If you’re like me, you love to learn new things. I could have stayed in school my whole life, as my desire to learn didn’t end upon graduating. I still find myself spending a lot of time in local libraries, museums and college campuses; soaking in as much knowledge and culture as I can. If this sounds like a wonderful way to spend your time, I have great news for you. The internet offers incredible resources that can educate you in just about any subject that you desire. Want to know something better? The majority of them are free!
Free web resources
If you are tech savvy you are probably already familiar with YouTube. But what you might not know is that it is also a wonderful resource for learning. I have found lectures, how-tos and in-depth demonstrations about all sorts of subjects. Topics range from physics and human anatomy to guitar lessons and world history.
Google is an obvious choice for researching information, but did you know that Google offers more specific services than its default search tool? Google Books and Google Scholar are useful features to locate books and articles. Google Books offers many books for free (that are in public domain) but also has a preview mode for books that you can easily purchase on Amazon. Google Scholar offers information about books and articles as well, but most of its materials must be purchased in order to gain access.
Wikipedia is another useful source to glean information from. With the equivalent of roughly 2,000 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Wikipedia rivals the wonders of higher learning that mankind has created.
With over a billion downloads since its creation in 2007, iTunes University is an amazing program. This is especially true when it comes to academics. iTunes U literally brings college classrooms from all over the world to your computer screen. My personal favorite is Anatomy and Physiology with Doc Cizadlo at the University of St. Scholastica. Note: You must have iTunes installed on your computer or hand-held device to access iTunes University.
Social media has added a new dimension to the pursuit of knowledge. Whatever subject that may interest you, it is likely that there is a group for it. Social media platforms such as Facebook, a feed on Twitter, a community on Meetup, or a discussion on Reddit are great resources. Sites like Twitter and Facebook are particularly helpful tools for learning a foreign language because of the terse and up-to-date nature of the messaging. (Just be mindful or slang or misspellings.)
Programs and apps
Lastly, there are also a lot of great apps available (mostly for free) that can help you retain all of the information you are gathering. Anki is a free program that acts like a digital flash card set. There are already hundreds of community-created decks to download but you can also customize your own. gFlash+ is a free app that I found for the iPad (Anki for iPad is $25). Like Anki, gFlash+ is a flash card app but has different ways to study once you set up your deck, including multiple choice, standard memorization and even a cool picture puzzle mode. Lastly, Evernote is an excellent app for organizing your studies. It not only keeps track of websites, images and articles that you can collect from the internet, but also allows you to take notes, pictures and audio files. This makes Evernote a very powerful search tool and an ideal aid for learning.
Regardless of age, income bracket or degree of education, these resources are available to everyone. All you need is the drive and passion to learn. If money is tight, most public libraries offer access to computers with Wi-Fi, free for the public. My schooling days may be behind me but the path to greater knowledge has never looked so bright (and certainly more affordable).