more sites to check out, but for some other free options you should look into please be sure to check out:

Apple’s iTunesU – Apple has assembled a massive library of free, online resources to help you learn and combined it with an app that connects all of your notes, assignments, and course materials in one place.

Coursera – Join more than 3 million students taking 388 courses online, and even get peer reviews on assignments!

CodeAcademy – Want to learn to program? For Free? Entirely through your web browser? This is your answer.

Photo credit: Deryck Hodge on Flickr.