If you haven’t learned something new in a while then do yourself a favor and invest in yourself. There are more opportunities to gain education (for free!) than ever before. First, here is why you should make it a point to learn continually:
- Education increases your potential salary and brings future opportunities
- It is the key to advancement in your profession
- The speed of innovation is increasing rapidly with technology. You learn or get left behind.
- We are increasingly competing with a global market that values education
- Innovation comes when you “cross-pollinate” by mixing your specialty with concepts in other fields.
There are lots of good places to find free education. Libraries are full of useful and interesting books. Satellite TV has tons of educational channels. My favorite is getting paid to learn at work. I once heard a statistic that only 2% of employees take advantage of job education benefits. Do you? Of course, the Internet is the one of best sources around. Why do you think so many non-profits (like this one, this one, or this one) are working to bring affordable internet access to developing nations? They know that with internet access comes free education for everyone. So hop in and get a piece of the pie. These are some of the best sites out there for free learning:
- Khan Academy (http://www.khanacademy.org) - A free library of over 1800 video lessons on a variety of subjects including economics, statistics, chemistry, physics, and lots of math. Very impressive.
- Academic Earth (http://www.academicearth.org) - Recorded Online Lectures from professors at Yale, MIT, UCBerkeley, Princton, Stanford, Harvard, and other elite universities. You have to see it to believe it!
- Open CourseWare (http://ocw.mit.edu) - Did you just say free course materials for nearly all classes offered by arguably the best technical university in the United States? Yes. Yes I did.
- Connexions (http://cnx.org) The site is an open-source education system with materials submitted by users around the globe. It contains full textbooks on a variety of technical topics, but can also be used to learn music theory, business, and a variety of languages. See the talk by the founder to learn more about connexions.
- Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org) - Wikipedia has become a pretty good source for basic knowledge on everything. If I am unfamiliar with any concept, object, famous person, or organization, wikipedia is the first place I go.
- Podcasts (http://www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts) - Download iTunes and you’ll have access to thousnds of free podcasts. There is a podcast for just about anything you can dream of. Audio podcasts allow you to learn while you drive, hike, cook, paint, or do yardwork. I’ve used them to learn about investing, car repairs, technology, and history.
But honestly, these are just scratching the surface. Let me know where you go to learn on the web. It would be a shame to let all that treasure stay buried.