Bill Hogan’s feature on free e-learning opportunities—“FREE-Learningin the January-February 2010 issue of AARP Bulletin provides yet another reminder that online learning is quickly becoming more and more accessible to increasingly large numbers of students of all ages.

Not only “can you learn just about anything you want to learn without setting foot in a classroom,” he writes, but a lot of what is available is “free, without restrictions or catches” for anyone with access to the Internet—which, of course, means most people with access to public libraries.

Hogan does a great job of introducing his readers to how to access these free resources by providing short tips on the types of Internet connections learners need, how to play audio and video files, what software is needed, and what sort of devices are available for those wanting to “learn on the go.”

More importantly, he leads learners to resources including “nearly 2,000 academic courses that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology” has posted online at no charge to users. Even the most cursory tour of the MIT site reveals links to more than 1,900 courses in broad subject areas including architecture and planning; engineering; health sciences and technology; humanities, arts, and social sciences; management; science; and cross-disciplinary topics. Courses appear to include a variety of resources including video lectures and lecture notes, reading lists, assignments, exams and solutions, and, in some cases, links to online textbooks—a boon for those all too familiar with the cost of printed textbooks.

Another gem within the article is an introduction to Stanford University’s Open Culture website which, in turn, provides links to “250 free online courses from top universities” including Columbia, Stanford, UC Berkeley,  UCLA, Yale, and others. Among the subject areas covered are architecture, art history, biology, computer science and artificial intelligence, cultural studies, economics, history, information science, literature, and philosophy.

A guide to e-learning sites at the end of the online version of the article leads learners to a variety of resources ranging from webcast.berkeley and howcast to TED Talks and interviews and lectures involving Nobel Prize winners.  

And for those who have been wanting to experiment with e-learning and need guidance on how to learn effectively using online learning resources, that too is readily available. With e-learning continuing to expand into what Hogan has so wonderfully dubbed Free-Learning, our biggest challenge may be to carve out the time to absorb even a fraction of what is available to us.

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