If you’re like me, you were thrilled at the notion of graduating college. Finally, no more lectures, no more discussion posts, and no more taking page after page of notes. Never again would I have to panic-study for three different exams in a single week!
At least, that’s what I thought I would be excited about. As it turns out, life can become pretty dull without the demands of school to keep you busy. In the months since graduating, I’ve found that I really miss the enriching learning environment that college provided. And the fact that we’re currently in the middle of a pandemic hasn’t helped — it’s been months since the last time I wandered around Barnes and Noble just to feel something.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can scratch that academic itch without ever leaving the house. From free Ivy League courses to career advice from Anna Wintour herself, the world of online learning has never been bigger, or more accessible. Here are seven ways to keep learning:
- LinkedIn Learning
Although it’s a little pricey at $29.99 per month, LinkedIn Learning is more than worth the investment. With classes on everything ranging from the Adobe Creative Cloud to personal branding, there are plenty of marketable skills to be found on this website. You can even set learning goals and reminders throughout the week to make sure you stay on track!
Before you take the plunge and pay for LinkedIn Learning, I recommend giving the month-long free trial a try. Even if you decide not to pay, you can still learn quite a bit in a month’s time! And if you’re currently working, be sure to check with your employer — many companies offer free LinkedIn Learning subscriptions to their employees, so you can dodge that monthly fee.
If you’re looking to pick up a new language, Duolingo is the app for you. It’s entirely free and offers more than 35 languages to choose from. From Spanish and French to Scottish, Gaelic and Romanian, there’s bound to be a language you find interesting or useful here. There are even some fictional languages to choose from, like Klingon and High Valyrian!
Maeve Reilly, a junior at the University of Colorado Boulder, is a regular Duolingo user. "It's super easy to learn new words and phrases every day. It inspired me to take a French class at my university." I'm currently using the app to learn Japanese, and I couldn't agree with her more!
If you don’t mind shelling out a little cash, Duolingo also offers a premium service that removes ads and gives you bonuses, like unlimited hearts and offline learning.
One of the best things about learning in your free time is the ability to multitask, and podcasts provide one of the easiest ways to do so. Working out? Throw on a podcast. In the shower? Press play. Driving aimlessly around your neighborhood just to see the outside world again? You know what to do! Here are a few of my favorite podcasts that are sure to teach you something new:
You’re Wrong About: Hosted by two journalists obsessed with the past, this podcast explores topics that are widely misunderstood or misinterpreted. Subjects range from Anastasia Romanov and Anna Nicole Smith to the O.J. Simpson trial and whether Yoko Ono actually broke up The Beatles.
Planet Money: If taxes, stocks, and the economy in general make your head spin, this is the podcast for you. It breaks down all of those pesky financial subjects that can seem so complicated and intimidating, and it does so in a surprisingly entertaining way!
Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness: Every week, Jonathan Van Ness of Queer Eye explores a new topic that piques their curiosity. With subjects including voter suppression, bad dreams, and even herpetology, this podcast is just as educational as it is entertaining (and it is very entertaining!).
- Ivy League college courses
If you’re craving the structure and curriculum of a college class, have no fear — you can take one from some of the country’s most prestigious institutions without ever paying a cent! For example, Harvard University offers a number of free online courses, ranging from game development and web programming to world literature and public speaking.
If Harvard isn’t your taste, don’t worry — edX offers countless free online courses from a wide range of universities, including Berkley, Boston University and MIT. You can audit them for free, or opt to pay a small fee and earn a certificate along the way. There are also some paid courses to choose from, where you’ll get the full experience of graded assignments and unlimited access to course materials (whereas in free courses, you can only access the materials for the duration of the class).
When in doubt, pick up a book — or download one! Reading is my favorite way to absorb new information, and whether you prefer fiction or nonfiction, you’ll find there’s plenty to be learned from a good book or two (or many). With the help of apps like Libby and OverDrive, you can rent eBooks from your local library without even leaving the house — all you need is a mobile device or tablet to read them on!
Emily Chang, a recent graduate of the University of Central Florida, uses Libby to learn about subjects that were never touched on in her classes. "There are so many books to choose from, and I love that it’s completely free to use," she says. "I just finished reading So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo — it was fantastic!"
If you’re in the market for an easy read to get yourself back in the literature swing, I recommend The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking. It’s educational and provides a great excuse to invest in cozy sweaters and blankets (and the precious illustrations are a plus, too!).
Like LinkedIn Learning, MasterClass provides online courses on a wide variety of subjects. The catch? These courses are taught by the world’s leading experts. For example, if you’ve ever wondered just how Anna Wintour runs things over at Vogue, she taught an entire course about it exclusively for MasterClass. Other instructors include Gordon Ramsey (cooking), Steve Martin (comedy), Dr. Jane Goodall (conservation), and Martin Scorsese (filmmaking).
The only downside to MasterClass is that it charges a monthly subscription fee of $15. However, like LinkedIn Learning, some companies provide their employees with free subscriptions — be sure to check with yours before you pay up!
If you’re a visual learner, consider browsing YouTube for a free academic fix. You can find tutorials for nearly everything, but this is a particularly great place to look if you want to learn how to use visual programs, like the Adobe Creative Cloud or Procreate.
If you’re looking for more general knowledge, there are plenty of channels for that too! As a shining example, CrashCourse — yes, the same channel that helped you survive AP courses in high school — has countless videos on subjects ranging from literature and philosophy to ecology and organic chemistry.
So, the next time the pandemic has you feeling down, press play on a podcast or tap through a couple of lessons on Duolingo — you’ll get the benefit of distraction with an added bonus of revving up those rusty brain cells. And the good news is you'll never run out of new things to learn; after all, the great Michelangelo said ancora imparo at age 87: “Yet, I am still learning.”