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Online Sources for Self-Learners

MIT and Google Lead the Revolution

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine there being a population of consumers motivated enough to crave academic materials online; just to learn on their own. News of professionals at all levels of business that sport low-quality degrees from alleged diploma mills certainly does nothing to instill confidence in self-learning. But it was the overwhelming tide of consumer interest in free and accessible university curricula that instigated the Open Courseware Consortium in the first place. OCW is a growing crowd of colleges and universities that are committed to making their academic materials available online to whomever is interested.

Who Cares About Online Educational Sources?

MIT’s site survey shows that “about 52 percent of visitors identify themselves as self-learners, 31 percent as students enrolled in a formal course of study elsewhere, and 13 percent as educators.” No, an individual that self-studies an MIT course in Cognitive Neuroscience will not be conferred a degree from MIT, even if he or she engages in every course in the Psychology major. However, it is certain from a quick perusal of the department’s courses, both undergraduate and graduate, that in the end this individual would have consumed some of the nation’s most advanced curriculum in the field. If you care about knowledge, then the paper document may only be an incidental. Knowledge, after all, only has power when it’s exercised. A degree hardly means empowerment.

Where to Find the Best Free or Cheap Online Know-How

Online databases of books, periodicals, news articles, even dissertations and white papers, are available by the hundreds. Many remain obscure and lacking in user accessibility. Some of the larger, scholarly databases such as Science Direct and CiteSeer, clearly provide huge vaults of scientific and technical know-how and cutting-edge theory, but there’s a definite learning curve when acquainting yourself with the data. Here instead are the easiest to use of the online academic resources:

Degree Disclaimer

This type of knowledge is exactly the kind of “life experience” that a diploma mill would attempt to equate with real college credit. Do not confuse open source university courses with earning a degree. Avoid the sales pitch for life experience at all costs.

The sources above offer an educational alternative to diploma mills and real college programs. But only in the hands of the right individuals do any of these top-notch resources have any meaning. You must be motivated and self-determined. There are free syllabi, textbook bibliographies, and online lessons and lectures. Get some free, high-quality book learning on the side.

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