Written By Wendy Kelly

Free Online Courses for Older Kids and Adults

Education is changing, fast. We are no longer in the situation we were in 500 years ago, where we needed the "sage on the stage" to lecutre to us. Now, we can quickly and easily use YouTube, iTunes, and other media to access whatever information we need, when we need it. I recently read that the amount of information produced in one month, if printed and stacked, would reach Pluto and back ten times. That is staggering. So education is no longer about access to information. It is about learning to disseminate that information, decide what is relevant and irrelevant, and how to use what we have learned. We still need information, though, and for us learning at home, nothing could be simpler to find: Here, then, is an annotated list of some of the best online courses I have found. Hope you enjoy, and share with your friends! Let me know what you think, and if there are any more additions I should have included.

  • Open Culture I love being alive in this day and age - Go to Open Culture and you will be shocked (I was) at how comprehensive this site is. A huge selection of free university courses, audio books, great iTunes channels for educational content, and much more.
  • Khan Academy If you've spent any time on this site, you know we love Khan Academy. I think it is Salman Khan's voice that engages me. If his style suits you, you'll be able to master a huge selection of material from the social sciences to math and beyond. He offers videos mixed with practice. You can track your progress so you'll know when you've mastered a certain educational goal. This site works best for slightly older children, and I think it suits people who don't like too much fluff -- it is very no nonsense. Actually, I do know quite a few kids who really like and use Khan Academy regularly.
  • MIT Open Courseware I've used MIT Open Courseware for years, and it has just gotten better and better. I think it's fair to say that MIT is a university that is at the forefront of the huge changes we are seeing in education. They get it. Their admissions is friendly to homeschoolers, I've noticed, and they seem to really want to do what universities should (IMO) do: educate and perform cutting edge research.
  • Academic Earth I noticed that at the bottom of Academic Earth there is a link to their "friends" at Open Culture. I haven't checked that out too much, but there are similarities between to two: Academic Earth offers tons and tons of free (and not free) online courses from top universities, some leading to a degree.
  • Open Yale Courses I think it's fair to say that Yale is following MIT's lead (Would love to know if this is true or not, that is just my opinion.) Yale offers a selection of intorductory courses without any certification. However, think about this: if you are a homeschooled senior, and want to show a university that you will be a top notch addition to their freshman class, how better to do that than to complete one of their courses? Seems like a fairly straight forward way to concretely show them that you have what it takes.
  • Coursera We just signed up with Coursera and so far we really like what we see. There seems to be way more computer science and math sort of courses right now, but there are a ton more on the horizon. Another great, free resource for those of us who wish to take advantage. Jump in!

Free Online Courses for Kids

You know, I have covered online games for kids and what I have noticed is that many sites branded as "courses" really mostly offer games. And that tells me what my instinct and much research has been saying for awhile now: kids just need to play, and play some more. Having said that, I have definitely got my feet firmly planted in both worlds: my kids spend much of their day playing, but we also do traditional stuff as well. Here are some sites that supplement the online games section. These tout themselves as being "courses" but there is considerable overlap between the two.

  • E-Learning for Kids This site offers a ton of games for kids aged 3 to 12. You can search by subject or grade level. To me, it looks a lot like the BBC Bite sized site that I mentioned on the online games page. It looks pretty comprehensive, and is run by a non-profit group.
  • Free Piano Lessons 4 Kids This site offers free piano lessons in a very straight forward way. You have the option of buying supplementary materials, but there is no pressure to do so. Like many offerings these days, it seems genuinely that this piano teacher really just wants to share his love of piano with the world. Good for him!
  • Chess For Kids This site is adorably nerdy. No bright lights, no frills, no geeky "kid-friendly" interface : ) Just chess. Our family loves chess, by the way. We somehow deepened our relationship with each other over the chess board over the years, and learned to compete against each other, remain friends, and stay polite --even when it was hard. We think it's a great game, that even the youngest children can learn. Our youngest two boys started when they were just 3 and 4.
  • Kid Courses This site is wonderful! Fun, well designed, and lots of mini-courses that are not "just games" A really fun looking thing called "Math Libs" is right front and center. We love "Mad Libs" at our home, so I'm sure Math Libs is just a silly and fun. Spanish is offered here as well as American Sign Language, but their focus is on critical thinking. Wow. Really good stuff here.
  • Petra Lingua Technically, there is free stuff on this site, but it is not entirely free. Still, there are a ton of language courses offered here, and they are all geared to kids. Take a look and let me know what you think.
  • Kids Astronomy What a great idea! There are two levels of courses here: one level for ages 7 - 11, and the other for ages 12 - 18. Very comprehensive and interesting. A bit geeky in its design, still, if offers all you'd want. Just in time for summer, which for me is a great time to want to be outside looking at the stars.

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