Get Smarter in 2017: Here are 5 Places to Educate Yourself Online (for Free) – knowledge is power

Get Smarter in 2017: Here are 5 Places to Educate Yourself Online (for Free) – knowledge is power

What do you want to learn more about this year? Nanotechnology? Virtual reality? Bitcoin? How to protect democracy?

According to neuroscience professor Ken Kosik, adult education, or specifically engaging in challenging new learning experiences, encourages brain plasticity. And plasticity is associated with flexibility, innovation, and joy.

Equally as compelling, continued learning has been shown to protect your brain from developing diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Finally, in today’s charged political climate, it’s worth noting that an educated populace has always been shown to withstand challenging times more effectively.

Here are a few ways to get educated this year, quickly and powerfully:

1. Coursera

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Take classes from universities like Stanford, Penn, Duke, or Yale without the $60,000+/year price tag. Coursera offers over 1,500 courses from 145+ university partners.

Courses usually include videos and coursework like online quizzes monitored by a professor. You can search by topic or university.

Sample classes:

  • Positive Psychology: Research findings in the field of positive psychology as well as practical applications that you can put to use immediately to help you live a “full and meaningful life.”
  • Become a More Effective Manager: Learn how effective managers assess performance, use coaching to create clear expectations and accountability, and how to have powerful conversations that get results.
  • Securing Digital Democracy: Learn about the potential of and security risks of electronic and Internet voting. Course covers the past, present, and future of election technologies.
  • The Making of the US President: A Short History in Five Elections: “As Trump takes office as 45th president of the US, this course explores presidential elections in historical perspective … It tells the story of key campaigns, and by doing so it investigates how politics changed over time–and how understanding the past sheds light on the current campaign.”



If you’re an entrepreneur or a globally-minded businessperson, you’ll love ALISON, a UK-based learning hub. It’s got classes in English, French and German, with practical courses on everything from American copyright law to nonprofit fundraising. Sample courses:

Completion of a course grants you “certification,” a British designation.

3. Academic Earth


The advantage of Academic Earth is that it creates curated playlists, collecting relevant lectures from different courses around a specific topic. Sample playlists:

It also has interesting and occasionally entertaining video electives, such as:

4. 99U


With the tagline “Empowering the Creative Community,” 99U is kind of like TED for entrepreneurs only: its focus is heavily on creativity, innovation, and business development. Sample lectures:

  • Why Unrest is Gold for Creatives: “In an era of upheaval and crisis, creative expression takes on new urgency … For those creatives feeling discontent in these fractious times, it’s a reminder that the simmering feeling of anger can be best used to issue a call to action and serve as a tool for change.”
  • How to Beat the Imposter Syndrome Feeling: “Approximately 70% of us will experience a period of self-doubt at least once in our lives. Rebuild your confidence using these five strategies.”
  • Paola Antonelli: Rejection Is a Sign You’re Onto Something New: “Your creative work can make the world a better place. But only if you allow yourself to shock, disgust, and–yes–even fail.”

5. Udacity


If you’re serious about learning how to code this year or need to bone up on computer science or math skills, this clean site is ideal. It includes an icon next to videos to let you know just how advanced a course is so you can start with an easier one if you’re new to a subject. Sample courses:

  • Android Basics Nanodegree by Google (beginner): “Get a solid grasp on the basics of foundational programming skills used in creating mobile apps.”
  • VR Developer Nanodegree (intermediate): “Virtual Reality is the future of creative content. Job opportunities are skyrocketing, making this the perfect time to launch your career. Built by Google VR, Vive, Upload Collective.”
  • Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree (advanced): “In this program, you’ll learn the skills and techniques used by self-driving car teams at the most advanced technology companies in the world. Built by Mercedes, Nvidia, Otto, Didi, BMW, McLaren, NextEv.”

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” Albert Einstein

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