One week into your New Year’s resolutions, and you’re swapping in carrots for cake. Well, most of the time. At least you’ve stopped trying to convince yourself the lettuce on your double quarter pounder constitutes as salad. Yet, why not make a change for your well-being that doesn’t involve counting calories and never goes out of style? One of the best ways to unsuck yourself in 2013 is a healthy dose of lifelong learning.
Plenty of platforms offer free or relatively cheap ways to further your education, both here in the Hub and online. No matter your age, there is an option out there suitable to your skill set and interests. Don’t believe us? Just check out one of these 15 options.
MIT OpenCourseWare — Former MIT President Charles Vest officially introduced the concept of OpenCourseWare in 2001. He called the initiative “innovative,” saying, “OpenCourseWare is a natural marriage of American higher education and the capabilities of the World Wide Web.” Eleven years later, the program’s grown from 50 published courses to over 2,000, allowing people from around the globe to access syllabi, lecture notes, assignments and videos of virtually all MIT course content. Although OpenCourseWare doesn’t grant degrees or certificates, the platform did disrupt an entire industry.
Khan Academy — Founded by MIT alum Salman Khan, Khan Academy has a library of over 3,200 free videos covering K-12 math, biology, chemistry and physics, as well as finance and history. Each video is designed as a “digestible chunk”—approximately 10 minutes long—and comes complete with interactive challenges, assessments and custom profile, points and badges to help measure a student’s progress.
Treehouse — Looking to learn how to code? Treehouse teaches users how to build websites, create phone apps or work with Ruby on Rails and PHP. Customers do need to pay anywhere from $9 to $49 for content, yet as founder Ryan Carson once said, “We think people want to pay for education. People associate paying with quality.” As an added bonus, however, the company does have an agreement with big name brands, including Facebook and Simple, which guarantees Treehouse developers get looked at during any application process.
Coursera — Coursera partners with top universities including, Princeton, Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania, and then offers their courses online for free, for anyone in the world to take. With topics ranging from medicine and biology to computer science and the humanities, students can watch lectures taught by university professors, learn at their own pace and then test what they’ve learned through various exercises.
Udacity — With a focus on more technical skills—software testing, artificial intelligence, web application engineering, etcetera—Udacity offers nearly 20 courses for free. Yet, for those who’d like to certify their skills, they can do so online or in one of Udacity’s 4,500 testing centers for a fee. Udacity also offers to hand out any student’s résumé to one of their 20 partner companies at no cost.
University of the People — University of the People (UoPeople) is a tuition-free, non-profit online institution focused solely on granting people from around the world access to higher education. UoPeople has coupled the principles of e-learning and peer-to-peer learning to create undergraduate Associate and Bachelor degree programs in business administration and computer science for qualified students willing to learn, despite their financial, geographic or societal restraints. UoPeople has also partnered with Yale University for research, New York University to accept students and Hewlett-Packard for internships.
Peer 2 Peer University — With an emphasis on peer learning, P2PU promises not to be a place where learning is “transmitted, broadcast or transferred,” but rather involves people working together and giving each other feedback. Through the platform, anyone can learn anything from their peers for free, whether it be curating content or learning conversational American English.
Udemy — New York Times best-selling authors, CEOs, celebrities and Ivy League professors have all taught courses on Udemy. Although every class isn’t free, plenty of them are, including Eric Reis’ Lean Startup course, Steve Blank’s Entrepreneur’s Checklist and a crash course on how to prototype web and mobile apps in 30 minutes. Udemy’s goal is to “help students make moves” at a pace that works for them.
edX — Harvard and MIT revealed the open-source technology platform last year, announcing anyone from around the world would have access to free Ivy League classes online, as well as the chance of certification at a modest fee. Since launching, edX has already partnered with the University of California, Berkley, the University of Texas System, Wellesley College, Georgetown University, as well as Bunker Hill and MassBay Community Colleges—offering up a wider range of classes at no cost to students.
Intelligent.ly — Peer-to-peer learning center Intelligent.ly has one very simple, yet very important mission: to help students learn what they need to win, from people who have done it before. They offer classes in several tracks, including marketing, technology and business development, all at an affordable price. Last year also came with plenty of perks. We’re talking a free, two-day coding bootcamp, a Ruby on Rails workshop exclusively for women and startup classes for college students at no cost to them. Let’s hope even more is in store for 2013.
General Assembly — New York-born startup school General Assembly announced they were expanding to Boston last year. The variety of classes being offered in the city is broad, focused on everything from taxation for entrepreneurs to the state of product management. Learning opportunities can span from 90-minute classes to six-week courses, so prices vary depending on type. For a look at Boston’s long list of classes, click here.
Skillshare — Skillshare’s goal is to have users learning from anyone, anywhere. The platform has both an online and offline component, so students can connect with teachers either in their neighborhood or around the world at various prices. In Boston alone, users could learn how to juggle, belly dance or do more and stress less—and that doesn’t even account for the ever-growing list of online classes.
Boston Center for Adult Education — Founded in 1933, the Boston Center for Adult Education is the oldest, non-profit adult education center in New England. They offer classes in five categories: the arts, food/wine, growth, fitness/recreation and languages. Learn what it takes to play the guitar, bake bread or even learn how to speak Portuguese, all at varying costs. As an added bonus, the Center is offering 25 percent off January and February classes to students who enter in the code “NEWYEAR” at checkout.
Boston Startup School — The Boston Startup School experience is much different from the other learning opportunities featured. Students are split into four tracks—Product Design, Software Development, Marketing, and Sales & Business Development—and over the course of eight weeks, they go through a series of workshops all to learn what it takes to work at an early-stage startup. Since launching, the program has seen a nearly 90 percent success rate and attracted students of all ages. At the most recent Student Exposé, one participant admitted, “At the age of 38, I’ve been given the gift of rebirth.” To apply for the spring semester, click here.