In today’s digital world, everything from shopping to job searching has moved online. Learning is no different; people today are more visual than in any time in our nation’s history. We like to see things in real time. We like to multitask. We like to see results fast.
It’s no surprise that online learning has seen heightened popularity in recent years. Students today grew up in an age of technological prosperity; we saw the evolution of CDs, iPods, and smartphones. We saw the switch from analog to digital, and we jumped in right away. Now, as adults, we appreciate the efficiency and ease of use that technology has to offer.
One of the best ways to take advantage of current technology is to incorporate it into your education. With so many options out there, it’s easy to find a program or service that works well within your busy student schedule. These online resources will help you maximize your study time and nail down those tough exam questions without wasting time, energy, or money.
Online Study Tools
I touched upon Quizlet’s features in my post about studying for finals, but this website is so much more than just a digital flashcard builder. After creating a free account, you can make unlimited study sets. After you enter your information (which is quick and easy) you simply hit “create,” and then you’re ready to start studying.
Quizlet offers three main study setups: flashcards, tests, and games. The most traditional use of the site is to study your flashcards the old-fashioned way: the site will show you a term, and you must come up with the definition (or vice versa).
If you want to take it a step further, you can use Quizlet to convert your flashcards into practice tests and quizzes to help you study in format that will be similar to your exam. Simply choose between matching, short answer, and multiple choice and set the number of questions you’d like in your practice test. Then you can take it as many times as you want. After taking a practice test, your progress is shown in the form of a grade percentage, detailing the questions you got wrong and providing you with the correct answer.
The most fun use of Quizlet is probably the game feature. It takes terms and definitions from your study set and inserts them into a mini game that you can use to help you retain information. I find this helpful when I’m cramming for finals because it gives me a break from staring at black text on a white page. It’s a great way to visually store the information you’re trying to remember.
Math is definitely not my strongest subject, so Khan Academy is one of my go-to study sites. It features videos as its main learning tools, offering practice exercises in between so you can test your skills. Once you feel like you’ve gotten the hang of things, you can complete extra practice exercises as many times as you want.
If you create an account, you can even customize your own learning journey, which is a great way to make full use of the site. You start out by solving a few math problems, which help Khan Academy detect where your main problem areas are. From there, you will see a page with your skill levels in different areas of arithmetic. For each level you reach, you unlock a new character (think of it as a math-based Pokemon). The more challenges you complete, the more points, characters, and profile badges you can earn. It’s a great way to challenge yourself, especially if you’re into games.
Struggling with your latest reading assignment? Try out SparkNotes. Now, I’m sure you all know that SparkNotes, just like Cliff Notes before it, will tell you all you need to know about a novel. But did you know that it also has several helpful features that, when used correctly, can actually help you study rather than procrastinate?
One of my favorite features on SparkNotes is its practice quizzes. The quizzes for each novel are separated into sections: one overarching quiz that includes the entire novel, separate quizzes for each chapter, and quizzes about the book’s characters and key themes. The selection of different quizzes is helpful because it allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the novel.
SparkNotes also offers study questions and essay topics related to each book, which are incredibly helpful when you’re trying to study for a big literature exam. Each study question has a polished, well-explained answer that will give you the base you need to think more deeply about the themes and plots of the novel.
Coursera is a free online learning tool that provides students with access to top universities at the click of a button. All you have to do is sign up for an account and search the subject you’d like to learn. From there, you’ll receive access to full online college courses led by real professors.
Through Coursera, you’ll have access to thousands of courses in almost any discipline. Each course includes an FAQ section detailing helpful information that you may need in the future. You can also view ratings and reviews before enrolling in a course if you’d like to see how well other students have fared.
These courses are similar to college courses in that you will watch lectures, study course content, and gain a deeper understanding of the subject through real-time instruction. If you want to take it one step further, you can pay for certain courses and receive a Course Certificate upon completion. This feature unlocks graded assignments, and upon finishing the course you will even receive a final grade. But don’t worry, you can still get all the knowledge you need from the free versions of each course; you just won’t receive a grade.
iTunes U is an iPhone/iPad app that grants you access to tons of free resources from audio books to full courses. You can download digital versions of textbooks, study them, and take notes on them without leaving the iTunes U app. I personally use iTunes U to listen to free audio books, download fun courses, (like creative writing, for example), and brush up on courses related to my major.
While not technically free, LinkedIn Learning is definitely a good resource. Before diving in to a $25/mo membership, you will have access to a one-month free trial. During your trial, you can learn anything from digital marketing to videography. Some courses are only 30 minutes long! LinkedIn’s platform is meant to get you started on the right foot in your career. You can watch interviews with career influencers such as Oprah Winfrey, learn the ins and outs of leading computer programs, and even get the low down on crafting the perfect presentation.
If you’re not willing to shell out any money for online resources, YouTube has plenty of content ready for you to jump in and try. I know tons of YouTube channels who will teach you how to draw, how to use Photoshop, or even how to use sites like MailChimp and Hootsuite for internet marketing.
Alison is another one-size-fits all resource with hundreds of free online courses. After setting up a free account, you’ll join Alison’s 10+ million users in studying topics from web development to project management, all without leaving your home. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Online Reference Tools
Google Scholar is a hidden gem for most students. A subset of Google search, Google Scholar allows you to type in keywords and phrases that produce thousands of results in the form of scholarly articles, academic research, and websites that contain further information. This is a foolproof tool that makes the search for essay references much more bearable. Your search will almost always return relevant results (if not, you can simply choose different keywords) and you don’t have to worry about your source not being credible. You can even filter your search by publication date to make sure all your information is accurate and up-to-date.
Zotero is a web browser extension that works best on Google Chrome. After you download the application, you will be able to access Zotero through your browser toolbar and through your computer’s desktop. To use it, open the program on your desktop first. (This is important; if the desktop program is not open, your references will not save correctly). Then, head back to your browser and click the Zotero icon to save the page that you’re visiting as a reference in the Zotero desktop app.
Once your reference is saved, you can organize it into folders. I like to create a folder when I start research for a paper and keep all of my reference in that folder. Once your essay is ready to go, you simply select the references in the folder and click “create bibliography from items.” A popup appears and allows you to choose which citation format to use. After that, your bibliography text will be copied to your clipboard and all you have to do is paste it into your paper. No harm, no foul.
Duolingo is a free language learning resource with millions of loyal members. When you first use the site, you’ll be asked to select the language you’d like to learn. Then, you choose how long you’d like to spend studying each day. You then choose whether you’re a complete beginner or learning the new language at an intermediate level. You then use visuals to help you remember key words and phrases. Throughout the learning process, there are periodic breaks where you can test the skills you’ve learned so far. As you progress, you’ll move from basic words and phrases to full immersion into your new language, including words related to spirituality, politics, and more.
Whether you need a little help in a particular subject or you’re looking to master a new skill, you can find almost anything you need to know by looking online. Why not empower yourself by taking on a new challenge and learning something new?
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