Thursday, November 3, 2016

So You Want To Learn Something?

We’ve all heard it before. Technology has changed everything”. As our CPUs get faster and our networks more diverse, we cannot deny the ever-permeating presence of technology in our lives has changed the ways in which we live.

But what about education?

Before looking at the current educational situation, it is important to take a step back and briefly think about education’s history. If this doesn’t interest you, feel free to jump to the next part of the blog post!

When one thinks of accessing knowledge a century ago, a library would likely come to mind. With shelves upon shelves of information, there was no better way to surround yourself with knowledge. Combining this access to information with structured courses and knowledgeable professors formed a successful way of learning. One that still resonates with us today.

However, the internet has made everything accessible to practically everyone. From an educational standpoint, this has caused a drastic change in the first mentioned access to information, potentially rivaling the invention of writing in magnitude! The world wide web is full of information structured in a class like manner. All you need is the drive to take advantage of this information.  

Of course, you need to know where to find it first! Below you can find the various resources I have used throughout my academic career with accompanying descriptions of each. Let me know of any I missed!

Kahn Academy                                     

With everything from kindergarten math to multi-variable calculus, Kahn Academy is a one stop shop for a high school education and beyond. Free of charge, Kahn Academy provides the world with thousands of hours of lecture based classes. These classes have built in quizzes placed strategically throughout the course to reinforce the covered topics.

Personally I have used Kahn Academy to study for the SAT and review chemistry concepts before exams. Last summer I learned differential and integral calculus solely from Kahn Academy to qualify for a class I wanted to take at a local university!

With the whole of Kahn Academy at your fingertips, all you need is the motivation and desire to learn to explore complex concepts. With courses structured for preparing for the post-undergrad MCAT exams to getting into college, Kahn Academy can be a powerful asset in your academic journey.

TL;DR: The key advantages of Kahn Academy are
    Their vast library of structured courses
    Discussion forums
    It’s all free!

iTunes U                                                

If you find yourself pursuing a topic of interest to levels beyond average, iTunes U might be for… you! With courses from Stanford, MIT, Harvard, and other big name schools, there is no doubt that you will be able to find challenging material in the subjects you are interested in!

Most of iTunes U’s classes consist of recorded college lectures organized into a class format. Most classes will also include homework and other documents that were provided to the students taking the class at the time.

TL;DR: The key advantages of iTunes U are
    Vast selection of higher-education topics
    Lectures provide an introduction to what taking a college class is like!

Code Academy                                          

You would be hard pressed to find a better online resource for learning computer programming than Code Academy. Covering a vast selection of topics ranging from web design, database programming, version control, and the command line, Code Academy has all of the bases covered!

Again, Code Academy provides structured classes to help the learner form the connections they need to in order to understand a new topic. Throughout the course the user is encouraged to experiment with the concepts they just learned.

Unfortunately Code Academy does not have a well integrated question-answer system as Kahn Academy does. Some features are also pro-only, requiring a monthly subscription. These downfalls are countered however by the service it provides: making it easier for future programmers around the world to start their coding education.

TL;DR: The key advantages of Code Academy are
    A large selection of programming topics
    Ease of use and an elegant layout of the courses



Honorable Mentions


      Stack Overflow ( ):  This site provides a lively question-answer environment to which you can always turn to when you get stuck.    

    Wikipedia ( The information may not always be 100% accurate, but arguably the largest collection of human knowledge ever to exist is great for brushing up on subjects or exploring interesting topics.
    Udemy ( Udemy has paid-for classes on everything from business to baking. Featuring a large course catalog and a friendly instructor/student ecosystem, Udemy has a lot to offer.  

In Conclusion

There are certainly more options out there than the ones listed here. Regardless, the important thing to realize is that these opportunities are out there, waiting to be taken advantage of. If you have some free time and want to pick up a skill, take that first step and find a resource to learn from. Who knows what you will accomplish.

All of the information in this blog post came from personal experience.     

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