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How To Get the Most from Free Online Classes

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Whether you want to improve your programming skills, dance the Argentine Tango, or gain a French vocabulary, there are thousands of free online classes to choose from. So many options can make it difficult to choose a free online class and stick with the syllabus. But, there are a few strategies that can help you get the most out of whichever free online class you select.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: About a semester (4 months)

Here's How:

  1. Know your options. You may be sure of the subject you want to study, but don’t be so quick to choose a free online class. There are thousands of possibilities, all varying in depth and quality. Browse the free online classes section of this website to see some of the top-rated options online. If you’re looking to study in a more traditional academic format, consider OpenCourseWare classes prepared by actual universities. If you prefer something more informal, free online video classes may capture your attention.
  2. Survey the free online class before beginning. Before beginning any free online class, take an overview of all class materials before beginning. Does the class offer lecture notes? Multimedia? A suggested schedule or syllabus? Once you know what is available to you, make your own study schedule and stick with it.
  3. Locate optional materials. Many free online classes, particularly OpenCourseWare programs, suggest optional reading material. If you want to get the full student experience, using these materials can help. If you know where to look, it is often possible to find your textbooks for cheap or free.
  4. Work with a study buddy. Independent learners often improve their knowledge and stay on track by working with a peer. Study with a friend over dinner once a week, email a similar-minded learner monthly, or join an online discussion group about the subject. The level of interaction is up to you.
  5. Get feedback from a mentor. The downside of free online classes is that few offer interaction with an instructor. You don’t have someone built-in to evaluate your progress, critique your assignments, and guide you in the right direction. However, it is possible to find a mentor on your own. Consider asking a friend with experience in the subject or hiring a tutor. Even if you prefer to study alone, feedback from a mentor is always valuable.
  6. Journal your progress. One of the best ways to monitor your growth is to keep a log. Write down what you want to learn by taking a free online class and regularly record your progress. By the end of the course you may be surprised at how far you’ve come.
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