‘An investment in knowledge pays the best interest’
Those were the words of Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, who was well placed to lecture on the values of learning.
It’s something we can all take to heart. After all, we live in an age where all the information we need is at our fingertips. If we need to know the answer to a difficult question, then we just type it into a search engine and there we have it on our screens.
The same applies to a new skill: whereas in the past, we either had to go to a library to benefit from free resources, or find a kind-hearted expert willing to share their wisdom, now we can simply go online and choose from a wealth of options.
So, if you’re looking to acquire a new skill, here are some great tools and courses for you to consider:
Learn a language
In a globalised world, more and more businesses are looking for employees who can communicate in more than one language.
Thankfully, language learning has never been easier with all of the free tools available online.
A great example is Duolingo. Don’t be fooled by its cartoony design; this ‘game’ is seriously addictive. Each time you get a question right, you are rewarded with a pleasing ‘ping’ sound. Get enough right, and you’ll advance to the next level — but be careful, one small mistake and you’ll get the dreaded red box and will be forced to repeat.
Memrise is another useful tool that treats new words like flowers. Each time you practice them (and get them correct) counts as a ‘watering’ for the word: which, of course, means that if you don’t practice them in a while, they’ll start to wilt.
The great thing about these games is that you don’t realize that you’re learning as you try to get to the next stage. Before you know it, you’ve improved enough to reach the advanced stages — and well on the way to fluency.
Pick up coding
With a high-tech future on the horizon, coding looks set to be a key industry for a long time to come. If you have time on your hands at home then you might never have a better opportunity to become acquainted with it.
Intro to HTML and CSS on Udacity is a great way to get started. It will give you the chance to learn key web development practices and tools.
Intro to Computer Science, also on Udacity, takes you a little further. The course delves into basic computer science concepts to get you going, such as building your own search engine or social network.
If mobile app development is your bag, then Allison has a superb free course that uses video tutorials to teach you Objective C programming and how to stay tuned to the latest iPhone app trends.
When you consider that such knowledge was once expensive to acquire, and the career it could get you in the future, then these courses probably represent the best deal of the lot!
Become a cards whizz
Playing cards is one of the most popular pastimes out there: it’s a great way to socialise and there are a huge number of games out there that you can learn quickly.
The only thing is, not many people are great at cards. Take the rules of Blackjack, for example. Most people know them, but not many know how to use them to their advantage.
This is where Jordan Davis comes in. He offers an entertaining guide on Udemy on how to play Blackjack to an excellent standard, and even throws card counting in as an extra skill. With over 10,000 students to date, the course has received generally excellent reviews, and is worth checking out if you have the urge to become a cards whizz.
Unleash your artistic side
Of course, not everyone has a techy side. Some people much prefer to use their mind, and hands, in an artistic manner.
Ctrl+Paint is a great introduction to painting which is arranged into a curriculum so that it’s easy for students to follow. If you get into it, then founder Matt Kohr offers premium lessons from $10 that will take you a step further.
If you want to branch out from painting, origami.me takes you through the basics of the art of folding paper leading to your first model — the famous crane. The great thing here is you can get lots of info for free, but you’re welcome to donate to the site to say thanks.
The theoretical side is also covered by this collection of ten university classes by artsy.net. You can study anything from the pyramids of Giza to Romanticism here and it won’t cost you a penny.
With the amazing educational resources online nowadays, there really is no excuse to be bored anymore. In just weeks, you could become an expert in origami or be able to hold a conversation in Japanese — go ahead and amaze yourself!