Many resources can be used to learn on your own, and it can be confusing, which are useful and which are not. In this blog post, several trusted resources will be presented and discussed in some form. At the end of the post, the vision of how Lifelong Learning Rocks can add to these resources will be offered. I hope that you find this post useful, and if you did, please subscribe to hear about more content like this.
MIT OCW is one of my favourite websites for educational content. It holds content from MIT's various courses, and it can be trusted for quality given MIT is one of the most respected universities in the world. Classes can be searched for by topic, course number, and department. Below is a screenshot of what searching by topic looks like. First, a topic has to be selected, and then a sub-topic can be selected. Finally, a specialty can be selected if there is any. When I am searching for classes, this is the route I usually take because it allows for the most natural searching.
The courses have different amounts of material available. There are OCW Scholar courses, such as https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/physics/8-01sc-classical-mechanics-fall-2016/, which have all the material needed for self-study according to MIT OCW. The content that is considered necessary is video lectures, assignments, lecture notes, exams, textbook readings, syllabus... However, I have noticed that assignment solutions are not always included.
In contrast to OCW Scholar courses, there are more obscure courses with very little course material available. An example of a course with only some resources available is https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/physics/8-962-general-relativity-spring-2006/. Now even that course has the syllabus, and the readings from the textbook listed. I have found that every course has at least the syllabus and the textbook listed.
There is no marking support or anything like that available. I would encourage interested learners to post questions on forums such as https://www.physicsforums.com, https://www.scienceforums.net, https://physics.stackexchange.com, and many others. I would discourage anyone from looking for a solution or answer because that is not a very good way to learn. On the forums listed, people there will help others with questions but will resist giving away answers, so I would stick to them.
There is, however, some courses that have solutions to homework problems listed. One such course is this one: https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/chemistry/5-111sc-principles-of-chemical-science-fall-2014/unit-i-the-atom/lecture-1/. It is advisable to at least attempt the problem even if you have the solution, but these resources can be used for checking your work.
A website that is similar to MIT OCW is https://nptel.ac.in/course.html. I have used many of the “web courses” to supplement course material while at university. Courses marked as a “web course” have lectures in a PowerPoint format, and a “video course” has the course material in a video format. I would encourage interested learners to click around that site as well.
Khan Academy is one of my favourite websites for pursuing the basics of almost any topic. Khan Academy has course material spanning from kindergarten to roughly first or second-year university. The topics covered include physics, other sciences, economics, finance, history, arts, and many others. A full view of everything offered is shown below in the form of a screenshot from there website as of May 29, 2020:
As can be seen from above, the courses and topics covered are very extensive. To prepare for this blog, I decided I should refamiliarize myself with the platform. To achieve my goal of refamiliarizing myself, I choose to go through the first part of the World History topic (https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/world-history/world-history-beginnings).
It covered prehistory, and I found it to be great. After completing the module, I was left wanting to know more about the people who lived back then. I will probably finish that world history module, and then move one to learn more from other resources. That kind of feeling should be what everyone feels after learning something about a new topic. To put it another way, instructors and learning material should not only deliver the knowledge, but also spark curiosity. It is especially vital to spark curiosity when the basics are being covered, and I believe Khan Academy achieves that.
During my lessons on prehistory, I started with a video and then moved to an article to read. That structure happens a couple of times, and I enjoyed the alterations. I also noticed that some of the material was repeated. Personally, I find that a plus because when passively consuming material, I can stop paying attention for a bit and not notice what I am learning.
There was also a selection of quizzes that I had to pass to be marked as proficient and some ‘energy points’. It appears that the quizzes can be completed whenever and you are not prompted to do them. That is different from how I remember it was before where you were prompted to do a quiz after a video or article. Personally, I think the current setup is better because it lends more flexibility.
I mentioned ‘energy points’ in the last paragraph, so I should talk about what those are exactly. They are a way to measure student success and progress. A student earns energy points for watching videos, passing quizzes etc. Students can also earn badges, which is another way to see progress.
To close off this section, I would like to encourage everyone to go through the Finance material that is offered. It can be easily found at this link: https://www.khanacademy.org/economics-finance-domain/core-finance. It is an excellent overview of basic finance. It is really valuable to know the basics of finance, regardless of what you do in your life.
I am, admittedly, not all that familiar with this site, but from my first looks and clicks around, it is very rich in content. There are textbooks, homework, lesson plans, lessons, and many others. All of the material is under an Open license and can be accessed for free. If and when I look into the content more, I will update this post to reflect my increased knowledge.
Throughout my own university career I utilized content and resources from many universities. Much of this content I found by googling some search terms I will walk you through below.
If you Google “electromagnetism and optics assignments and solutions” you will find the following useful links:
Other googles that could be useful while looking for supplemental resources are:
Now I must again encourage you to try the problems first before looking at the solution. Looking through solutions is not as beneficial as people think, and solving problems is more enjoyable anyways.
This channel contains lots and lots of math videos. The math that is covered goes from what is learnt in grade school to second-year university math (Calculus 3 and differential equations). I have seen some of his videos, but have not dived into them full boar. I am aware of a few of my friends who have watched his videos and say they are really good. This Youtube channel, along with Khan Academy covers all the math you need for almost any undergraduate degree other than Mathematics, Physics, and Statistics.
It is missing complex analysis, and mathematical proofs/thinking to cover enough for a Physics degree. For Mathematics and Statistics, a lot more material would be required, but those degrees are almost all math.
It is another Youtube channel dedicated to math. From what I can see, it is much less organized than either Professor Leonard or Khan Academy, but it talks about a few more interesting topics. There is a playlist on number theory and one on special functions. Special functions are essential to higher year physics and are not one of my strong suits. I may go through the special functions playlist to add to my knowledge and to review the channel better on this website.
The New Boston was one of my favourite channels from when I was first learning to code. There are multiple playlists for learning to code and for learning how to use different software. On top of the computer science tutorials listed there are some out of nowhere tutorials like, how to brew beer, chemistry tutorials, physics tutorials, how to build a go-cart. It would seem that whenever Bucky (owner of the channel) learns or does something cool, he wants you to know about it. I can verify that the computer science tutorials are top-notch (I learned a lot of programming from them) all the other ones I am not sure about but I am guessing they are fun!
Not a whole heck of a lot of videos here, but it is a popular channel. The particularly useful videos, I find, are the “maps” of a subject. I watched the Map of Mathematics in preparation for this blog post and found that it helped show how broad of a subject math is. It also shows people how different parts of the expansive subjects covered relate to other regions of material. In the video, it also linked and talked about how Mathematics relates to other subjects such as Physics. The video is short and did not go into detail about how to do the math and other nitty-gritty stuff, but instead displayed all of the families of topics that Mathematics covers. If you are looking to get a good overview of all the topics a single subject has to offer, I would wholeheartedly recommend checking out those map videos.
Books are the oldest and still one of the best ways to obtain information outside formal learning. There are many different types of books that offer varying degrees of depth and types of knowledge. Textbooks provide the most in-depth knowledge of any books.
A textbook will usually have examples, problems and thinking questions to supplement your learning. They go in-depth and typically cover the entire topic that you are trying to learn. The biggest problem with textbooks is that they are so thorough that it is not the kind of thing you would read on the beach casually.
Biographies and memoirs are much better suited for casual reading, and you can learn a lot about tactics and life in general. I have recently read two books that can be classified into this category, and it was interesting, fun, and insightful. Seeing how someone came to the decisions they made, and listening to them reflect on how it turned out is great. I would recommend that you read books written by those who have lived a life that you identify with, because then you may get some good pointers from them.
Popular science books are a great way to get a brief understanding of a topic without diving too much into detail. I would recommend them if you want to learn a little about a topic, but do not feel the need to understand it fully. Popular science books are also great if you want to get some entertaining insights into a topic before you dive deep so that you can keep motivated.
Non-fiction books are also really great, even though they may not seem to be adding any educational value. I find that reading non-fiction gives you insight into how other people think, and that can increase your empathy. While reading non-fiction, I frequently find myself rehashing something I had previously learned in class and how it would apply to the story I am reading. For instance, in ‘The Expanse’ (one of my favourite series), there are mentions of actual real physics, so it is fun to think about it and even do a quick check on the math. Overall I think non-fiction books add a lot more value than we give them credit for.
Below are a few books I have read and would recommend.
If you get into reading it is likely you will never stop since it is an endless river of knowledge. I am at the point now that there are more books that I want to read than I will ever have the time to read. So please go and support your local library!
People can be used as a resource to further your learning goals. You can reach out to helpful strangers online or surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and use them as teachers. I have used online forums and such before, but I have always enjoyed talking to people I actually know and using them for help. If you happen to be a university student, I implore you to reach out to your professors often. My professors at university were always happy to help and, of course, very knowledgeable.
With all these resources already out there and available, a lot for free, how does Lifelong Learning Rocks add to what is currently offered? Well, at the moment, that is not entirely clear. New resources are being posted to the site at a slow pace while the site is being built to have more features and be easier to use. The primary way that it will be adding value, by mid-summer, is through a system that allows learners to submit worksheets for marking by the author of the worksheet.
The author will set the cost of marking a particular worksheet, and then learners would have to pay to get it marked by that author. When a learner submits the money, the author will see it has been paid for, but will only be able to access the funds after the marked worksheet has been sent to the learner. It is hoped that the process will create enough trust in the system that both sides will feel comfortable.
Eventually, other features, like allowing authors to sell access to premium worksheets may be created. Another addition I have thought about is giving the option for worksheets to be geared to specific geographic areas. For instance, I live in Saskatchewan, Canada, and very few textbooks make reference to things people in Saskatchewan would identify with, but in my worksheets, I do make specific references to Saskatchewan and the culture of Saskatchewan. Being able to tag worksheets with a specific geographic area may allow learners to find material they identify with more easily.
At the moment, the website is not much. Still, hopefully, one day, it will be a valuable resource to the casual learner across the world!
Feel free to contact me with any suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org!