As the web continues to evolve and mature, the tools that expand humanity’s options for learning and knowledge grow exponentially. If you think back just 15 short years, answering a quick question about the world required cracking open a dusty old encyclopedia. There was a 50/50 chance that the information it contained was still correct, and you could never rely on encyclopedias to learn about new or breaking information.
Today, to learn something new, we simply Google it or check with others on Twitter, Facebook, Quora, etc. Rarely, when we need a quick answer, do we pull a book off the shelf. These online tools and communities are becoming so efficient at distributing fresh, quality information, that society has completely changed its go-to sources for knowledge.
What I’d like to share today are three online tools that are real game-changers in terms of learning and enhancing your knowledge. These websites span areas such as English grammar, foreign languages, and computer literacy. Whether you use them independently, or as an enhancement to existing online learning you may already be taking, diving into each of these tools can be very valuable for gaining insight and experience into specific topics.
The first tool that is a regular go-to for me is Grammarly. Grammarly is a spelling, grammar, and plagiarism tool all rolled up into a single interface. In terms of usability, it couldn’t be simpler. Simply paste text into the window and click ‘start’. What you get back is the standard spelling and grammar issues, but also rich information on your writing style, tips for improvement, and very advanced reporting on your work. With online learning, this is a great tool to be your final ‘proofreader’ before submitting a document.
Have you heard of Livemocha? Imagine a social network like Facebook, except instead of connecting with friends, you are connecting with people who want to communicate in other languages.
For example, let us say you speak English but are learning Spanish. The rate at which you learn the new language would skyrocket if you were continually communicating with someone who spoke Spanish fluently. Now, there is very likely someone out there who speaks Spanish fluently and is trying to learn English. Doesn’t it make all the sense in the world for you both to work on your language learning together?
This is the basic premise behind LiveMocha. In addition to connecting people who want to help each other improve their learning of a second language, there are also training modules, games, and other tools that help you learn faster than just a textbook and translation dictionary.
Online Training Courses
There’s nothing like a good video training course when you are trying to learn something technical. While lectures and labs help, sometimes you just really need to see someone else do it (and have a rewind button handy!). More and more people are using Lynda.com to learn and become proficient with a wide-range of technical skills. From Excel and Photoshop to PHP coding and database development, if you are trying to learn something technical, there is a very good chance that Lynda.com has a course that will help you along your way.
These tools are just three that we feel breathe new life into the options for learning a skill. The days of encyclopedias, textbooks, and lectures are the only way to learn are long gone. These great social and rich-media technologies are empowering students to learn in new and innovative ways that didn’t exist just a few short years ago!
Brian Patterson is a web and IT consultant, passionate about new and innovative technologies. From working with federal agencies on large enterprise applications, to small businesses with small websites, his experience has run the gamut in the IT world. Brian is a partner at MangoCo, a web consulting agency.