Swiss army knife for curious learners

In the past decade, massive open online course or MOOC has been adopted worldwide and become more well known in the world of education. This includes both educators and students. In 2012, MIT OCW (MIT OpenCourseWare) is transformed into edX, and Coursera was founded. Both of them are MOOC platform which have cooperation from top institutions around the world to make the online courses in the early days possible.

Fast forward to 2018, now we have tons of free courses where students can pick and choose what they want to learn from these top institutions in almost every field. In this article I will walk you through some of the best place independent learners need to know exist and must visit once in a while.

MOOC Platform

I have already mentioned Coursera (coursera.org) and edX (edx.org) and I think they are primary source for most learners. edX is founded in cooperation of MIT, all of MIT OCW courses are moved here and more courses from other institutions are added to the platform. edX is now the non-profit organization. Coursera, on the other hand, is commercial company. They have many online courses from top institutions from all around the world as well. Both of the MOOC platforms are free and open to everyone, however if you want an official certificate, there is a small fee for that for each course.

There are many types of course, the active courses will have definite start and end date, during those time, the instructors and/or TAs will be active for discussions. If you were to enroll in one of these, you will have a strict homework and assignment deadlines and you need minimum grade to pass the course and to get a certificate, if you apply and pay for the certificate. However, the other type of course is called “self-paced course”. These courses don’t have strict start and end date and students can take the knowledge in in their own pace. Some of them have certificate and some don’t . The last type of course is the archived course. These courses used to be active, however, after the course ends, the instructors and their team may decide to leave the content available for the others who doesn’t catch up with the course from the start or in that year to be able to learn the material by themselves. Personally, I find all types of MOOCs courses useful and informative.

Textbook Resources

I can safely say that people know that textbooks are relatively expensive. There are many textbooks available for the same subject and same course. They are competing with others on newer contents and organization of the book, however, they did not compete in price. This is where OpenStax (openstax.org) came in, OpenStax is a non-profit which provide textbook of all subjects from high school to college/university for free in the form of eBooks. They also provide low-cost printed version as well. This is the right place to go to when you think that you have a gap in your learning during high school to college and you can quickly look through many parts you might have missed in the class. For high school and college students, these textbooks can help you to understand the same topic from different approaches if the teachers didn’t use these textbooks as a main text for the course. As a bonus, these books are co-written by many writers who is professional in the field. I think this is better than book from other places where only one or two writers write the whole book. There might be some concern about the organization and coherence of contents in the books, but I think they have done a good job in organizing the content of the book down to every sections in each chapters. As their mission is to provide quality textbook at free or low-cost, I think they are on the right track.

Extra Content is EVERYWHERE

At the end, I would like to mention that other than MOOCs and books, there are tremendous amount of learning resources available for free and you can find it everywhere. The first one I should mention is KhanAcademy with a bold goal that “Everyone can learn anything”. This company has grown up from homemade teaching videos. Years later, KhanAcademy contains contents in many areas. In the near future, they might become one of the MOOCs themselves.

If we look, we can find resources anywhere. My favorite place for learning something new is YouTube. There are many channels that you could learn from. For example

I could not list them all here and I am sure that the list can never be completed. Also, if I don’t stop this article here and try to cover everything from every area of studies, this article would be endless.

Xi’an 2018
Pargorn Puttapirat

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Pargorn Puttapirat

Master student at Department of Computer Science and Technology, Xi'an Jiaotong University, China Currently working on Biomedical Text Mining Alumni of Department of Biomedical Engineering, Srinakharinwirot University, Thailand

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