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Postby Nathan » 09 Dec 2013, 22:12

A few weeks ago, I was doing a translation of a bond issuance contract and got a bit concerned about how I didn't properly understand some of the concepts I was actually writing about, so I thought it would be beneficial to do a course in economics starting in the New Year. (As a linguist, it has also been my unfulfilled New Year's resolution for some years now to improve my knowledge of Latin and Greek: I did a few years of Latin at school, though never quite getting as far as the more complex grammatical structures, but I've never studied Greek at any level.)

I first looked into doing a foundation degree at the Open University, but the course fees were an eye-watering ten thousand pounds - more than I paid for all five years I spent as a full-time student put together, and my student days were well within this century!

I know that if I just bought a couple of textbooks I wouldn't have the self-discipline to stick to studying them properly for any sustained length of time, so I'd need some kind of structure, but an actual qualification wouldn't be of all that much use to me anyway, so I had a look at what there was online to just learn.

I never actually realised just how much high-quality learning material there is out there! Most of it seems to be American: universities like Yale and MIT, putting vast quantities of material online which people pay the most ridiculous sums of money for the privilege of learning in person, and completely free of charge.

Many of them are just videos of people giving lectures with no interaction, but some of them genuinely feel as though you are taking the course just like a regular student, with lectures together with full transcripts coming out each week, online forums to chat to other people studying the same thing, and even finals to take at the end.

The variety of subject matter we have available at our fingertips is enormous - whoever you are, there's probably more out there of interest to you than you could ever hope to find the spare time to learn about.

A few links:

https://www.coursera.org/courses?orderb ... g&certs=st
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Re: Learning

Postby Gavin » 09 Dec 2013, 23:30

Thanks for the links. I know Andrea recently did an online course from one of the Ivy League universities.

I agree there is an astonishing amount available for free now, including YouTube lectures and tutorials (though the quality can vary with those). I watch tutorials almost every day. I also keep reading books and manuals though: as I think TD has said, they're sometimes a faster way of getting to what you want to know.

I think that the combination of online learning and home schooling could change the education sector significantly in the future. Before I went to university in the nineties I was intending to simply study for some more A-Levels on my own, then submit myself for the exams. They let me in anyway so I didn't need to do that in the end, but it would be even easier now!
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Re: Learning

Postby Caleb » 10 Dec 2013, 04:23

Nathan: Khan Academy is another one.

If you want to learn about financial stuff, you might not even really need to wade through textbooks or do a full course (though you do note that you might have trouble staying on track otherwise). Investopedia has a lot of information. They have all sorts of different things you can use there, including tutorials and a dictionary. You can also sign up for various newsletters that get emailed to you.
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Re: Learning

Postby Mike » 10 Dec 2013, 09:41

There's a lot of wonderful material online now. In my own field, Google Books is an absolute goldmine - some of the best classical editions were produced in the 19th century (many of them are still definitive), and there they all are, happily unencumbered by copyright and available for free.

Gavin wrote:I think that the combination of online learning and home schooling could change the education sector significantly in the future.

Definitely. At primary and secondary level I think there will always be a place for the teacher, but at tertiary level things will change very quickly. I'm looking forward to the time when employers finally wake up from the mass hypnosis produced by cynical universities offering useless (but highly expensive) degree courses in communication/media/management/public relations/etc. which serve solely to give prospective job applicants an extra line on their CV and a leg-up on the competition. Once businesses start to realise that these academic versions of homeopathic remedies are of no value to someone's worth as an employee, and that if there is any genuine knowledge contained in them a bright twentysomething can pick it up online in a matter of days, universities might just be shocked into rediscovering their original (and true) purpose. But I'm not holding my breath.
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