Hacking the Higher Ed System for a Free Online Education | Hacker Noon

@brianwallaceBrian Wallace

Founder @ NowSourcing. Contributor @ Hackernoon, Advisor @GoogleSmallBiz, Podcaster, infographics

College costs have tripled in a single generation. Including lost income, the cost of a bachelor’s degree is over $400,000 for some. Despite the pain and suffering of housing and food insecurity that many college students face, 73% of college grads are working in a job unrelated to their degree.  Something has gone seriously wrong with the higher education system.

While many still value education, the costly system that exchanges degrees for ever-rising prices is causing millions to search for viable alternatives.  81% of people believe education is shifting to autodidacticism, or self-taught methods. Some of the most famous figures in history were partially or completely self-taught, from Fredrick Douglass to Steve Jobs. 

The internet puts self-education right at everyone’s fingertips. Finding a college-level education online is easier than most people think.

In a stroke of irony, the very universities that charge excessive amounts for formal degrees offer a wide variety of free courses online. 

MIT, UC Berkeley, and Harvard all have a varied selection of virtual classes open to the public free of charge.  Aggregate sites like Coursera and edX also compile the best courses from several universities to benefit their users. 

Separate from the formal education system are MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses. 

This list includes Canvas and LinkedIn Learning. Some interactive tools for self-learning that go beyond the classroom model include CodeAcademy, PluralSight, and SkillShare.

The tools are out there. The most important part of self-taught education is displaying and applying the skills one learns in a way peers and employers can appreciate.  That means finishing courses well.  Staying on course can be a challenge, especially for people with full lives outside of their studies.  Some tips to maintain the course include: getting an accountability buddy, following a set study schedule, and keeping one’s motivation to learn at the forefront of their mind. 

The more motivated one is to learn, the better they tend to retain their education.

Self-taught education benefits more groups than just young adults. 

Many working Americans use free online resources to retrain for work or boost their soft skills arsenal.


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