Ah, the Internet. Blessed be thy bounty of cat videos, thy endless memes and thy plethora of websites that let you play Bejeweled for free. But if you reach past Imgur, Reddit, and Tetris, you might find, among others, Khan Academy, General Assembly, and Hacker School. No, they are not websites that will you land on a list at a government agency – they are educational resources for students of all ages, and most are free. So if you feel like learning to code, picking up a few entrepreneurial skills, or just learning a new language, these awesome educational websites will help you level up.
Memes: Lowering worker productivity since forever. (No, really – Richard Dawkins coined the term in 1976.)
1. Code Academy
Learn to code like a beast with the super-helpful and super-free website Code Academy; one day Aaron Sorkin might write a movie about you.
Didn’t get to study abroad? The University of Melbourne offers classes via Coursera free of charge, as does the Indian Institute of Technology and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Coursera: Many universities offer certain courses online as part of adult outreach programs. Coursera unites this idea with the one-stop shop concept: 35 different universities in eight different countries offer free online classes in everything from obesity economics (courtesy of Johns Hopkins) to, ironically, the principles of online education (from Georgia Tech). The venture capital-funded company is planning to offer services which students and/or the sponsoring institution would pay to use, including verification of completion and potential accreditation.
J’e na palpa Francais? De nada, senor! Earn points by translating web content and learning vocabulary. Plus, you get medals and badges. Et voila!
Duolingo: Pass ‘GO,’ collect $200, skip Rosetta Stone and save $500 total. Duolingo is akin to a Wikipedia for languages; translations are crowdsourced and voted for effectiveness and correction. Lessons for English speakers in Spanish, French, German and Portuguese (and English and Spanish for Portuguese speakers) advance on a points system. Translating web content and learning vocabulary earns you points, and accumulated points unlock bits of a “tree” that serves as the site’s spinal column/metaphor. Interestingly, the site is not only free, it has no ads, and is partially funded by Ashton Kutcher – if Duolingo has Kelso’s vote, it’s got my vote. Italian and Chinese lessons are in the works.
4. General Assembly
Harness the power of the Internet: General Assembly instructors teach classes on start-up technology, web entrepreneurship, and social media development.
General Assembly: This globalized network is geared toward web development and entrepreneurship. Classes – which can have multiple sessions or meet only for a day; they can cost anywhere from $2.49 to upwards of $200 – are offered in start-up law, storytelling skills and user acquisition marketing. Major metropolises are homes to GA campuses – New York, Melbourne and Berlin, among others – and being a member also guarantees admission to tech demos and career fairs.
5. Hacker School
Ready, set, code! Hacker School attendees work on projects and teach each other programming in New York City, four days a week for three months.
Hacker School: Not really a website, but why do you need a website when you can learn to hack that website?
Fire up ‘The Social Network’ soundtrack and start coding – Hacker School may well produce the next Mark Zuckerberg. Every four months, Hacker School attendees meet, in New York City, four days a week, from 10:30 AM to 6:30 PM, and create code for different projects. The program is completely free but requires that students attend all classes and events (they have a movie night every Monday!). Hacker School is funded by a few grants but mainly by recruiters, who scout each batch of students for new hires; students are permitted, however, to job-hunt on their own.
6. Khan Academy
The man himself: hedge fund-drone turned non-profit guru Sal Khan runs the eponymous online academy, where you can start at 2+2. Math never ends, so who knows where you’ll stop?
Khan Academy: If you can’t add or subtract, this site is for you. If you’re a physics prodigy, this site is for you. If you can add but can’t remember who Genghis Khan was, this site is for you. Hedge fund analyst Sal Khan was working in Boston when he began tutoring his cousin Nadia, who lived in New Orleans, via Yahoo Doodle and telephone. Her success got him two new customers: his brothers Arman and Ali. Pretty soon the whole family and several friends were asking for Khan’s help, and he began creating YouTube videos to avoid scheduling problems. Today, Khan Academy is a non-profit funded by Google, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; the site is remarkably user-friendly (and, unlike grade school math teachers, helpful and non-judgmental) and takes you from simple arithmetic to contrapositive numbers; humanities classes run the gamut from intro to art history to a primer on Chilean leaders Salvador Allende and Augusto Pinochet.
A sampling of Skill Share’s in-person classes in the Philadelphia area.
SkillShare: Sichuan cooking, digital media sales, living rent-free – Skill Share does it all. The teacher pays the site %15 of the ticket price, and in exchange, Skill Share will post a class offered in almost anything. (The price the student sees is what he/she pays.) In New York City there are classes on oral health and leather cuff-making (the latter is, of course, in Brooklyn), but there’s no geographical restraint on interesting classes – Fort Worth features a class on motivational speaking, and Bernard Kramer will teach you miming in Salt Lake City.