It’s not uncommon for recent graduates to feel lost as they enter the ‘real world’ of adult life. After four years of work aimed toward earning a degree, freedom can seem a bit aimless. Yet it is precisely this sense of purposelessness that marks the next phase in one’s education – a phase that’s made much easier thanks to the internet. With literally hundreds of free online learning opportunities, there are plenty of chances to start engaging the intellect – and the spirit – in the sort of meaningful questions that provide purpose and passion for your life. Here are some of the places where I find learning opportunities galore.
While many might think of YouTube as a place to find funny cat videos, the site also hosts a huge variety of documentaries, lectures, and even full-on courses. One of my favorite channels comes from Adam Curtis, an award-winning documentary producer who has put together projects for publications such as the BBC. His YouTube channel is full of gems, from his own excellent “The Century of the Self” docuseries to obscure recommendations from around the web. Tying it all together is a unique appreciation for the psychology and sociology of power and how it works in society.
Unlike many of the channels in this list, this one isn’t run by a university or an institution — just someone interested in philosophy. From excellent playlists about linguistics and the philosophy of mind, to archival interviews with some of the greatest minds of the 20th century, there are plenty of gems to sort through here.
Talks at Google
While Ted Talks are great, they’re also quite short, with most coming in under 20 minutes — not much time to unpack a serious issue. Talks at Google overcomes this pitfall, with lectures in the 60-minute range. Subjects include salesmanship, religion, artificial intelligence, and film.
Partially Examined Life
Podcasts are a lovely way to color a long drive, a workout, or a bit of cleaning with anything from science to comedy. While I’m a sucker for “Welcome to Nightvale,” it’s hardly educational – but plenty of others are. Try “Partially Examined Life,” a wonderful philosophy podcast hosted by people who wanted to become professors, but didn’t. The hosts attempt to recreate the times they’d meet up post-seminar and talk Socrates over a beer.
This NPR-sponsored podcast and radio show brings science-related topics to the general public through excellent journalism and thoughtful discussion. Topics might include the nature of color and our perception of time.
iTunes U features lectures as well as full courses designed by universities and foundations. In fact, it’s the world’s largest collection of free education content. This course from Harvard University’s Michael Sandel covers contemporary questions such as freedom, citizenship, private property, and the good life. It’s one of the more well-known courses on the platform, for good reason.
From Planets to the Cosmos
Ohio University offers app users an intro-level astronomy course for free! It’s designed for non-science majors, which makes it easy for people without technical training to learn about the solar system and beyond.
We’ve only scratched the surface. The best part about YouTube, podcasts, and iTunes U is that information is organized and presented in a structured way – no one is left to wallow through mountains of text. This makes it easier than ever to stay engaged in education, even if you hope to never step foot on a university campus again.