Self-education and the embrace of lifelong learning is becoming a critical mindset to navigate our rapidly changing world. Lifelong learning can be a catalyst for earning more money in your career and it can be a gateway to self-employment. Fortunately, the Internet has made it easier than ever to find the right resources to spark your curiosity and learn what you need to know.
In this post, I have compiled some of the most useful self-education resources that I’ve found online. You will find online courses and tools to master new skills, learn languages, find classic books, broaden your mind and interact with other lifelong learners.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs):
Take free online courses from the world’s best Universities. MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) provide video lectures, structured deadlines and interactive learning communities.
- Coursera -The largest course platform for free MOOCs . Founded by two former Stanford University professors.
- Udacity – Founded by Sebastian Thrun, the creator of the artificial intelligence system behind Google’s self-driving cars. Udacity’s focus is on free MOOCs for improving your knowledge of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) disciplines.
- EdX – A free MOOC platform developed through a partnership between Harvard, MIT and Berkeley. Expanding rapidly.
- MIT Open Courseware – This ambitious project launched over a decade ago by MIT makes the course materials used in virtually all of MIT’s courses available on the web for free.
- Khan Academy – Salman Khan’s pioneering online academy where you can learn just about any academic subject online for free.
- Saylor – Started by serial entrepreneurial and education futurist Michael Saylor. The Saylor Foundation is a non-profit that provides a free University education that includes written exams and University credits for most of your work.
- University of the People – A tuition-free online University that aims to democratize higher education by offering it anyone in the world.
- iTunes U – Apple’s iTunes University initiative makes it easy to take courses on your iPhone or iPad wherever you go.
- World Education University (WEU) – A massively open online University (they call it MOOC 2.0) that offers degrees and full program for free. It’s a for-profit enterprise that funds itself through advertising, publishing and organization partnerships rather than tuition fees.
- Canvas Network – An open learning network with a growing collection of free online courses. Sign up early for courses, they fill up fast.
Lectures and Video Learning Websites:
Get inspired by watching short lectures by the world’s leading thinkers, entrepreneurs and creators.
- TED – With its slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading” the TED Conference (stands for Technology, Education, Design) features world’s leading academics, teachers and innovators in easily digestible 18-minute lectures.
- YouTube EDU – Google’s YouTube Education channel. Lots of great educational content, lectures and conference talks conveniently organized.
- Do Lectures – Inspiring talks from people who have set out to change the world.
- Solve For X – A forum established by Google to amplify technology-based solutions to radically challenge the world’s problems.
- Big Think – Short videos with important contemporary thinkers, entrepreneurs and scientists talking about their expertise.
- Fora.TV – Constantly expanding collection of videos from the world’s biggest conferences and events.
- @Google Talks – Innovator thinkers and doers visit Googleplex to give inspiring talks that are posted freely online by Google.
- RSA Animate – Engaging, hand-drawn videos that illustrate important issues in the world today.
- Creative Live – Live workshops taught by world class experts. Free if you mark the talks on your schedule and watch the live streams.
- Mixergy – Excellent courses and interviews by Andrew Warner with today’s top Internet entrepreneurs.
- Academic Earth – 1000s of free video lectures from many of the world’s top Universities.
- The Faculty Project – Udemy has created an excellent free platform for the best professors from the world’s leading Universities to teach online.
- The Floating University – Inspiring video lectures from today’s most interesting thinkers, practitioners and leading scholars.
- Reddit Lectures – A busy Reddit community for the latest and greatest video lectures.
- Video Lectures – A growing collection of 14,500+ video lectures.
Watch Streaming Documentaries:
Watching documentaries is a great way to relax and learn new things.
- Mind Expanding Documentaries – Free, streaming educational documentaries collected from across the web.
- Snag Films – One of the largest collections of ad-supported movies and documentaries online.
- Can I Stream I? – Search Netflix, Hulu, Google Play and iTunes to find movies and documentaries that you can instantly rent or buy.
- PBS Video – Watch full-length shows and documentaries from PBS. I especially recommend their Frontline documentaries.
Digital Skills Training:
An emerging group of education startups that are offering skills training for the digital workplace.
- Udemy – The iTunes of learning new digital skills and training for your career.
- Skillshare – A global community centered around creativity, collaboration and learning by doing. Online and offline classes.
- University of Reddit – If you love Reddit, you can take part in their evolving online education initiative.
- ALISON – Free workplace skills training with over 300+ online courses accessible to you.
Digital Skills Portfolios:
With so much informal learning now happening online, your credentials are less important than what you can do with your knowledge. These platforms are developing alternative forms of accreditation that are based on your practical skills and accomplishments.
- Degreed – Trying to jailbreak the college degree by helping your build a digital, lifelong diploma.
- Pathbrite – Collect, organize and share a lifetime of learning and achievement.
- Smarterer – Benchmark your skills and track what you’ve learned through online skill tests.
- Mozilla’s Open Badges – Get recognition for your skills and achievement by earning digital badges.
- LinkedIn – The professional social networking website has become the new social resume.
Open Educational Resources:
Access high-quality education textbooks, get your burning questions answered and explore a world of free digital self-education resources.
- Boundless – Disrupting the big textbook publishers by offering textbooks online, for free.
- Textbook Revolution – Free, open source textbooks if that’s how you want to learn.
- Open Textbooks – Browse college textbooks by subject, which are made freely available online.
- Scribd – Amazing library of digital documents on every imaginable subject.
- Slideshare – Learn new things and find information broken down to the essential bits in this incredible library of digital presentations.
- Creative Commons Education – An open source movement to make educational content freely available online.
- Connexions – A global knowledge sharing community that breaks information down into small, easily-digestible chunks.
- Open Study – Ask. Answer. Understand. Get real-time study help in the world’s largest study group.
- Quora – My favorite question and answer community. Find expert and amateur advice on every imaginable topic.
- iTunes Podcasts – I highly recommend browsing the Podcasts on iTunes. So many incredible free audio shows at your fingertips.
DIY Education Communities:
Online communities where you can meet other lifelong learners and build a mastermind community for your own self-education endeavors.
- Uncollege – The Uncollege movement challenges the notion that you need to go to University to get an education. They provide inspiration and resources for alternative educational paths.
- Zero Tuition College – A community of self-directed learners that provide mentoring to each other.
- The Public School – A school with no curriculum. A framework for self-education and auto-didactic activities, operating under the assumption that everything is in everything.
- Meetup – Find interesting meetups and meet new people in your local area. Or start your own meetup, join a mastermind group or create a new learning community.
- P2PU – An open education community for lifelong learning leveraging open source education materials, collaborative learning and an evolving system that gives learners recognition for their achievements.
Liberal Arts: Study The Classics
A great way to get inside the minds of civilization greatest thinkers is to read their books.
- The Liberal Arts 4-Year Reading List – Study the essential classical books and educate yourself in the liberal arts by reading a book every 2 weeks for 4 years (or pick the ones that interest you the most). The first year covers Greek authors; the second year is from Roman, medieval, Renaissance periods; the third year is the books of the 17th and 18th centuries and the fourth year covers books from the 19th and 20th centuries.
- A Lifetime’s Reading: The World’s 500 Greatest Books – Compiled by the prolific Philip Ward, a librarian, scholar, editor and author of more than 50 books.
- Great Books of the Western World – 161 books essential books of the West on Wikipedia.
- The Western World’s 500 Greatest Books – An excellent collection of over 500 books from Western civilization with links to where you can read them on Project Gutenberg.
- Great Literature of the Eastern World – I couldn’t find an equivalent book of Eastern books online but this book apparently covers the major works of prose, poetry and drama from China, India, Japan, Korea and the Middle East.
- Classic Reader – Search and access an online library of 3800+ mostly classic books.
- Planet Ebook – Read 80+ free classic books for free on your computer or mobile device.
- Project Gutenberg – Read over 42,000 free books in the massive Project Gutenberg archive. Download many of them directly to Kindle or other mobile reading formats. Amazing resource for self-education.
Find and Share Amazing Books:
Discover new books that you can read online or find at your local library and connect with other people reading similar books.
- Good Reads – A massive social network (recently acquired by Amazon) for discovering new books and sharing the books you love.
- Book Yards – 1000s of more free ebooks easily browsable by author or category.
- Read Print Library – A social network “where books and people meet”.
- Library Thing – A community of 1.6 million book lovers. Meet and share stories with people who have similar taste or are reading the same books you are.
Self-Knowledge and Wisdom:
Educating the mind without awakening the heart is no education at all. Explore religious texts to develop your self-knowledge and awaken to the spiritual dimension that gives life meaning and richness.
- Internet Sacred Text Archive – Read the sacred texts from the world’s major religions and other less institutionalized religions like Sufism, Gnosticism, Tantrism, Taoism, Shamanism and more.
- Sacred Books of the East – Browse and read public domain copies of 50 of the most important books of Eastern philosophy and civilization.
- Virtual Religious Index – Extensive link collection maintained by Rutgers University of websites with informative religious content. Categorized by religion as well as ancient religions, archaeology and philosophy.
- Meta Religion – Internet project for educating people in a multidisciplinary view of the religion, spiritual and the world of esoteric phenomena.
- Sacred Destinations – Places of great spiritual power around the world that you can explore and plan to visit one day.
- Religion Facts – Get your religious questions answered on this site.
- Spiritual Reality Power of Meditation – Freedom from compulsory thoughts is the gateway to wisdom and a true understanding of who you are. This YouTube video is one of the best introductions to meditation.
Education Depositories and Tools:
Some great digital tools for furthering your self-education and lifelong learning.
- Learnist – Browse and create your own online learning collections. Lots of great content to enjoy.
- MentorMob – Discover and create your own learning playlists. Similar to Learnist.
- Kibin – A proof-reading and editing community that can help you improve your writing. You can either pay or proof-read other people’s work and get credit for it.
- Library of Congress – The de facto national library of the United States of America and the largest library in the world. Most of it is accessible online.
- BBC Learning – Huge collection of learning resources from the BBC. Find online courses
, video clips and educational games.
Learn New Languages:
The best way to learn is to travel. To travel well, you’re probably going to want to learn the local languages. Here are the best ways to do it fast.
- Duolingo – My favorite free language learning website. Totally gamified learning process where you can learn for free by translating content while you learn. Their iPhone app is great too.
- Memrise – Innovative memorizing system for learning new languages.
- Live Mocha – The largest language learning community online that I know of.
- BBC Languages – Great language learning resources freely provided by the BBC.
Here are my favorite tools for managing my own self-education and creative projects. I prefer digital tools with seamless cloud-based syncing across computers and mobile devices.
- Evernote – Outsource part of your brain to Evernote. Much more than just notes synced across all your devices. You can also take photos of pages or items and search them later with full text recognition, record voice memos, organized your research and collaborate seamlessly with colleagues on projects.
- Feedly – The best Google Reader alternative for grabbing RSS feeds from your favorite blogs. Syncs with iPhone, iPad and Android too.
- Flipboard – Find interactive content from the web’s best sources and curate your own digital magazine of the websites, articles, videos and photos that inspire you.
- Pocket – Save articles and information on websites you like to read later online or offline on your laptop, smartphone or tablet.
- Diigo – My favorite tool for organizing bookmarks by keyword, highlighting text online and posting sticky notes to read important things later. Accessible from any computer or mobile device.
- Trello – An essential tool for keeping yourself organized and accountable with to-do lists, workflow and flexible deadlines. Also excellent for collaborative learning projects. In one glance, know what’s being worked on, who’s working on it and keep up-to-date with your colleagues progress with private Twitter-like social project stream. Great mobile support on iPhone, iPad and Android.
- Google Apps For Education – Free web-based email with Gmail, calendar to set reminders and schedule your life, and documents for collaborative study anytime, anywhere.
- Toggl – Easy time and task tracking for your creative projects. Get an instant breakdown of which projects are consuming your time. For freelance business projects, Harvest has better invoicing and tax features.
- MindMeister – Create mind maps for brainstorming and organizing where you creative ideas lead you.
- Astrid – Create and share to-do lists and easily set reminders from your iPhone, iPad or Android device. Wunderlist is great too.
Self-discipline rarely comes naturally so these digital tools are great for setting goals, accountability and tracking progress.
- Cojourneo – A new app in beta-testing for setting goals and achieving them.
- 43Things – A goal setting community with 3 million members.
- Day Zero Project – Make lists of your goals and turn them into a challenge.
- Everest App – An iPhone app that helps you achieve personal goals.
- RescueTime – An excellent time management and productivity tool. See where you’re wasting your time and break the habit.
- Pomodoro App – My favorite productivity tool. The scientifically-proven Pomodoro method breaks down your work or study projects into easily managed 25 minute chunks with 5 minute breaks in-between.
All education is self-education, a good teacher can only point the way, we have to do the work. Interesting perspectives on how education is being revolutionized by the Internet and information abundance.
- Weapons of Mass Instruction (John Taylor Gatto)
- Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will (Dale J. Stephens)
- The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think and It’s Not Too Late (Michael Ellsberg)
- The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined (Salman Khan)
- Better Than College: How to Build a Successful Life Without a Four-Year Degree (Blake Boles)
- DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education (Anya Kamenetz)
- Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (John Taylor Gatto)
- Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better (John Holt)
- The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World (Chris Guillebeau)
- Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life (Peter Gray)
- The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School (Neil Postman)
Free Self-Education Ebooks:
Some great free ebooks about self-education and how to become more creative in your life and work.
- Stop Stealing Dreams: What Is School For? (Seth Godin)
- The EduPunk’s Guide To A DIY Credential (Anya Kamenetz)
- Deschooling Society (Ivan Illich)
- Teaching As A Subversive Activity (Neil Postman & Charles Weingartner)
- Education and the Significance of Life (Jiddhu Krishnamurti)
Critical Thinking Resources:
If you’re going to follow the path of self-education these resources can help you sharpen your critical thinking skills.
- Think Again: How to Reason and Argue – Improve your ability to assess arguments other people make and learn how to construct good arguments of your own.
- Critical Thinking in Global Challenges – Interesting course that teaches you how to assess information and develop reasoned arguments in the context of global challenges facing our world.
- Trivium Education – An excellent website dedicated to the Trivium, an ancient system of grammar, logic and rhetoric that provides the intellectual tools to establish clarity and consistency of personal thought. It used to be the cornerstone of a classical liberal education through the study of essential 7 liberal arts and sciences but it is now largely absent from schools.
- Trivium Resources – An excellent collection of Trivium resources from online free thinking community Tragedy and Hope. I recommend starting with the 5-page summary of the Trivium method for critical thinking and creative problem solving.
- The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric – The classic book by Sister Miriam Joseph that teaches the Trivium and how it can be used to improve your faculties of intelligence and reasoning.
More Lifelong Learning Resources:
- Meta-Learning – 70 pages of the Meta-Learning section of Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Chef book.
- Google World Wonders Project – Google brings to life the wonders of the modern and ancient world.
- Google Art Project – Explore collections from art museums around the world with thousands of artworks photographed in extremely high resolution.
- National Geographic Education – Cultivate your knowledge of the world’s geography and countries.
Image Credit Opensource.com