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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.