Need to Exercise Your Brain? Try Online Free Learning

By Maggie Gust

The internet and talk TV are full of articles exhorting people over age 50 to keep their minds nimble by learning a new language, tackling computer programming, practicing yoga, learning how to make wine at home, or asking their eight-year-old grandson to teach them how to use a smartphone.

Did you know that some of the top universities around the world are offering their courses for FREE? There is a wealth of possibilities for neurogenesis (making new brain cells) and just plain fun awaiting you on the internet at www.edx.org. There are other MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available, but I am familiar with edx.

You can take a course absolutely free and receive a certificate of completion to add to your resume or social media profile, and/or display on your wall. Many of the universities offer an option to take a course for credit, which requires payment of a small fee. Most current courses are self-paced.

Know any high school students getting ready for college? Edx.org offers AP preparation courses. Students around the globe are taking these classes to help them prepare for college placement tests. Even if your student is doing well presently, it can be helpful to challenge one’s self with new material on the same subject presented in a different style. Edx.org’s AP classes are not affiliated with the College Board nor endorsed by the College Board, but covering the material is bound to be useful in test preparation.

Arizona State University has recently partnered with Edx.org to offer a few courses in Global Freshman Academy for high school students or anyone returning to college. The courses can be taken without application and acceptance at the university at a mere fraction of the college tuition. Further details about that program are available on the edx website.

Just a few of the 60+ available options: MITx offers Calculus 1C: Coordinate systems and Infinite Series; RiceX Physics, Biology, Environmental Science and others; UCBerkeleyX has The Beauty and Joy of Computing; and Arizona State offers three different courses on dog behavior so you can improve your communication with Fido.

We now know that we can make new brain cells at any time in life. Neuroscientists claim that one of the best ways to generate a lot of new brain cells is learning a new language. There are many possibilities on Edx.org. Want to learn Italian? WellesleyX is offering three levels of the language and culture of Italy, presented in podcasts and videos of everyday situations, to stimulate real-world learning. The professor is a native Italian speaker. Same with Spanish – enroll in a course for Spanish for English Speakers, taught by professors at the University of Valencia (Spain). While PekingX has a self-paced Chinese language course.

An added plus to Edx.org is that many of the courses are archived. If you start a course but can’t continue for one reason or another, in most cases you can still retrieve the material for your own learning pleasure at a later time. It also means you have access to courses that were completed a year or more ago.

Check out www.Edx.org and see what appeals to you. Birth some new brain cells. Learning – it does a mind good.


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