We need to draw a distinction between “education” and “learning”.
The terms seem interchangeable at times, and they certainly are closely associated. “Education” seems to imply some formal method of acquiring knowledge, while “learning” is more of an ongoing process. Too often, in the struggle to keep up with academic and extracurricular pressures, we lose sight of our own interests and limit our learning to the confines of a classroom.Learning and acquiring knowledge become synonymous with school, and as a result, we often leave indispensable qualities such as intellectual curiosity and critical thinking on the back burner. While building a foundation with secondary school is imperative, our curricula should be only that—a foundation on which we can build our interests, passions and paths of inquiry.
With these ideas in mind, UNIT-E has compiled a number of online sources that you can use to supplement your formal education. Engaging in online learning provides a realistic example of what taking a college course is like, where self-motivation and independent study are critical. In addition, these courses offer flexibility and minimal pressure, allowing you to determine the amount of time and effort you want to invest.
The online course platform Coursera offers programs of study in conjunction with more than 100 partner universities, including courses in engineering, business, natural sciences, social sciences, computer science, mathematics, and other areas. Courses are primarily composed of video lectures and online readings, with supplemental forum discussions, quizzes, and virtual office hours.Although there are similar mass open online course providers online, Coursera has by far the largest course catalog and the offers the broadest scope in terms of subject areas. Course offerings beginning in March include “The Science of Gastronomy”, “Introduction to Public Speaking” and “Applying to US Universities”. Learners have the option to complete the course within the given time period to earn official certification.
Similar to Coursera, SkilledUp provides online courses, but has a more centralized focus on training learners to improve their skills. As a result, the service compiles not only university courses from around the web, but also guides, books, and tutorials. Among tradition offerings of the sciences and humanities, other fields of study include software design, web design, marketing, information technology and management.
Duolingo is an online platform in which users engage in a data-driven, game-like approach to learn languages. Users will progress through a “skill tree”—gathering points and completing levels—to learn vocabulary, common phrases and pronunciation. Currently, the platform offers French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese for English speakers. In addition to teaching language, the platform also gives users the opportunity to translate and vote on translations of content, enlisting in crowd-sourcing to help “translate the web”. Some studies have estimated that spending 34 focused hours on Duolingo yields similar results to a taking one semester of a basic college course.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2013 issue of UNIT-E. It was written by Kathleen Ma, a student at the International School of Beijing.
UNIT-E was founded in the spring of 2010 with the aim of establishing a non-profit, student-run magazine for international students in Beijing. Staffed by current students from a range of international schools, the magazine provides an amalgam of cultural tidbits, fragments of Beijing student life, and a broad spectrum of unique perspectives from a diverse group of young adults.
Photo courtesy of seantoyer (Flickr)