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  • Writer's pictureLydia Craig

Websites for Learning

As a self-confessed nerd, with awesome, nerdy friends I hear about all kinds of new interactive websites, apps, and archives created just to make me smarter. At least, that's how it seems to me. Here are just a few I've found helpful. Check 'em out!

Coursera. You can take all kinds of six-week courses online, usually through video lectures given by world-renowned professors, which can be watched at your own pace. There is the option of receiving certification for the course for an annual fee, but if your goal is simply information, that isn't necessary. For instance, I've taken a History of Warfare class, and in 2015 finished "English Common Law" taught by Adam Gearey of the University of London. It's very similar to a class on Tort Law I took at St John's College in Oxford. A dry subject, I know, but after it ends I'm beginning a new class entitled "The Camera Never Lies" about the image captured by camera, propaganda use, etc.

Topics on Coursera range from Musical Theory to Computer Skills to Mathematics, so there's usually a class for everything. Just search and sign up! [Academic Earth is a similar website, which offers courses on all subjects. I watched a video on Academic Earth today about "How to Take a Punch" in the face...all Mathematically sound instructions!] Obviously, top universities are realizing the power of online education, and these burgeoning websites are proof of the influence of multi-media on education.

Goodreads. Can't find your next read? Forgotten the name of that story you read ten years ago? Want to rate, review, and show off the books you've read? This is the website you've always needed and never found. I've used it since 2009 with great enjoyment. You mark books 'read', 'want to read', and can custom shelve them. There are groups, you can friend people, share reviews, give recommendations, and bash Twilight! A great feature is the annual challenge to read a certain number of books every year.

Duolingo. This incredible website is devoted to helping you learn languages...for free. There's no limit to how many languages you can learn simultaneously on your computer, phone, or tablet. There are hundreds of languages, ranging from Spanish and French to Welsh, Chinese, Navajo, and even Klingon for Star Trek enthusiasts and High Valyrian for the committed Game of Thrones fans. I'm still waiting for the Elvish languages Quenya and Sindarin - it's time to think of LOTR fans, Duolingo!

You read, listen, speak, and chart your progress through the language as you go. It's extremely easy and encouraging!

YouTube. While I exercise on a treadmill, I often watch YouTube documentaries on various subjects made by NatGeo and other channels. Thousands of period films are available here, including movies from the 20th and 21st centuries. Also, certain channels like English Heritage demonstrate what life was like in the 19th century by reenacting such practices as Victorian cooking! I use some of these short films in my classes for teaching and discussion purposes.

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