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Five free at-home learning tools

By Pedro Monteiro Garcia D’Avila, August 19 2020—

As the summer heat rages on,and this devastating pandemic keeps us bound to our rooms, the fun and excitement of the summer has been slowly replaced with an undying desire to have something to do. But just as COVID-19 is disastrous, it can also be an opportunity for us to learn new skills and ways of thinking that allow us to improve our studies as well as our daily lives. Read on to discover some ways that you can keep yourself learning during the pandemic without spending a single dime on university courses.

Coursera:

Coursera is an online learning platform that offers university-level courses from a variety of world-renowned institutions for free, with the option to add a course completion certificate for a cost. Best known for its Google IT course program, which offers the necessary knowledge to work at Google for a fraction of the price of a college diploma, Coursera has since been scaling at an impressive rate, with a variety of universities joining into this new age of learning.

Offering courses on the science of happiness, coding, COVID 19 research and even Mandarin, Coursera is a great showcase of the best features of online learning. The platform is organised, simple to use, and offers users with a complete overview of the course material prior to a learner’s enrollment in any course offered.

edX:

With over 2500 courses from 140 institutions, edX is one of Coursera’s direct competitors. Whereas Coursera may offer more courses from the University of Toronto for example, edX may have a wider list from Harvard. It’s for this reason that I feel that including both of these options was a good idea.

Besides the difference in institutions and courses offered, edX and Coursera couldn’t be more similar: pick a course, enroll in it for free and start learning. For those of us who would really like proof that we completed our enrolled course, edX also offers users with an option to pay for a verified certificate just like Coursera. In my experience, I found that edX certificates tend to be about twice the price of those offered through Coursera. Thankfully however, both websites offer a financial assistance option, which I utilised to get a 90 per cent discount for a very valuable course in suicide prevention from Curtin University, based in Australia.

As I’ve gone through the process of obtaining a certificate, I can weigh in on just how thorough edX’s modules can be. With a variety of videos, readings and activities that put your understanding of the course material to the test, edX gets fairly close to a university experience at home. Fortunately for those who cannot afford a certificate, all learning and assessment methods are left untouched from the premium version of a course.

Duolingo:

Learning a new language can be a daunting thing to do, and while many of us would love to get started on this journey, paying for a university course that may slow your degree progression simply isn’t an option for many of us. Thankfully, in the age of technology, apps like Duolinguo can open new doors in our life all while we stay in the comfort of our rooms.

Having used the app for French, a language that I am desperately trying to learn, I’d say the experience is definitely good enough to get you ready for any basic conversation. Beyond that point, I found that movies as well as a paid class were my best alternatives, as Duolinguo simply became too much of a hassle as my phone continuously got blasted by other incoming notifications. Nonetheless, if you have a good sense of self-control, and all you’re looking for is a strong start into a new language, I’d wholeheartedly recommend Duolinguo. 

University of Calgary’s Student Wellness Services Workshops:

While the University of Calgary may be where you spend money on courses – the very thing this piece aims to avoid – this doesn’t detract from the completely free, and wonderfully educative workshops that Student Wellness Services offers. With a focus on sharing knowledge about mental health, and how to maintain a positive relationship with yourself and others, these workshops provide information that is instantly applicable to our everyday lives.

But that’s not all, as even amidst the pandemic, the newly adapted online workshops are a blast. Not only will participants get to hear from excellent, charismatic professionals, but they will get a chance to discuss and interact with the workshop provider, but other participants as well. It’s this approachability, as well as usefulness of the content itself that makes the Student Wellness Services Workshops a delight to attend. 

Goodreads:

Goodreads is commonly referred to as the perfect way to keep a log of the books you’ve read, and want to read, but it has one wonderful feature that is often overlooked: lists. With a simple click on the explore tab, you’ll be introduced to a library of recommendations containing a variety of best-selling books across every genre.

This means that whether you’re studying psychology, business, religion, history or a variety of other subjects, you’ll be quickly able to obtain an extensive list of book recommendations to aid your curiosity. It was with this tool that I first encountered Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive us by Christopher Chabris & Daniel Simons and many other books that have kept me learning from experts throughout the summer.

With these tools, I hope that you feel empowered to learn, and that your wallet may thank you for leaving it untouched until a day where we may be safely back on the streets — with an ice cream cone on our hands, and the summer heat scorching us as it should. Until then, stay safe, and remember: just as COVID-19 has brought unfortunate misery to many, it can be your chance to thrive in ways that you didn’t think possible before. 

This article is part of our Lifestyle section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.

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