Learning continues, despite lockdown, and a massive part of our learning has always been “all about the outings.” No outings because “its the law” is all very well and we have made full use of the great outdoors and getting out on the trails as much as possible. However, I realised, not only had our school become stuck in a rut, but we were quite happy there. Our natural curiosity was getting lost in the mire of monotony… Yes, virtual outings are fun and there are endless good museums and webcams you can visit online, but to be honest that feels so like “more school” and smacks of the “hidden educational” that my kids see right through. Meanwhile, at this stage while a handful of my kids are teenagers, it is a great time to expose them to different careers and different learning opportunities, and real life job-shadowing is not an option at the moment.
I decided to explore more learning online. I have been trawling my way through a number of online platforms, and popped a linked-list of them at the end of this post, looking for resources. I thought it was a good time to share some of them. To find free courses on almost any topic… head for the platform of your choice and search for any theme, no matter how obscure… and once you have the list of courses, filter those for the free courses. Almost all the big online platforms, that offer only the best and extremely pricy courses, also offer free “teaser courses” you just need to know where to look.
Meanwhile, finding the right topic can be a bit challenging, there are loads of learning platforms and thousands of courses to choose from, also loads of poor courses, not to mention dead boring material. You have to be discerning and leave the courses that don’t grab your attention behind. I went on a little quest to find online learning that is fun, lively and just a little bit entertaining.
Se7en Courses We Tried Recently AND Loved
- Future Learn: Recreational Mathematics with Yossi Elran: This course was just the boost our boring mid-year plod through maths needed, it is a three week or so course that has a week of mathematical conundrums and puzzles, a week of codes, cryptography and sudoku type puzzles and finally a week of games: the game of Nim, any number of versions of Tic Tac Toe, as well as the Game of Life. This course requires NO special math skills and all my kids were quite engaged with it. I worked through this course on my own before my kids… and then we went through it together. It started the habit of always having a math puzzle up and available for my kids to ponder on. This course also led to a series of other online mathematical fun… like these puzzles on Ted Ed.
- Future Learn: Introduction to Forensic Science: I am definitely classifying this as science credit for my kids… it is full of excellent methodology, links to articles to read, discussion and “how to videos”. Obviously not for young children, but my high schoolers are loving it. We are gripped by this course, where you pursue an actual crime: Murder on the Loch. How to process a crime scene, control, preserve, record and recover… this course describes a murder scene where the husband and wife are apparently pulled over, as they drive home from their anniversary lunch, by an armed robber who wanted their jewellery and cash. The wife resisted the robber and was shot in the head… The point of the course is to solve the murder and learn forensic science as you go. This is fantastic, we are really enjoying it.
- Craftsy: Journaling the Everyday with Judith Cassel-Mamette Course: I did this course with my two youngest kids, age 11 and 13, and we loved it. Short 15/20 minute videos… on how to create a notebook, how to make your pages much more interesting, what sort of items to collect on your adventures and so much more. We loved it and were so inspired to get creating: Note book pages have been created, journal pages have been inspired. You can find her inspiring work on her website over here.
- Udemy: How Some Hikers Almost Always Know Where They Are: The lecturer taking this course was not the most dynamic of all time (just saying), but my kids really enjoyed it for the information… Who wouldn’t enjoy learning about navigating your way around maps and the great outdoors.
- Udemy: 3 Minute French Class: All my kids do French as a second language, and this was a nice filler for them that they really enjoyed… 3 minutes of extremely simple French sentences and after a couple of days they were able to respond to the usual “Hello, how are you?” Questions with a lot more interesting answers than, “I am fine, thank you.”
- Udemy: Chemistry – Guided Nomenclature: One of my kids is obsessed with the Periodic Table, and this course on how to name chemical formulae is tricky, but fun. It really raised our game, and every now and then we had to go back and repeat lessons. After a week or three we really started to feel quite accomplished. This course escalates way beyond school level chemistry really fast, but we really enjoyed it and have kept at it. It does make one feel somewhat smart to be able to spout out the chemical names of formula and you would be surprised at how often we have gotten to use it.
- Udemy: Memorise 50 Elements from the Periodic Table in 30 Minutes: This is a funny little course that we discovered almost by accident and perhaps we should have started this one before our Chemical Nomenclature!!! Defintiley not 30 minutes all at once, but rather a three minute video and a little sentence to help you remember the names of the elements as you go down the groups on the Periodic Table. Fun, short and easy to implement.
Online Learning Platforms to Try
Future Learn is brilliant, and we have found loads of great courses on there, and a massive wish list of courses that we fully intend to try in the future. Unlike Udemy (below), these courses have a time limit. Now in terms of learning online… there are several criteria that separate great courses from all the rest. A time limit is one of those criteria, if you aren’t working on a course you should let it go… and a deadline keeps you working towards a goal. We have really enjoyed ALL the Future Learn Courses we have done… masses of “career exploration” courses… this is a fantastic platform for science, health, engineering and recreational math (I know… recreational math?!?… It is a thing!!!).
So on Udemy, for instance, type in the theme you are interested in and then on the left hand side there are a variety of filters, pick “free” and off you go… you will have a list of the free courses on that topic. Udemy is a classic online learning platform, you can literally find anything at all there. This is one of the first large online learning platforms and some of the course presentation is a little dated, and did not peak my kids attention at all. That being said, some of the courses were fresh and fun, emphasising a little bit of learning everyday, hard topics smashed in the minimum amount of time.
I spotted Craftsy on Instagram and yes, it was an ad, but a ridiculous summer sale, I paid $1. for a year’s subscription. I didn’t buy the fancy elite membership package, I didn’t need to, I am thrilled with what we have. We have so much fun exploring the Craftsy website… there is really something for everyone. Loads of courses that we will absolutely never ever look at… but loads we have enjoyed. They have fabric crafts, paper crafts, baking, woodwork and so many many more.
From history to literature, coding to climate, community health and law… 101 Free courses available online from Harvard University. Really worth exploring.
There are thousands of free courses on this platform, thousands… on any and every topic. From career courses to environmental courses, technology and languages, even how to plan for your retirement. Loads of courses on Oceanography and different kinds of animals. Literally thousands of courses to choose from… we will be looking at several of these courses as we head towards the end of our school year.
We haven’t dived into this one just yet, but looks like everything about coding and not just coding, but loads of learning about social media and working online as well, which is fantastic for teens that are looking to create their own online identity and boost their earning power while they are studying.