I’ve been a big fan of Khan Academy‘s free online lessons in mathematics, sciences, and a growing body of liberal arts (including Vi Hart’s “Doodling in Math Class” courses). My best friend recently sent me links to two more sites:
Udacity is a site providing free courses in math, sciences, and programming, while Code Academy focuses entirely on computer programming languages, getting online students working in the chosen code from the outset.
And while I continue to appreciate (and even use these sites), I’ve been longing to find online liberal arts courses as well, especially history, art, architecture, and music theory/practice. My boyfriend found a site with a long list of available online courses, some as videos, some as audio files, and others with a multimedia mix. Open Culture provides a list of 500 Free Online Courses from Top Universities. It includes archaeology, architecture, philosophy, ethics, etc. A few of the classes I’d seen before (e.g. MIT’s Open Course Ware classes have a greater diversity than one might expect, and includes a Building with the Landscape class my daughter and I want to learn from together to help us build a miniature hobbit house for our garden), but most of them are new to me, and come from schools such as Oxford, Yale, Harvard, MIT, and UC Berkeley. There’s even a series of free music courses provided by Berklee College of Music.
Considering my daughter’s now becoming interested in, and is showing maturity enough to handle, specialized courses in topics for which I have limited knowledge, this is a great opportunity for us both to learn shared interests together, and to explore individual interests separately. For example, we might take a language, architecture, or music theory course together, but you can bet she’ll be more interested in biochemistry and cryptography, while I’ll want to dive into mechanical engineering and linguistics.
With these courses, we can explore complex lessons at our own pace, choosing to take one class a season, or three or four at once. It also lets us discover whether we’re willing to commit to lengthy study in a given field without wasting thousands of dollars on tuition to figure it out. These are resources that, when combined with books and discussion groups, can give a rewarding educational experience honoring the notion that every individual learns at a different pace, and can be interested and capable of learning any subject at any age.