15 Online Learning Apps & Websites
Classroom learning is so 2012. Millions of people have turned to online sources for continuing education, free courses and skills training. Apps are a natural extension of that trend. Whether you're a student looking for extra resources, a knowledge-hungry geek or a professional looking to pick up a practical new skill, here are 15 helpful learning apps and websites.
iTunes U (iOS)
iTunes U is Apple's education initiative. This app provides free online courses in a variety of subjects developed by instructors in some of the world's leading universities. Courses come with loads of materials, such as audio, video, ebooks and more, with provisions for assignments, highlighting texts and notes to aid the student with coursework. iTunes U provides access to more than 750,000 free lectures, books and other subjects, and is an extremely accessible source of online learning if you've got an iOS device handy.
Khan Academy (Android, iOS, Windows 8)
Khan Academy (iOS, Windows 8) aims to provide "free world-class education for anyone anywhere." To that end, this company hosts thousands of free online tutorial videos for a wide variety of subjects, from biology, chemistry, physics, K-12 mathematics, to history, civics and computer programming. An adaptive testing system allows learners to practice at their own pace, while a stat-tracking and badge system provides helpful metrics as well as a gamified element to learning. After a long wait, the Khan has also released an official Android app.
Coursera (Android, iOS)
Coursera allows users to sign up for free, structured online courses across a variety of topics provided by numerous top-notch universities. Classes are a blend of video lectures, online forum discussions, quizzes, assignments and exams, as well as peer-assessed work. The structured nature of Coursera's format mirrors a more traditional class experience, complete with Statements of Accomplishment and Verified Certificates (if you sign up for a course's paid Signature Track). Android and iOS apps let users browse and enroll in courses, and stream or download lectures.
Udemy (Android, iOS)
Udemy offers students free and paid courses that featuring everything from programming, Web development, guitar lessons and more. Courses are offered as a series of lectures in the form of video files, Powerpoint slides, PDFs or Udemy's own lecture format that combines slides and videos. Courses are designed to be viewed on demand, with Android and iOS apps allowing users to stream courses to view on the go, or download and save them for offline viewing.
Lynda (Android, iOS) (starts at $25/mo.)
Lynda is a subscription-based online learning service that provides unlimited access to video tutorials on a variety of subjects and skills such as 3D animation, photography or design. Lynda's library includes more than 2,500 expert-taught courses that users can watch on their desktop or with the Android or iOS app.
Professionals interested in lifelong learning, especially with a focus on business and workplace skills would do well to check out Alison, an online learning website that features a variety of free courses on a variety of topics, from languages to information technology, management skills, and more. Courses are free, and once completed, users may pay to receive a certification of course completion. It's a useful resource for those interested in continually developing their workplace skills.
Brightstorm (Android, iOS) (Free)
Of course, it's not just professionals interested in learning for extra educational resources. Brightstorm is an online education service that provides a variety of home study lessons. Aimed primarily at teenagers, Brightstorm features a rich library of more than 5,300 videos across a variety of subjects, such as calculus, physics and biology. Users also can access videos that provide helpful advice on college placement counseling. Plans start at $22.95 per month, with content accessible on the web and on iOS and Android.
Not all learning is academic. Sometimes, you just want to pick up a new practical skill, pick up a new musical instrument or find out more about particular odd topics. Howcast features a rich library of professionally produced "how to" videos that cover everything from cooking to exercise, dance, health and even video gaming. The videos are free and ad-supported, and while they might not have the same weight on your resume as a management course, it's a great tool for those interested in more holistic learning.
TED (Android, iOS)
The motto of the TED conferences is "Ideas worth spreading," and the official TED app (Android, iOS) makes it easy to do just that. With this little app, you can download and view more than 1,000 TEDTalk videos featuring some of the best and brightest of today's thinkers, designers, and influential people talking about ideas they believe matter, whether it's art, design, philosophy, philanthropy, politics or economics.
Big Think features thousands of video speeches and blog posts from thought leaders, experts, scientists and economists worldwide about the big ideas and themes in science, technology and sociology that have the potential to change the near-term human future. Talks and blogs are divided into seven major themes, such as "Power and Influence", "Extreme Biology" or "Earth & Beyond", each with its own subcategories of big ideas. In addition, users and businesses looking for more business, management and entrepreneurship-oriented learning can also check out Big Think Edge, which provides a more structured online learning experience.
The Web is host to an incredible wealth of free educational and cultural media, from lectures to courses and videos. Open Culture is dedicated to bringing all this rich content together into a single location so that lifelong learners can access an easy to use, curated website. Open Culture's material runs the whole gamut, from free university courses, historic lectures, noteworthy films, to free books and audio books, organized into convenient, curated lists linking to the resources.
Open Education Consortium
The Open Education Consortium (formerly the Open CourseWare Consortium) promotes free, open, quality education. It hosts OpenCourseWare, which are educational resources available for free and presented in course format. Courses include syllabi, textbooks, lectures and other resources, with open licenses, that can be downloaded, used, repurposed or translated. The OEC includes material from some of the world's top learning institutions, such as MIT, with courses covering a wide variety of topics such as computer science, the arts, mathematics, history and more.
Academic Earth brings together more than 750 free online video courses from a variety of top universities such as Harvard, MIT, Yale and Oxford, all of which you can view at the site. The courses available at Academic Earth run the gamut, from social science, business and history, to quirkier video electives such as "The Psychology of the Internet Troll" and "Practical Math: How to Take a Punch". It's an eclectic and educational mix, it's just a shame there's no mobile app for easy consumption of the video courses.
We wrap up with EdX, a non-profit open source online education platform founded in May 2012 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. EdX features more than 500 different courses from top-notch schools in the US and abroad, with online resources, social learning tools to connect you with teachers and fellow students and more. A particularly neat feature is a "Global Freshman Academy" program that allows students to earn university credits for a selection of verified freshman-level courses.