Thursday, November 01, 2012

Designing Your Own Free Education Online

When designing a course of independent study, some of the most useful tools available can be found online. When you design your own education, you can tailor the content to your needs -- rather than the needs of an institution, a government accreditation agency, or a "society."

Online, you can select from individual tutorials, or you can take an entire course online -- for credit or not for credit. You can even combine different courses to obtain an online certification in a field of study.

Many organisations provide free access to educational materials from K-12 through university graduate study level. Here are a few examples:

540 Free Online Courses from Top Universities -- over free 400 courses in over 10 different categories

Open Courseware Consortium -- Free online courses from 33 top universities -- Free courses from MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, and the U. Texas system

All of those sites and more offer free online access to a wide selection of courses from fine institutions. But not everyone is ready to take maximum advantage of these valuable courses -- many of which can be very difficult if one is not prepared ahead of time.

Take college mathematics, for example. Higher mathematics is the cornerstone of the modern technical professions and sciences. An inability to understand the basics of higher mathematics can make the difference between a successful career in science, engineering, computer science, or a technical profession -- and perhaps having to settle for less than one may have wanted.

Khan Academy can be helpful in working through difficult mathematical concepts, and filling in missing holes in one's technical background. But another -- and often more fundamentally useful -- website for helping a person to wrap his mind around difficult maths concepts is Better Explained.

Preparing ahead of time is generally the best approach. But sometimes one must be satisfied with "better late than never." Higher mathematics should be learned intuitively, rather than by rote learning of application of formulas. A rote learner is limited in how far he can go, whereas one who takes an intuitive approach can often advance his field of study, or one that is related.

One interesting website approach to teaching intuitive maths to younger students is "Visual Math Learning." The site uses visual animations to assist a student in learning foundational ideas in basic maths, so that he can go on to more difficult things. provides a number of unique learning aids in maths and a large number of other subject areas. It is a site well worth browsing -- time and again.

You will have to start with what you can find, and adapt it to your needs, and the needs of your children. Cultivate the special skills and knowledge of family members, acquaintances, and other persons in your community. You never know who will be in possession of a skill, trick, shortcut, or secret that will make all the difference in learning a particular subject.

Remember, there is no safer place to be than in close proximity to a Dangerous Child. It is never too late to have a dangerous childhood.

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