Tag Archives: hobbies

EdX, Udemy, Duolingo, online learning!

Hello!! It’s a great day to learn something new.

In this showcase post, I’m going to talk about some online learning services I have been using over the past five(ish) months. If you’ve never heard of these three services, the summer is a great time to pick up a new skill or now.

EdX (www.edx.org)

  • Free (more for ID Verified Certificates)
  • Topics include biology, business, chemistry, computer science, economics, finance, electronics, engineering, food and nutrition, history, humanities, law, literature, math, medicine, music, philosophy, physics, science, statistics and more.
  • Self-Paced or with Set Open/Close Dates.
  • Honor Code Certificates, ID Verified Certificates
  • iPhone, Android apps support video downloads for offline viewing

EdX is one of the large-scale providers of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Aside from being founded by MIT and Harvard, they have partnerships with a huge sampling of international schools. Most courses fall within Humanities, Math and Computer Science, but there is a delightful sampling of other courses. Some are timed (with specific open and close dates), others are completely self-paced, so you can pick what fits for you.

Immediately after signing up on their website, I attempted two timed courses (and failed after being distracted). I tried a timed course again with a course in Winemaking and completed it (with a 94%, I might add). I’m now in a course by the Smithsonian about the Comic Book SuperHero through History.

Overall, EdX is great for its options and for the prestige of its contributors. I can foresee employers viewing this site as a source for professional development.

Udemy (www.udemy.com)

  • Varies (free to $200+, but sales are frequent)
  • Development, Test Prep, Business, Marketing, Lifestyle, Photography, Music, Academics, Language, Design, Productivity, IT & Software, Health & Fitness
  • Self-Paced, no open/close dates
  • Certificates at the completion of each course
  • iPhone, Android apps support video downloads for offline viewing

Udemy is a good point of entry for most people who are interested in some online learning. The courses are more lifestyle-based or skill-centric, and there are no limits to the start or end dates, you can repeat lessons or jump around as you want. There are no assessments for these courses, which makes sense given some of the topics. Still, there are a great number of instructors who are highly available to their students, encouraging use of discussion boards, or connection through other networks for engagement.

I’ve gone through a lot of these classes, on a wide array of topics. From baking artisanal breads, to animating text in After Effects, to tips to establishing a daily yoga practice. While there was a range in quality for video and audio (from good to exemplary), all of the instructors were engaging and clear and I walked away with a skillset I didn’t have before.

Udemy also has a program to make it easy for people to create and instruct their own courses. So you can participate in both sides of the online learning experience.

Duolingo (www.duolingo.com)

  • Free (English Certificates are an extra cost)
  • Spanish, French, Italian, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Irish, Swedish, Danish, Ukranian, Esperanto, Klingon (and more) for English speakers. More languages (and English) for other language speakers.
  • Lessons involve picture matching, word selection, transcription and translation
  • You can complete levels of languages, earning “Lingots” along the way to unlock other features. English certification is available for a nominal price.
  • iPhone, Android apps support all functions

Duolingo is all about language learning. You get to start with very basic sentences, then as you progress through activities, you build more complex constructions. Low-key activities take minutes to complete.

I’m using Duolingo to brush up on French (untouched since high school) and learn Spanish. The activities are not to pedantic for either of these goals. I even have a set goal per day for practice. It’s an excellent diversion during my commute (which does not involve driving). The one shortcoming is possibly on the part of cultural interactions with languages, situations where words technically mean one thing, but a culture of speakers have given it a colloquial meaning which isn’t accounted for.

While there isn’t offline support, the Duolingo app is seamless across devices and the web interface.

7 Smartphone Photography Tips for Enviable Instagram Photos

You’ll never need another filter to fix your lackluster Instagram photos. The Cooperative of Photography collaborated with photographer Lorenz Holder to demonstrate some easy tips and tricks to bring your smartphone photography to the next level without purchasing pricey add-ons.

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Alma’s to-go box
I’ve already included a video of Photography Hacks from COOPH, and they have not failed to provide another brilliant video. This one, geared towards Instagram (and other mobile phone) photography, certainly gets the mind humming with other ideas. Doubtless, this landed in my reading queues because of Instagram’s new app: Hyperlapse. The hacks may not completely apply to the new technology (which harnesses a device’s gyroscope to stabilize time-lapse videos) but some will.

Go, set your phone in a glass underwater, it’s kinda funky! That’s my favorite hack of the video. Not sure if I’ll get a chance to do that this weekend though, the rumour is rain.

The Differences Between American and International Cooking Vocabulary

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Alma’s to-go box:
I’m not saying that I’m a culinary wiz-kid…but I like to cook and bake. It makes sense that I would enjoy this article because I love language too! Rockets, aubergines, even the different forms of sugar and cream. Anyone who has a collection of old cookbooks or enjoys overseas recipe blogs via Pinterest could be well served to keep this article bookmarked (or taped up by the stovetop).

Bon Appetit!

The psychology of side projects: How creative hobbies improve our performance at everything


This post originally appeared on the Buffer blog. At any given time, I have a side project running…

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Alma’s to-go box:
As a person who has a lot of interests, from education, language, digital media, to fine arts, music and dance, I know that I’ll never find a traditional job that has all of those bases covered. In order to pursue my interests, I always seem to have some side project going on, sometimes for someone else, but most times for me alone.

I had never heard of Google’s 20 percent rule, but I really like it. I know it’s easier to “keep going” than to “get going” so why not empower continual creativity by making a little more room for it in the work day.


Three Exercises to Limit Yourself and Grow as a Photographer

Today’s digital cameras are marvels of modern technology, allowing even the most inexperienced photographer access to state-of-the-art imaging systems that were the domain of supercomputers, and research institutions only a few decades ago.

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Alma’s to go box:
I used to teach digital photography, it was a great experience for me because I had to find photography subjects for my students that were inside of the private conservatory. We took pictures of our feet, the light fixtures, condensation on the drinking fountain, and even furniture. We stretched our imaginations to find pleasing composition at odd angles.

The article include three tactics for challenging the photographer in all of us. Three limitations to impose. They’re all great to keep in mind and they all help fine tune our visual style as well as the expectations we have any time we glance through the lens.