When I was in college, it often seemed that the most interesting courses were the ones that I couldn’t take. History of Dada and Surrealism. Intro to Filmmaking. Archaeoastronomy. Jungian Archetypes and Literature. Physics for Presidents. Drugs and Behavior. Anatomical Illustration. Usually, the courses that jumped out of the catalog at me wouldn’t satisfy my elective requirements. Or they required some esoteric prerequisite. Or they were “for majors only.” Or they were so popular that I was shut out every time. Now though, education has been set free by the Internet. Everyone has the opportunity to take courses from some of the world’s best educators. For free. Whenever you want. In your bathrobe. No grades. No student loans. Just professors dropping knowledge in classes like “Hands-On Astronomy: Observing Stars and Planets” (MIT!), the “Foundations of American Cyber-Culture” (UC Berkeley!), or “Science, Magic, and Religion” (UCLA). Here’s how to go back to school without, well, going back to school:
• After MIT led the charge in the US, hundreds of higher ed institutions began to offer free audio or video lectures under open licenses. The OpenCourseWare Consortium is a collaboration of more than 200 schools putting high-quality education materials online so that “everyone, everywhere is able to access affordable, educationally and culturally appropriate opportunities to gain whatever knowledge or training they desire.”
• Open Culture is a clearinghouse of links to “the best free cultural & educational media on the Web,” from free course and free textbooks to science videos and language lessons. Their page of “400 Free Online Course from Top Universities” will keep you busy with the likes of “Game Theory in the Social Sciences” (UC Berkeley), “Existentialism in Literature & Film” (UC Berkeley), and “Capitalism: Success, Crisis and Reform” (Yale), just to name a few obvious highlights.
• The Modern Scholar Podcast is a series of educational and rather entertaining interviews with professors who provide brief intros to their favorite topics, such as Evolutionary Psychology, Detective Fiction, Myths and Mysteries in Archaeology, and Crime Scene Investigation: Philosophy, Practice, and Science.