It may have been years or even decades since you stepped into a classroom. No matter how long it’s been, it’s time to dive back into your education — all you need is time and access to a computer.
Continuing education is not about what you learn, but about learning itself. The act of learning helps to stimulate brain activity more regularly. Studies have shown that higher brain activity is linked to improvements in memory and comprehension, as well as the slowed development of Alzheimer’s and dementia.3 Additionally, increased knowledge can help build your confidence, stretch your creativity and open doors to new opportunities. These lessons are not just about the actual information you absorb; it’s about the invaluable benefits to your mental wellbeing.
The Internet has made several subjects and skills readily available. We’ve complied a list of free resources to help you get started. Learn skills that can help you translate when you travel, contribute to your career growth, manage your time more wisely, guide you toward healthy financial choices, and more!
- Play with language. Duolingo, available on desktop and mobile app, turns learning into a game — literally. Addictive games, complete with time limits and points for correct answers, force you to engage and think quickly on your feet. With 21 languages to choose from, Duolingo is great if you need a little motivation to, learn or if you want to brush up on some vocabulary quickly.
- Get feedback from a native. If you prefer a more interactive approach, Livemocha is a great option. Their methodology centres around a three-step approach that includes demonstration, deconstruction and practice. The most unique aspect of Livemocha is the real-life practice. After writing or spoken tests are recorded, you receive feedback on your performance from native speakers!
- Think (or speak) outside the box. You’ve already mastered a common language and want to challenge yourself with a more unconventional tongue. There are many iTunes audio and government-sponsored sites available for more obscure languages like Maori or Bambara. Search this directory for more.
- Learn Excel for free with Chandoo. As the world’s most popular productivity tool, Excel is used for a wide variety of functions including budgeting, planning and analytics.1 No matter what professional field you go into, it’s very likely that you or someone you will collaborate with will use Excel to get the job done. A much sought-after skill, mastering Excel can help you stand out in a crowd of applicants.
- There’s no such thing as a free lunch… but there is a free webinar. Businesses across many fields host webinars and post white papers about the fields they specialize in. Find free webinars in fields like psychology, computer technology, health, marketing and more in this directory.
- Network online. There are many professional resources available on LinkedIn. But how to do find them? Subscribe to business associations that are relevant to you. Catch great discussions about important ideas in your professional space and get tips from your peers.
- Read faster. Are you a student? Learning professional? Avid reader without enough free time? Spreeder is for you. Spreeder’s app hosts lessons that help you increase reading comprehension and speed quickly. The goal is to get you to read three or more times your normal speed.
- Manage your time. When you are trying to learn new skills in addition to your already full schedule, you might want to start with this time management course. In a few short hours, you’ll learn how to work smarter, not harder.
- Balance your life. Juggling your career, your family and your personal time can be overwhelming. Take a step back and set yourself up for success with this Personal & Family Planning course.
- Become a rock star with a guitar. OK, maybe not quite that level, but at least a few chords. Justinguitar.com boasts over 900 free guitar lessons ranging from beginner to intermediate, organized by musical style (blues, folk, jazz, etc.).
- Go beyond stick figures. Take one of over 450 drawing lessons on Drawspace. Lessons cover a variety of styles like cartoons, portraits and more. Each topic is available for beginners as well as experienced artists.
- Take your camera off auto settings. Learn the basics of digital photography via LifeHacker. Broken in to five sections, this guide takes you through how a camera works, the intricacies of the automated and manual settings, composition and technique, and editing your photos.
- Knitting isn’t just for grandma. Learn to craft scarves and hats for great homemade presents or for a fun activity that keeps you busy through long car trips and binge watching shows. The creator of this free tutorial is self-taught, but found most videos lacking and thought she’d come up with a better, all-inclusive method to help others.
- Find your third eye. Whether you are brand new to yoga or “Namaste” is a regular part of your vocabulary, step up your practice at home with these free online videos. Yome covers basic poses, heated flows and balance challenges.
- Learn to code. Looking for a career change? Software Developers are in high demand; the field is expected to grow 30% by 2020.2 Learn code for free with Code Academy. Whether you’re starting your own business and need a website or trying to find a role in a big corporation, coding can help you succeed.
- Get on the Rails with Ruby. Ruby, a popular programming language (Rails being an extension thereof) is a very sought-after skill. Instead of relying on existing blogging platforms, build your own! Here is a list of helpful Ruby training.
- Photoshop yourself into a new skill. Get to know the ins and outs of Adobe Photoshop. You Suck at Photoshop is a Webby Award-winning tutorial series available for free on YouTube. Each video is less than ten minutes, so the lessons are easily digestible.
- Write well, not good. Whether you are looking to write a lengthy novel or a simple haiku, you’ll find Macalester College’s writing lecture series valuable. Available on their site, you’ll be reintroduced to the introductory paragraph, the basics of writing well, how to revise what you’ve written, and more.
- Learn from the experts. If you’re trying to become a better writer, why not study those who have succeeded at it? Many local libraries hold weekly or monthly events for members specialising in a variety of topics, all for free. For example, the London Library has talks planned around Shakespeare and Charles Dickens this spring.
- Modern Writing Explained. The onset of the Internet age shifted how we write. We are now able to reach wider audiences on our own accord through blogging. In fact, strategic blogging can even develop into a career. How do you get started? Learn the basics of online writing, growing your audience and more on Skillshare.
- Be a budgeting boss. Love Your Money is an online course that teaches you how to optimise your financial health. Get guidance for your goals, setting budgets, retirement savings and how to build your overall wealth.
- Hone in on your financial habits. Use this online course from the University of Toronto to help understand how and why we spend money the way we do. Use what you learn to reform bad spending habits and develop tools to help make better financial decisions.
- Invest in your future. After you have your spending in check and feel confident in your financial health, take a look into investments to help expand your portfolio. If investing is foreign to you, complete your financial education with a course in investments.
- Subscribe to a Podcast. Podcasts are a great option for those with a willingness to learn who are always on the go. There are dozens of educational podcasts available for free. Subscribe to help you stay committed — podcast subscribers receive the next episode automatically, so you’ll never miss a lesson!
- Watch a few TED Talks. TED is a non-profit committed to sharing fresh ideas in a short, digestible format. Each talk is less than 18 minutes and varies in topic, though all fall under TED: technology, entertainment and design.
- Volunteer. Sometimes the best way to learn something is simply by doing it. Non-profits may need updates to their website or a better billing system. Volunteer your services and get real-world experience practising your new trade. You may even get a reference out of it, which can help once you feel prepared enough to pursue a paid position.
Take the next steps you need to improve your career, be more strategic about your financial choices or simply knock something off your bucket list. No matter which course you choose to take on, you’ll be sure to make your life a bit more interesting.
1Vena. (2014). Infographic: The many uses of MS Excel. Retrieved 22 March 2016, from http://venasolutions.com/infographic-many-uses-ms-excel-going-away-time-soon/
2Masters in Software Engineering. (n.d.). Job outlook and demand for software engineers. Retrieved 22 March, 2016, from http://mastersinsoftwareengineering.net/job-outlook-and-demand-for-software-engineers
3Kilgore, S. (3 November 2009). Around the world. Retrieved 23 March 2016, from http://orke78.blogspot.com/2009/11/7-reasons-learning-new-things-is-good.html