Δευτέρα, 29 Σεπτεμβρίου 2014

Free Online Courses: Top 50 Sites to Get Educated for Free

Free Online Courses: Top 50 Sites to Get Educated for Free

Whether you are looking for a master’s degree program, computer science classes, a K-12 curriculum, or GED study program, this list gives you a look at 50 websites that promise education for free.
From databases that organize over 1,000,000 students throughout 16 universities, to a small library of documents for those interested in history, the opportunities for free online learning continue to expand as the Internet becomes a crucial component in education.
The UMass courseware offers a broad range of classes in areas like psychology, biology, early education, political science, history, mathematics, and others. Each department has a separate page listing the classes available. Along the side, you are given your syllabus, assignments, a professor bio, and recommended reading.
There are no slides, videos, or lecture notes, which makes this open courseware inferior to other universities that offer extensive resources.
This website has a variety of video lessons for free. The course subjects are broken down into particular lessons, which is great for students who are looking to learn one principle without taking an entire course. For example, the biology subject has separate videos for evolution, photosynthesis, genetics, and others.
If you prefer reading to watching, this site may not be for you as the lessons are all video based.
MIT Open Courseware
For those looking for courses that will test even the brightest student, MIT is sure not to disappoint. You can download all the course material, which is nearly identical to the course taught at MIT (it even gives you the year and semester it was taught). Since it is an on-demand course, you don’t have any ability to connect with others who are taking it. It is simply an independent study for you to study on your own.
4. Free-Ed
This site is a bit difficult to navigate, as it is not as well designed as other open courseware websites. Similar to most databases, you search through the subjects and categories until you find the class you want to take. One advantage to Free-ed? When you find a class you like, there is the option to click on networking. It will notify you if there are Facebook groups or other online groups you can join that have individuals taking the course you are interested in.
This website offers downloadable coursework in lots of different categories like youth and children, languages, business, engineering, and others. When you look through the coursework, you can view them according to rating. Other users can rate the class, which may help you in deciding what course to take. The main page does warn that there is a new site design coming in the fall of 2012, so there may be changes soon.
This website is well designed with ample content to explain how Carnegie Mellon’s OLI works. Unfortunately, you cannot view the course without creating an account. The tagline right above the courses says, “No instructor, no credits, no charge.” Like so many other free courseware, it is an individual study.
Tufts makes it clear from the start that their courses are not the same as the ones taught in the classroom. It is up to the professor’s discretion what is posted for free and common use. You don’t need a login ID to view the material, and the professors’ lectures are available as slides. Since there is not any more explanation beyond the slides, it may require you to dig deeper in your own research to understand the whole lecture.
Stanford on iTunes U gives you two options. You can either subscribe to the updated video lectures, or simply download the one you’d like to watch. In order to participate in this course, you do need to have an iTunes account and software.
These courses are easy to access and find with quick browsing. Each class lecture is offered as an MP3 file with an html document that outlines the assignment. This is a bare bones program, as the assignments are simply exams to test your knowledge of the material.
The Kutztown On-Demand program is focused mainly on business. You must fill out a brief survey before you can access the course, but the material is organized nicely, with small video clips for each topic. You can stop and start as you need to since it is broken down into small pieces. Aside from the slides, there aren’t any other materials to test your acquisition of knowledge.
USQ’s courseware is limited with only ten different courses offered, mostly in technology. The modules are laid out right online with lecture notes and testing assignments. Unfortunately, there is no way to network with any other students enrolled in the courses.
The Irvine Courseware offers a variety of classes in different subjects. Unlike other open courseware programs, Irvine does offer a link to information about getting academic credit for some of the courses offered. All the information for the course automatically downloads as a Word documents when you click on the links.
13. EdX
This website offers an array of courses from different universities. The main difference between EdX and other online courses is that the class is a specific length and duration. When you sign up, you are committing to the class time and assignments. You can register for classes offered by Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, and other prestigious schools. If you are looking for a class you can do on your own time, this isn’t the website for you. The classes here are similar to paid online learning classes.
14. Coursera
This is one of the largest website databases for University open courseware. Like EdX, these courses are at a set time (usually lasting for 10-14 weeks). You can access classes from 16 different Universities’ including Princeton, Duke, Stanford, and CalTech. With over 1,000,000 users, Coursera has established itself as the central “go-to” website for free online University learning.
15. Udemy
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Udemy is an online institution that offers courses taught by leading experts. You can choose from classes on developing products for Facebook, SQL databases, Photoshop, Music Theory, Business, and many others. Udemy also allows everyday experts to create their own class, so you will have to be selective about the courses you want to take as anyone can create a course. There is a bio about each instructor, along with an Amazon-like review area for users to rate the course and give their opinions about the class work.
connections academy
Connections Academy is a free online K-12 curriculum for homeschoolers and other children in non-traditional classroom settings. This academy relies heavily on parent involvement with a stated, 96% satisfaction percentage. Each lesson has an overview, a lesson, review, and assessment. There are tools, textbooks, and other resources to bolster the student’s educational experience.
17. K-12
This free online K-12 curriculum is offered by state. Currently, only 33 states offer the program. If your state participates, a list will come up of academies that your student can enroll in. K-12 is a network of schools offering education. It is not an independent curriculum developer. There are also private schools that network with K-12, but there are tuition costs.
GED for Free is a basic online course offered to students who have not been able to complete high school and need to get their GED. You simply fill out a student profile and begin studying. This site is only designed to teach the students the concepts that will be tested on the GED exam. There are no advanced courses or enrichment activities.
This is a free online k-12 learning system that specializes in flashcards as a way to test the acquisition of skills. The school is free but if you want an accredited program, which comes with tests, certificates, etc., you will need to pay a monthly fee. Without registering, you aren’t able to see much about their curriculum, so it is a bit difficult to navigate.
This website is a database, listing classes by topic. For each class, there is a sidebar that tells you what school offers it, how many students took it, and the instructor. Unfortunately, the class material only comes in a video lecture format. There are no assignments or other materials.
OpenCulture has compiled a list of University free courses. In their list, they identify what form the lecture comes in (iTunes, Web video, YouTube, etc.). In addition to course listings, they also offer lists of free audio books, free textbooks, and free language lessons. This site does not offer its own curriculum, but rather it compiles resources for easy navigating.
This site is a bare bones archiving of math courses offered by New York University. When you click on a class you like, it takes you to a list of files that are available as PDF documents. Perhaps the material is interesting, but the packaging is not done very well.
Open Yale Courses
Open Yale courses offers a great website that is easy to navigate and comprehensive. There are a variety of subjects offered, which can either be downloaded as a zip file, or viewed online. Each lecture has a video (which was recorded during the actual course on campus), plus a transcript and a PDF of slides used during the presentation.
Along the side, the video is broken into lecture chapters, so if you can’t finish the whole thing in one sitting, you can come back to it later. There is no need to sign up or create an ID. Yale has made it easy to take their courses.
Gresham College offers lectures for students in different topics. You can watch or listen to past lectures, or attend upcoming lectures. This college is in the UK, so if you are interested in a lecture, you’ll have to wait until it is posted online to view.
Notre Dame has an extensive list of open courses available on their site. They are listed with small buttons next to each title, signifying what the course consists of (syllabus, assignments, video, exams, etc.). When you enter the course, a left hand menu bar helps you to navigate through all the different aspects of the course. There are required readings, which may force you to buy textbooks. Overall, it is a highly organized site and easy to navigate.
26. JHSPHOpen
The JHSPH open courses are comprehensive.  Choose from the list of available topics, and view the materials in a clean and streamlined format. Each lecture comes with slides and an MP3 for download. The classes have a calendar, recommended reading this, syllabus, and a final exam. They also have a place for you to email and give your comments.
27. Open UW
This website is a small initiative offered by the University of Washington. It has a list of ten courses, none of which can be accessed without filling out a lengthy profile and sign up. There are other universities who take more pride in their open courseware experience than UW.
28. Udacity
Udacity is a digital university that specializes in computer science courses. The web layout is extremely easy to navigate. You are given five-minute video lectures with quizzes and assignments. There are no textbooks required, and everything is free. In addition to the class, Udacity offers an online forum where students can collaborate together, study, and work in groups.
They can arrange for you to take a proctored exam to gain credit at participating universities. They even offer to hand your resume to partnering companies. This institution is about helping the student succeed on all levels!
University of the People is a private online tuition free university. You apply just like you would for a traditional institution, and they currently offer an Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree in computer science and business administration. They are currently seeking accreditation from the US. Department of Education.
This university works like a traditional online distance learning degree program, where you sign up for classes, interact with other students, professors, and complete assignments. It is a great option for those who want a college education experience but don’t have the money to do it.
academic earth
Academic Earth is a website that helps students find a degree program of their choice. They do offer free lectures, but that is not their main focus. Instead, it is geared towards matching students with the right online degree program.
The Textbook Revolution is a site run by students who want to improve the exchange of free information. There are textbook exchanges, plus lists of online resources and free course offerings. This is a grassroots based organization- having been developed by students for students. This is a great site to use as a resource.
While this is not an online education site, the government has created a library of files pertaining to America’s history, literature, towns and cities, technology, war, and other important topics. These files are free to access and read, and can bolster a student interested in the social sciences.
33. Alison
Alison is free online education institution that offers lectures, videos, and class materials in various different topics like nursing and education. In order to enter the course, you must first sign up. Each course has a summary page, which outlines the materials provided, the instructor, a syllabus, and the amount of time it will take to accomplish. The site itself isn’t as easy to navigate as some of the others.
Webcast Berkeley has a very simple model. You simply watch a recording of the class that a professor taught on campus. There are no sign in ID’s, assignments, or other resources. It is simply something you watch and absorb. Some of the classes only offer audio lectures. If you are looking for a bit more structure, this school isn’t for you.
This website advertises free courses, lessons, and apps. Rather than getting a degree, the classes are tailored to a specific skill like, “Learn Microsoft Word.” The layout is a bit complicated, so it will take some patience to navigate the pages to find what you want.
Google Code University offers computer science courses for those interested in coding and languages. You click on the course you’d like to take, and all the materials, videos, and lessons are along the side bar. There is no option to interact with others, so it is essentially an independent study.
The e-Learning Center offers a modest selection of courses in customer service, software, and computer science. In order to access the course, you must first sign up. This limits a viewer’s ability to see what is offered without first making a commitment.
38. Saylor
Saylor University is an advanced learning site, offering degree programs in a wide variety of disciplines. Once completed, you will receive a certificate (though the school is currently not accredited). Saylor promises that your knowledge and education will be equivalent to a traditional college education. The website is easy to navigate and understand and a great choice if you are interested in the material.
Master Class Management is a website designed solely for those students interested in a business degree. You receive a certificate at the end of each class. Unfortunately, it seems this site is more excited about receiving money through advertising, as the Google Ads are strategically placed right above the “next” button. For someone who is not tech-savvy, they may click on the ads thinking that is the next step.
This site offers courses not readily found at other schools. You can take a class in strengthening marriage, family history, honesty, righteousness, and other religious type topics. In order to view the class, you must register first.
At the University of Michigan Open courseware, you can choose from a substantial variety of topics. The information all gets downloaded to your computer, after you’ve read the synopsis. There is no interactive component or ability to network with other students.
The NLC website is very basic, only offering a few classes. These classes are simply a collection of web pages with information. There is not a lot that has been done to develop this program, so look elsewhere first before using this website’s materials.
This website is part of the Indira Gandhi National Open University. Free courses are available after you have registered, though the site does make it clear that the courses are independent, and there is no access to a professor. However, there is an online forum attached to the website that allows you to collaborate with your peers.
44. Nixty
This website does not offer its own curriculum, but is a networking site for teachers, students, and institutions. You can log in with your Facebook account and use it as a resource hub for your online learning. Unfortunately, there isn’t much else you can discover without first signing up with an account.
The Capilano University offers a modest selection of courses for independent study. When you enter the course, you are provided with an instructor bio, syllabus, assignments, and lecture notes. It is a simple website, easy to navigate, and great for the motivated and independent learner.
46. TU Delft
TU Delft offers courses at both the bachelor and master level, arranged by degree program. You will have access to lecture notes, exams, and assignments in a broad range of topics and subjects. It is easy to navigate, free, and requires no sign-in!
This unique university offers courses in government, economics, electronic government, and more. Each unit is free to download, or can be viewed as a PDF file online. There aren’t many classes offered, but the classes are very specific to those who may be interested in government or International diplomacy.
Weber State University offers only six classes currently in automotive electronics, technology, health, and English. Each class has the same modules as other open courseware, but the program is small and only narrowly developed.
A Spanish website for those who do not speak English. There are a wide variety of courses offered, and the site is well laid out and organized. There is no login required. You simply click and enter the course!
This college has been offering free distance learning classes, but it may not be this way for long. Their courses do provide certification that is recognized in the business world. They specialize in areas of learning, such as mental health field, beauty and fashion, performing arts, craft and construction, and media.
As online education continues to expand, a student’s opportunities will grow as well. More and more, traditional universities are seeing a need to reduce the cost of education and keep students interested in their programs. Private companies are also taking the opportunity to create dynamic programs that are free and accessible to anyone!

Cited From: http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/free-online-courses-50-sites-to-get-educated-for-free/#ixzz3HRAqd91w

Mind Wandering: How It Helps and Harms Learning

Mind Wandering: How It Helps and Harms Learning

hat happens on a neurological level while our minds wander is actually pretty fascinating. According to the Neuroenergetic Theory proposed by Killeen et al., our attention starts to lag after just twelve seconds of effort because our neurons run out of fuel. Neurons first look to glial cells for lactate, a readily used sugar, and if they can’t find it, they look for glycogen, which is stored up at night when we sleep.
If our neurons can’t find the lactate or glycogen needed to focus, they get exhausted––enabling other parts of the brain to call for attention. That’s when the mind starts to wander.
“These functions that all come from within — like imagination and mind-wandering — have been shown to be really important contributors to creativity.”
This happens to us all from time to time, especially when we don’t get enough rest or the right nutrition. But it can happen more frequently to those of us who just have trouble concentrating, or find ourselves zoning out more than we should.
So what’s the result for our daily lives? When is it okay to let our minds wander, and when should we try to resist? The answer may surprise you.


The majority of literature on the topic suggests that mind-wandering typically occurs at a significant cost to performance. Mind-wandering–related deficits in performance have been observed in many contexts, most notably reading, tests of sustained attention, and tests of aptitude. Mind-wandering has been shown to negatively impact reading comprehension and model building, impair the ability to withhold automatised responses, and disrupt performance on tests of working memory and intelligence.
The researchers found that individuals’ minds wandered less when they were doing what they were good at, but wandered more when they were doing something that required more effort.
In reading tasks, for instance, mind wandering frequency is directly related to poor reading comprehension, not to mention how much of the material read is actually remembered afterward. Measuring this relationship usually involves tests of reading comprehension as well as direct measurement of eye gaze and reading time.
By any measure used, children prone to mind wandering perform much more poorly and may even lead to their being diagnosed with an attention disorder.
The same relationship applies to other cognitive tasks measuring attention span, selective attention, and problem-solving.
Another context in which mind-wandering can be problematic is when we are trying to complete a task or activity that we know we’re not good at. From a rewards perspective, it’s easy to see why we are able to concentrate on a task we’re good at. But when we’re feeling challenged or overwhelmed, mind-wandering can seriously deter us from accomplishing our goals.
In a 2011 study, 165 undergraduate students at Zhejiang Normal University were probed for mind-wandering six times a day over the course of three days, and completed a questionnaire about their immediate conscious experience each time they received the probe signal. The questionnaire was designed to probe four aspects of mind wandering in daily life: content, context, reasons, and meta-awareness.
The researchers found that individuals’ minds wandered less when they were doing what they were good at, but wandered more when they were doing something that required more effort.
These findings are consistent with the research team’s previous studies: minds wandered less when participants were concentrated or felt competent, while the decreased demand of a task increased its frequency.


Time and time again, researchers have found that life satisfaction correlates with academic achievement, ability to focus, and overall career success.
In a 2011 TED talk, Matt Killingsworth discusses an app, Track Your Happiness, which allows people to chart their feelings on a moment-by-moment basis. As they go about their day, app users get random pings, asking them to share their current activity and note their mood. When Killingsworth gave this talk, the app had collected data from more than 15,000 people in 80 countries, representing a wide range of ages, education levels, and occupations.
In this talk, Killingsworth reveals a very surprising finding: that mind-wandering appears to factor heavily into this happiness   equation.

Killingsworth found that mind-wandering appears to be correlated with unhappiness. When people were mind-wandering, they reported feeling happy only 56% of the time. Meanwhile, when they were focused on the present moment, they reported feeling happy 66% of the time. This effect was true regardless of the activity the person was doing — be it waiting in line or eating a tasty meal.


Mind-wandering might make us feel less content, but it could also have a functional purpose.
recent study published in the journal Psychological Science suggests that mind-wandering might be a sign of a high capacity working memory — in other words, the ability to think about multiple things at once. Researchers asked study participants to press a button and, as they went, checked in to see if their minds were wandering. After the task was complete, researchers gave participants a measure of their working memory. Interestingly, those who were found to be frequent mind-wanderers during the first task showed a greater capacity of working memory.
Interestingly, those who were found to be frequent mind-wanderers during the first task showed a greater capacity of working memory.
Researcher Jonathan Smallwood of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science explains, “Our results suggest that the sorts of planning that people do quite often in daily life — when they’re on the bus, when they’re cycling to work, when they’re in the shower — are probably supported by working memory. Their brains are trying to allocate resources to the most pressing problems.”
Mind-wandering might also play a vital function in helping us form memories. New York University neuroscientist Arielle Tambini looked at memory consolidation in this study published in the journal Neuron in 2010.
Participants in the study were asked to look at pairs of images and, in between, were instructed to take a break to think about anything they wanted. Using fMRI, the researchers looked at the activity in the hippocampus cortical regions while they did both. The study showed that these two areas of the brain appear to work together — and that the greater the levels of brain activity in both areas, the stronger the subjects’ recall of the image pairing was.
Explains Lila Davichi, who oversaw the study, “Your brain is working for you when you’re resting, so rest is important for memory and cognitive function. This is something we don’t appreciate much, especially when today’s information technologies keep us working round-the-clock … Taking a coffee break after learning can actually help you retain that information you just learned.”


Sometimes it’s spontaneous thought that awards us with our greatest ideas. A recent study published in the journal Psychological Science gives a clue as to why. A research team led by Benjamin Baird and Jonathan Schooler of the University of California at Santa Barbara asked participants to take “unusual uses” tests — brainstorming alternate ways to use an everyday object like a toothpick for two minutes (an ability also known as divergent thinking).
Study participants did two of these sessions, and then were given a 12-minute break, during which they were asked to rest, perform a demanding memory exercise or do a reaction time activity designed to maximise their mind-wandering. After the break, they did four more unusual uses tests — two of them repeats.
Research has even shown that on standardised tests, when students are allowed to mind-wander and make personal connections to their own lives, they perform better on exams
While all of the groups performed comparably on the two new unusual uses lists, the group that had performed the mind-wandering tasks performed 41% better then the other groups on the unusual uses lists they were repeating. “The implication is that mind-wandering was only helpful for problems that were already being mentally chewed on. It didn’t seem to lead to a general increase in creative problem-solving ability,” says Baird.
“When we see someone daydreaming, we have no idea what’s going on in their head,” he says. “These functions that all come from within — like imagination and mind-wandering — have been shown to be really important contributors to creativity.”
Research has even shown that on standardised tests, when students are allowed to mind-wander and make personal connections to their own lives, they perform better on exams, Kaufman says.
[Read more about creativity in Cultivating Creativity.]

Personal Goals

Scott Barry Kaufman, NYU psychology professor and author of Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, says we need a new definition of intelligence–one that factors in our deepest dreams and desires.
“We all have goals and dreams in life–things we want to accomplish out there in the real world,” Kaufman tells The Huffington Post. “And while the kinds of skills that are measured on IQ tests are important … there are so many more characteristics that come into play in helping us to reach those dreams and goals in a long-term way.”
Our traditional standard of intelligence is lacking, Kaufman explains, and it can leave behind many people who don’t perform well on rote cognitive skill tests, but who may be highly adept when it comes to spontaneous cognition.
“We tend to think of smart people as those who learn really quickly and do well on IQ tests,” Kaufman says. “I felt like so many people were being judged as stupid too quickly entirely based on these scores … I wanted to look at what happened when we get these students really engaged in something that’s personally meaningful to them.”
Kaufmans’s Theory of Personal Intelligence, as outlined in Ungifted, explains intellect in broader terms, focusing on cognitive engagement and ability as applied to the pursuit of personal goals. The theory takes into account not only traditional markers of intelligence such as working memory and attention (controlled forms of cognition), but also spontaneous forms of cognition, including insight, intuition and the triggering of memories and stored information–types of intelligence often accessed through mind-wandering.
According to Kaufman’s theory, mind-wandering can play an important role in personal adaptation. He wrote in a recent Scientific American blog (based on a paper he co-authored with Rebecca L. McMillan, “Ode To Positive Constructive Daydreaming”) that mind-wandering can offer significant personal rewards:
These rewards include self- awareness, creative incubation, improvisation and evaluation, memory consolidation, autobiographical planning, goal driven thought, future planning, retrieval of deeply personal memories, reflective consideration of the meaning of events and experiences, simulating the perspective of another person, evaluating the implications of self and others’ emotional reactions, moral reasoning, and reflective compassion…
From this personal perspective, it is much easier to understand why people are drawn to mind wandering and willing to invest nearly 50 percent of their waking hours engaged in it.

Future Thinking

A lot of the thinking we do during mind-wandering tends to focus on future events.
Without realising it, we use mind-wandering to anticipate and plan out future goals and rehearse all the different ways those future goals can go wrong. Since mind-wandering usually happens during tedious tasks which don’t require that much mental activity, pondering future events may have an important evolutionary advantage, according to Canadian psychologist Romeo Vitelli.
Research shows that people with higher working memory capacities are more likely to mind-wander about the future than they are about the past, lending further credence to the benefits of future thinking.

Attentional Cycling and Dishabituation

Mind-wandering can support multi-tasking by allowing us to “cycle through” various problems we might be facing before we actually face them, thereby keeping them all fresh in our mind and making them easier to deal with as they arise. A wandering mind can also help us get through demanding tasks by affording a short mental vacation.
Spending too much time on a task can make us too tired to give our full attention to what we are working on, resulting in a psychological phenomenon called “habituation.” Brief periods of mind-wandering can make us return to the task feeling a little more refreshed, or “dishabituated,” in effect letting us recharge our mental batteries.

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