5 Ways to Beat the Coronavirus Blues: Quarantine Ideas for Adult Online Learning

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Not everyone’s coronavirus quarantine involves a great deal of free time. Hats off, sincere thanks, and magnitudes of gratitude to all the health care and other essential workers who have their hands overfull attending to the needs of the rest of us. But if you happen to be one of the fortunate folk looking for new ways to fill time, we’ve got ideas for you. Welcome to Covered’s latest installment in our “5 Ways to Beat the Coronavirus Blues” series: adult online learning ideas for your quarantine.

As in our previous beating-the-coronavirus-blues blogs, all of these online resources are 100% free, no strings attached. Our guide helps you understand how each resource works, what to expect, and how it’s different from the others.

Coursera: Focused on Professional Development

Coursera, currently the world’s largest online learning platform, is all about building skills and deepening expertise. And while paying members can use Coursera to earn online degrees and certificates in a wide range of technical areas, non-paying members can audit many of Coursera’s courses for free. (If you don’t know: “auditing a course” means you take classes but your work isn’t graded and you don’t receive course credit.) If you’ve got your heart set on taking a Coursera course that doesn’t offer the audit option, you can consider a 7-day free trial.

Coursera’s hundreds of online offerings include courses on everything from data science, machine learning, engineering, blockchain, cloud architecture, and self-driving cars to public health, positive psychology, design thinking, financial markets, anatomy, and digital marketing. Instructors are sourced from both universities and businesses.

FutureLearn: Globally Sourced and Accessible to All

Like Coursera, UK-based FutureLearn, founded in 2012 by distance learning pioneers The Open University, also allows users to audit its courses for free. Unlike Coursera, FutureLearn’s free memberships appear to allow access to 100% of its online offerings — not just a selection of them.

FutureLearn’s more globally diverse roster of online courses comes from the ranks of the organization’s many partners. University partners include learning institutions from England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, China, Japan, Hong Kong, France, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Malaysia, the United States, and other countries. Specialist organization partners include a truly varied range of businesses, including arts leaders like the British Film Institute and the British Library, medical leaders like the European Institute of Innovation & Technology and Cancer Research UK, social leaders like UNESCO and Amnesty International, and industry leaders such as Accenture and Macmillan Education.

Khan Academy: Personalized, Multilingual, and Always Free

Khan Academy, a non-profit which believes in a “free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere,” is the only online learning resource we’ve included that also caters to elementary and secondary learners aged 2 and up. But we’re focused on adult learners today, so never mind that for the moment.

Khan Academy also offers high-quality online courses on a range of topics. The platform’s primary differentiators are that courses are ALWAYS free for everyone, users can access personalized learning dashboards, and many courses are available in different languages. (The site offers courses in 36 languages.) Khan Academy also offers a range of coaching resources and tools to help teachers, parents, and mentors make the most out of the platform’s resources.

Open Culture: As Everyman or Esoteric as You Like

Open Culture bills itself as “the best free cultural and educational media on the web,” and a quick look at its offerings is awfully convincing. The aggregator site links to more than 1,500 online courses culled from a wide range of universities, cultural institutions, and leading businesses (e.g., Google, Microsoft, Pixar). If you’ve ever been curious what it would be like to take a course from prestigious schools like Harvard, Yale, Oxford, MIT, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Columbia, Wesleyan, or Cornell, here’s your chance.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Open Culture’s massive catalog of links offers something for everyone. For example, learn about “Psychological First Aid” from Johns Hopkins. Take a class on “The American Novel Since 1945” from Yale. Explore the “Paradoxes of War” at Princeton. Or keep it simple and learn “How to Write a Resume” from the State University of New York.

Class Central: Rated and Searchable to Help You Decide

Another aggregator site, Class Central collects many of the same courses you’ll find on Coursera, FutureLearn, Khan Academy, and Open Culture. But whereas Open Culture is simply a long, scrolling list of options, Class Central is focused on helping you decide which courses are right for you. The site includes articles comparing courses, resources, and learning providers; listing the most popular courses; announcing new courses; and aggregating course ideas for various topics. Its searchable database allows you to explore courses by topic or browse the highest-rated courses. So if you’re new to online learning and utterly unsure about where to begin, Class Central may prove a perfect starting point.

Covered is here to help you through these challenging times. While we’ve got ideas to help you lower your bills and lessen budget impact, we know that surviving COVID-19 will require focusing on far more than finances and insurance. Look for more installments of our “5 Ways to Beat the Coronavirus Blues” series, coming soon to our blog.

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