Be a dilettante

In the interest of open education, I'm sharing this Guide to Free Internet Courses with you! For free! There is an accompanying academic paper which explains the concept of open education, which I will share with anyone interested. But all you really need is this list of resources to get started on your free, high-quality education.

An Annotated Guide to DIY Education Online

Apple Inc. (n.d.). iTunes U [Application]. Retrieved December 5, 2010, from

From the company known for its pioneering in consumer technology, iTunes has become the standard for digital music management for Mac users. iTunes U applies that platform to educational resources available from more than 800 universities, including Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford, and Berkley. Content is also available from museums, libraries, and public media outlets. While the bulk of content is in the form of lectures, iTunes U also supports distribution of slideshows, videos, PDFs, ebooks, and other documents. Browsing content is as easy as choosing an academic subject and viewing the top ten resources on that subject. iTunes also has a simple search box which will yield results by category (iTunes U, music, video, etc.) Topics covered are as varied as the institutions providing content; subjects among the top ten courses are the Beatles, Einstein, Tolkien, writing a business plan, and quantum mechanics. Chosen lectures can be downloaded and played through iTunes. While not a full course provider, iTunes U’s resources are academic quality and can supplement the study of other open courseware.

Carnegie Mellon University. (n.d.). Open Learning Initiative [Website]. Retrieved December 5, 2010, from

Started in 2002, courses on this site are created by teams of subject experts, education experts and technology experts. Contributors are from Carnegie Mellon, University of Georgia, University of Pittsburgh, and other institutions. Visitors can “peek” into a class or create an account and track their own progress. Courses are currently available in engineering, statistics, biochemistry, economics, biology, French, physics, and more. Classes are presented as online modules to be worked through, step-by-step, using Andes Tutor software. Assessments are built in to courses and used to create feedback for improving the program. While part of the site is made up of academic courses for enrolled students, there are at least a dozen classes in the “free and open” section. What makes OLI different from other open courseware projects is its focus on creating course material specifically suited to the online environment and to independent learning.

Colman, D., E. Oberle, and F. Hsu (2010). Open Culture [Blog]. Retrieved December 5, 2010, from

Colman is director and associate dean of continuing studies at Stanford University and has a long resume of work in academia. Oberle and Hsu are technical developers for the site and its associated app. The blog’s stated purpose is to bring together “high-quality cultural & educational media for the worldwide lifelong learning community.” This source covers all manner of online education resources, with posts neatly archived and searchable. The main tabs for the site are Audio Books, Online Courses (250 free classes are listed), Movies, Language Lessons, eBooks, and Textbooks. A listing of browseable categories includes not only subject disciplines but also formats and platforms. The archive – dating back to September 2006 -- serves as a library for resources, while the blog is a dynamic tool for keeping information fresh and relevant. The site claims 325,000 visits per month.

Gross, R. (1993). The independent scholar's handbook. [PDF]. Berkeley, Calif.: Ten Speed Press. Retrieved December 7, 2010, from

A book from 1993 may seem light-years behind the rest of these resources. However, it fits into the collection for two reasons: (1) it deftly advises those students with a desire to forge their own educations; and (2) it exemplifies the open education movement by being freely available on the Web. The book also emphasizes the legitimacy of independent study as on par with university study. Author Ronald Gross is a writer and speaker on education topics including continuing education. The book includes essays from other writers in addition to Gross’s work. It focuses mainly on the philosophy of self-education, but includes advice that is applicable in today’s atmosphere of online course material. Originally written in 1982, the book was updated in 1993.

Kamenetz, A. (2010). DIY U: Edupunks, edupreneurs, and the coming transformation of higher education /. White River Junction, Vt.: Chelsea Green Pub.

Just released this year, DIY U provides the freshest perspective on how education is evolving in the face of technology. Kamenetz is a Yale graduate and journalist. Because the author is not an educator or education theorist, the book has a more mainstream appeal than others on the subject. In this book, Kamenetz discusses how education is evolving due to unbundling higher education, self-directed learning, and open education. Topics include a history of higher education in America, the economics of education, technology, and a resource guide for edupunks. This book is useful not only for its guidance in using open education materials, but also for its coverage of the major players in the movement and ideas for joining the community.

Ludlow, R. (2010). Academic Earth [Website]. Retrieved December 5, 2010, from

Founder Richard Ludlow studied economics and international development at Yale. His interest in open education grew from his own independent study of open courseware. Academic Earth includes video lectures in all major disciplines from the most prestigious universities: Berkeley, Columbia, Harvard, Khan Academy, Maryland, Michigan, MIT, Norwich, Notre Dame, NYU, Princeton, Stanford, UCLA, UNSW, USC, Villanova, and Yale. Basic searching and advanced searching are available, or content can be browsed by subject, university, or instructor. There are also “playlists” which group relevant lectures by topic. Academic Earth’s strengths are the quality of its material and the user-friendly organization. The site has been included in “top Website” lists in Time Magazine and PC Mag.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (n.d.). MIT OpenCourseWare [Website]. Retrieved December 7, 2010, from

MIT’s courses are available through other sites on this list, but it earns its own entry as a pioneer in open education. OCW began in 2000 with the idea that all educational resources should be available for free to enrich the community of educators and students. All of MIT’s classes (2,000) are available for free. Basic and advanced search are available or visitors can browse offerings by department. Materials available vary by class and can include syllabi, lecture notes, video and audio resources, reading lists, assignments, and exams. There is also the option for students to join a “study group” to communicate with other people taking the course. All materials for a class can be downloaded as a package. OCW may be the most comprehensive collection of one university’s course materials available openly on the Web.

OEDb. (2007). Take any college class for free: 236 open courseware collections, podcasts, and videos. Online Education Database, 12, June. Retrieved December 5, 2010, from

This listing of 236 resources includes archives, broadcasts, directories and search engines, ebooks, encyclopedias, open courseware, podcasts, and videos. The list includes a mix of academic and non-academic resources. Each listing includes a brief description of the resource. It could be an inspiration tool for the student who hasn’t decided what subject to pursue. Despite being published in 2007, all links seem to be active. OEDb is a review source for formal online education programs. On caveat about this article is there is no information about who compiled the list or what their qualifications are. Regardless, the resources are interesting and broad, making this a good starting point for someone new to online education resources.

Open Courseware Consortium. (n.d.). Open Courseware Consortium [Website]. Retrieved December 5, 2010, from

The Open Courseware Consortium is a group of hundreds of universities and organizations around the globe, all committed to freely sharing educational resources. Besides providing information about the Consortium itself, this site facilitates searching all members’ available open courseware. Advanced searching can be limited by language or university. Search results link back to the member site for accessing course material. The site also includes a list of links to member Websites. The Consortium is strongly tied to MIT’s OpenCourseWare. The board president is from MIT, while other delegates work at member universities and Creative Commons.

Peer 2 Peer University. (n.d.). P2PU [Website]. Retrieved December 5, 2010, from

Launched this year, P2PU is the latest facet of open education and independent learning: building communities of alternative students and creating ways to acknowledge their work. The site states it “organizes learning outside of institutional walls and gives learners recognition for their achievements.” As mentioned in the previous paper, co-founder Neeru Paharia is an advocate for such recognition. As a grassroots organization built primarily on the work of volunteers, getting involved in the site is welcome. Slightly more organized than independent study, chosen courses are implemented on a schedule. It is necessary to sign up to see the benefits if sharing the community.

TED Conferences. (n.d.). TED: Ideas worth spreading [Website]. Retrieved December 5, 2010, from

TED is the pop-media prince of open education. Twice a year the conference organizes big names and leaders to give lectures on current topics. Videos of the lectures are available through the Website and the TED app. TEDTalks videos can be used by students as one-time pursuits to satisfy curiosity on a topic, or they can be used to supplement in-depth study of an academic subject. Visitors can search videos or browse by theme, speaker, or title. Register on the site to become a “member” and comment on TEDTalks.

Yale University. (2010). Open Yale courses [Website]. Retrieved December 5, 2010, from

Who doesn’t want to claim a Yale education? Short of selling the farm and moving to New Haven, taking one or more of these 25 open courses may be the best option. Covering astronomy to religion, the course offerings are broad, but not deep enough to approximate a full degree. However, combined with courses from other sites on the list, the Yale perspective would surely contribute to a DIY degree. A typical course includes an introduction, syllabus, readings, assignments, lecture video or transcripts, and an opinion survey. Course materials are dated between 2006 and 2009.

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