“Free education is abundant, all over the internet. It’s the desire to learn that’s scarce,” tweeted Naval Ravikant last year. Indeed, it’s never been easier to learn absolutely anything, at your own pace, and without leaving your desk. As we discussed last week, a whole world of knowledge has come to your home. In this week’s Thing, we’ll consider elearning – what’s available, ways you can manage content, and how to share your own teaching materials with a wider audience.
In the olden days, i.e. 25 years ago, learning technology meant overhead projectors. Nowadays it encompasses sophisticated online modules, replete with interactive videos, quizzes, and chat features. Perhaps the most enduring elearning website is Lynda.com. Founded back in 1995, Lynda.com offers nearly 7,000 courses taught by industry experts in software, creative, and business skills. You can learn anything from qualitative data analysis with NVivo through to developing mobile apps with Python (that’s a popular programming language). The quality is very high throughout, and you’ll receive a certificate of completion. At £18.95 per month, it’s relatively expensive for the premium version (which helpfully provides sample project files to work on), but there’s a free 30-day trial available. You can do a lot of learning in a month. Many universities have an institutional subscription, so you might already enjoy free access.
While Lynda’s instructors are commissioned to design and deliver courses, anyone can contribute content to Skillshare. Consequently, the quality and structure are variable, but there’s a much broader range of learning on offer across the 21,000 courses. The main areas are creative arts, design, lifestyle, entrepreneurship, and technology. Most courses focus on a specific skill, e.g. designing a brochure in Adobe InDesign or recording a screencast in Camtasia, so you won’t get a thorough grounding in a tool. For those of you seeking a PhD-displacement activity, there’s even a course on how to set up a dog-walking business. The cost is £10 per month, or £7 if you pay annually. There’s also a one-month free trial available.
If you want to acquire academic knowledge rather than skills, many of the world’s top universities make their online courses available for free through platforms such as Futurelearn and Coursera. These tend to be MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses – with thousands of international participants. There is often homework between sessions and lots of activity through discussion forums.
And don’t forget the modules on this CHASE VLE!
Managing Elearning content
Although formal online courses are an excellent way of grasping a new skill, useful learning material exists in many different forms across the internet – YouTube videos, webpages, even tweets. But how do you manage all of this stuff? Well, if you were around for Thing 20, you’ll have the answer: Evernote. With Evernote, you can store pretty much anything in digital format, then organise it using tags, hyperlinks, and tables of contents. The web clipper allows you to capture exactly what you need and arrange it in a way that suits you.
You could also keep a journal of your learning to monitor and reflect on progress.
Building and sharing your own learning materials online
Perhaps you have your own knowledge or skills to share? If you’ve been following 23 Things over the last three months, you should have lots of ideas about how you can create learning materials: podcasts, videos, screencasts, blog posts, and much more. For a formal approach, you could upload a course to Skillshare and even earn some money.
Alternatively, share these artefacts through a blog or make your videos available through YouTube. There are lots of plugins available to help turn your WordPress website into an elearning platform, too.
Elearning technology presents an excellent opportunity to acquire and share knowledge. We’re blessed to live in an age where 5 minutes’ Googling answers nearly any question (even if that does result in 5 hours of watching kitten videos).
The suggested activities for this week are:
- Get a trial account for either Lynda.com or SkillShare and learn something new.
- Use Evernote to collect and organise learning materials.
- Share your own knowledge or skills through a video, screencast, podcast, or blog post.