These days it’s easier than ever to learn new things on a budget.
But as with everything on the Internet, what we really need to know is how to use the tools to the best of our ability. Otherwise we get completely swamped, not knowing where to go and what to learn.
I personally experience Internet fatigue if I don’t have a clear direction, so here are three ways to learn depending on your goals and the time you have to spare:
If you want to spend an hour and are looking for something enriching, one of the best place to go is YouTube EDU. YouTube automatically generates its most popular educational videos for you to choose from in all different disciplines.
If you’re an artist, YouTube is also full of teachers ready to take you through the basics of guitar or to teach you how to play a specific pop song on the piano.
Many of us love This American Life and the hundreds of comedy podcasts out there, but there are also strictly educational podcasts out there on every subject. Listen to one of the free podcasts on iTunes, ranging from philosophy or architecture, to random but fascinating topics, like on the Stuff You Should Know podcast.
Finally, get a discussion started on the question-and-answer website Quora. You can post a question on any topic and the community will help you figure it out.
If you want to really commit to a subject for a few months, there are many online sites to check out. EdX and Coursera feel the most like a real university lecture, and in these massive open online courses or MOOCs, you can take classes from professors at some of the top universities in the world.
Coursera offers short-term classes–some are only five weeks–and since the videos are always available online, you can work the class around your schedule. There’s no pressure of rushing to make it to that 9 a.m. stats class.
One of the great things is that you are taking these courses with students from all over the world. Many of the sites like Coursera have message boards so you can communicate with other students, and if you don’t want to take the class alone in your room, the site offers a place you can organize in-person meetup groups. It could turn into a great, free way to meet people with a similar interest.
There a lot of new sites that offer custom mentoring if you are in a specific field for much less than it would cost to go to graduate school.
WriteByNight is a site where you can sign up for writing help from professional writers online. You pay by the hour, so you don’t have to make a big commitment up front. If you’re struggling with how to open your screenplay or need specific help deciding what to cut and what to keep, a few one-hour mentoring sessions might be all you need.
If you are an entrepreneur just starting out and have dreams of starting your own business, money is probably tight. MicroMentor is a great site if you are looking for advice on where to go next with your new project. They’ll hook you up with a volunteer business professional who will help you take your business to the next level.
With all of the tools that we now have available to us, there is really no excuse to be bored. And it doesn’t have to bring back painful memories of a high school lecture because you get to decide what you want to learn, how you want to learn it. Let your passions and curiosity guide you without hurting your bank account.
—Erica Dhawan is the CEO of Cotential and keynote speaker driving innovation across generations and cultures to prepare the global workplace for tomorrow. Her forthcoming book, Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence, co-authored by Saj-nicole Joni, is available for pre-order now. Follow Erica on Facebook and Twitter.
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program.