Free Online Learning: 15 Sites to Explore

One of our favorite phrases here at TechSoup is “don’t reinvent the wheel.” This has been on my mind this week as I’ve been reading about teachers and professors who are changing traditional education by flipping their classrooms. This term essentially means that lectures are watched online at home and homework is done during class. Teachers assign already developed content, such as videos, to be watched on the student's own time in place of traditional lectures so that classroom time can now be spent on what was originally homework. This allows learners to have hands-on personalized help from their teacher or other students, increases interactivity and allows time for individualized project work. Students can move at their own pace since they can re-watch videos and take quizzes to make sure they understand basic concepts. Traditionally if homework was done outside of class and a student couldn't complete it because of a lack of understanding, there were not many options to offer them additional help before the next assignment would be due, leaving them perpetually behind. Salman Khan is one of the originators of the flipped classroom. View his TED Talk, Let's use video to reinvent education to learn more.

This same model can be easily applied to training in libraries. There are a lot of websites and tools that offer free online resources that you can incorporate into staff or public training. I’ve seen some libraries that simply offer a descriptive menu with links to tutorials, videos, and other online learning and just let their patrons learn whenever they’d like. These can be shared on your website, linked on your public access computers, and also used during open lab times, when you have a library trainer or volunteer on hand to answer questions that might arise. You could ask patrons to watch basic videos before a workshop and help alleviate some of the problems that arise from having different levels of experience in a computer class. This also enables trainers to truly move away from being a sage-on-the-stage and become a true guide-on-side. Since new tools are constantly being introduced, it’s an exciting time to be offering technology training inside and outside our libraries today.

These are a few of my favorite online learning sites which can be helpful to share with patrons, staff, friends, or even just for your own lifelong learning.

  • TED Talks (www.ted.com/talks) “Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.” These speeches are having a tremendous impact and can also be a great learning tool if you are trying to improve your own public speaking. They’ve also added an educational component now (http://ed.ted.com) which includes lessons, quizzes, and questions created by educators and animators. You can customize the lessons (or any YouTube video!) with your own title, context, and questions and then TED will create your own URL that can be shared with anyone, and that will also help you measure your learners' progress.   
  • Grovo.com (grovo.com) – “Thousands of video lessons covering Internet products you love or didn't know about.” Their mission is to create a reliable, high-quality destination for Internet education. Their lessons include videos, quizzes, glossaries, and notes.
  • GCFLearnFree.org (www.gcflearnfree.org and www.gcflatino.org - Spanish) is offered by Goodwill Community Foundation, creates and provides free self-paced tutorials and self-paced instructor-supported classes in the areas of technology, literacy and math skills. They offer over 750 different lessons to millions of people in over 200 countries and territories.
  • Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org) "Watch. Practice. Learn almost anything for free.” They have over 3,200 videos on everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and hundreds of skills to practice. Developed by Salman Khan, one of the originators of the flipped classroom (view his TED Talk).
  • EdX (www.edxonline.org) is a joint partnership between The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University to offer free online learning to millions of people around the world.
  • Teach Parents Tech (www.teachparentstech.org) is a fun website designed by Google that you can use to "send your parents a tech support care package." A variety of videos can be emailed including how to share photos, cut and paste, and get driving directions.
  • In Pictures (inpics.net) are tutorials based on the findings of a three-year research study conducted through a U.S. Department of Education grant with the goal of creating materials that make it easier for people with learning disabilities to learn computer subjects. They use large, abundant pictures and break tasks down into step-by-step instructions. Topics covered include MS Office, OpenOffice.org and Web Coding.
  • The Beehive (www.thebeehive.org/digitalbasics) is a nonprofit that offers free online training focused on Digital Basics. They offer Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced options to help people learn to use computers and the Internet safely and intelligently. They use an easy, how-to, step-by-step format that includes videos, interactive games and downloadable PowerPoint presentations.
  • Five Weeks to a Social Library (www.sociallibraries.com/course) is a free, completely online course devoted to teaching librarians about social software and how to use it in their libraries. The course content contains archived webcasts, screencasts, and links to online articles. The course covers: Blogs, RSS, Wikis, Social Networking Software and SecondLife, Flickr, Social Bookmarking Software, and Selling Social Software @ Your Library.
  • 23 Things / Learning 2.0 Program (plcmclearning.blogspot.com) was originally developed and launched by Helene Blowers for staff at PLCMC, North Carolina. It is an online self-discovery program that encourages library employees to try new technologies (blogs, wikis, podcasts, online applications, etc.) and rewards them for completing 23 “Things” (or small exercises) on their own. The program is built on the idea that participants learn best when they’re engaged in their own learning and are motivated to learn.
  • TechSoup (techsoupforlibraries.org/events) offers live and archived webinars every month including technology and training topics. Gather some colleagues to watch a webinar together  and have a learning party! If you want to offer your own webinars, we also have donated webinar software for public libraries and nonprofits including ReadyTalk ($45 admin fee per year), GoToWebinar ($94 admin fee per year), and GoToTraining ($120 admin fee).
  • WebJunction (webjunction.org) offers live and archived free webinars on topics including technology, training, and outreach. Online courses are available to state partners on topics from basic computing skills to advocacy and library skills.
  • InfoPeople (www.infopeople.org) offers live and archived webinars, podcasts, and training materials such as handouts and PowerPoints. InfoPeople is a statewide LSTA project that functions as the training arm of the California State Library.
  • Common Craft (www.commoncraft.com) provides 3-minute explanatory videos “In Plain English” that cover topics like technology, money, and society.
  • Digital Literacy portal (www.digitalliteracy.gov/content/learner) is an initiative of the Obama Administration and includes tutorials and resources for digital literacy trainers.

These are just a few examples to get you started. :) You could even have staff or patrons go through some of these resources on their own and then gather together to discuss, just like a book club. I'd love to learn about your favorite sites or how you've used any of these examples. Please share in the comments!

Comments

Love the list of the sites to check out.  Thank you!