I've made a multipart article with more detail, content and information. Check out the new Free Education article.
This article will teach you how to get a top notch education for free online. Ctrl+Click any link to open it in a new window.
UC Berkeley records its lectures by mp3 and sometimes even with real media video. Berkeley is known for being an outstanding school, especially in computer science. It is ranked nationally as 20th best by usnews.com in a 2006 study of the best colleges. It's the best ranked public school in the US. You can pause the videos or mp3s, take notes, research, and press play again at your convenience. The Berkeley webcast is the number one resource because it lets you be in the classroom with the students watching or hearing some amazing teachers and accomplished professionals.Main URL: http://webcast.berkeley.edu/courses
I recommend downloading media player classic with the Real Alternative plugin. Media Player Classic is a quality freeware program on sourceforge that works on both linux and windows. Real Player is bulkware and can be really annoying, add itself to the windows startup and opening slowly.
Despite the first lecture almost always being an introduction, watch it anyway. It usually gives the course website somewhere in there where you can download the lectures and assignments. Check out Berkeley's BMRC Lecture Browser from the Berkeley Multimedia Research Center.
Despite having a lot of people who have donated a whole lot of money to help MIT OpenCourseware, I don't see it as being all that much better than the Berkeley webcasts. The benefit of going to such top notch schools, in this case MIT is rated rated 7th nationally by usnews.com, is being taught by masters of the field, not being on a "University Book Club". The only benefit given on MIT open courseware is the lecture notes, written by some unnamed MIT student and the assignments and exams written by the professors. Otherwise, you're just simply sharing the same reading and homework assignments as MIT students from the required book. It gives a lot of fluff about the syllabus, calender, reading and assignments, but again, nothing more than telling you to read the book and do the assignments.URL: http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/index.htm
I just learned about this but haven't checked it out yet.URL: http://itunes.stanford.edu/
Many of these courses require books in order to follow the course as if you were a student of the school. I've been trying to go through the Machine Structures course in the Berkeley webcasts, and decided to get the books required. Computer Organization And Design - The Hardware-Software Interface was $2 used on amazon.com, and the other required book, Ansi C Programming Language 2nd Ed By Brian W Kernighan And Dennis M Ritchie, I got at used books store for 10$.
Some books are out of copyright and available for download as an ebook. Be sure and check to see the status of the copyright before you try the peer 2 peer networks because many books may be pirated. An easy way to do this is to search the book on Google Book Search and see if full view is enabled. I highly recommend Emule and Frostwire.
Some books cannot be found on the peer to peer networks. The amount of books that are associated with the MIT and Berkeley courses is still high enough to make it worth searching for. Use the document option, and arrange by availability for best results.
Buy the book and take the course online. Seems pretty simple. The course aren't archived so it's limited to what's open at the moment. You also have to enroll ahead of time.http://university.barnesandnoble.com/browse.asp?z=y
Forums are very useful when you find them very specific to what you're trying to learn. People often associate forums with terrible spelling and lost sheep fascinated with flaming misspelled obsenities and competing to see who got the highest IQ on their tickle.com test. There are Math Forums, poetry forums and even Grammar Forums where typing "omg teh monkay roxxors" is punishable by death. To find forums just search google, for example for calculus forums. Scrolling to the bottom of a wikipedia entry of any topic will usually give quality external links. If you're confused, you're probably not the first. Search for your question on Google Answers and Answers.com. If it's something complex and technical, search for the title of the chapter you're currently in to get examples. Yahoo Answers is more of a lame duck, but if you search long enough you can usually find someone who answers your question seriously. See my custom Yahoo Answers page for more sites like Yahoo Answers. Always use the search feature first!
Sparknotes has a lot of forums too and I highely recommend it. Here's a list of message boards from sparknotes.
Many people don't know that wikipedia has a desk reference area in which people can ask questions. It also now has a Wikiversity, a new project with a lot of potential intended to help people accomplish their education goals. Wikipedia also has a spoken articles page which has many wikipedia articles in .ogg downloadable audio format. Wikipedia also has a Wikibooks section that will teach anything from Organic Chemistry to the french language. Like the spoken articles solution, wikibooks also offers high quality pdf downloads if you don't like reading from your computer which you can quickly view in Foxit Reader. Don't use the bulky adobe PDF, it's horridly slow.
These are great reference sites to accompany wikipedia for your research.
Learning languages can be great fun because you can watch TV online in the language of your choice and legally play old consol RPGs with translations. Google Toolbar has a multilingual spell check feature if you're not strong on your writing. Yahoo Chat in the Yahoo Messenger program has chat categories arranged by religion, and by language. Check out the top sites on the internet for your language in Alexa.com's top lists. Read their news stories and chat in their forums. If there are words you don't understand use babelfish to give a rough translation. Remember that there's people interested in practicing English too, so they can be patient and correct you if you do the same. I was interested particularly in french so if you're also interested, see my Learn French online section.
There are tons of freeware that will help you study and become more efficient. Sourceforge and the free software foundation have tons of freeware on education. For example, a useful Mind Mapping program for those complicated essays, a quiz creator and a hyper advanced flash card maker. Maybe a simple flash card maker or a web based quiz creator? How about a macro to automatically perform common tasks like typing urls and inputting dates. Macros are extremely useful for the 1% of computer users that learns to use them, but they can also be a little too complex for beginners to learn.
MIT has a whole lot of video lectures, but most are related to very current events and likely won't gain people better marks on traditional tests. PBS fontline has a pretty large archive of awesome documentaries. Check out our Google Hidden Categories post about all 38 categories on Google Video, most of which Google doesn't list anywhere on their site. We can use the hidden queries to search for Educational Lectures. Google video has a bunch of college lectures in it, just do a search for the subject you want to learn about, then try adding lecture. Also search your favorite college like MIT. How Stuff Works has a few google videos as well. Archive.org also has its own section about educational videos.
Watch this video to see the power of the firefox quick search and how to make your own custom searches. Increasing the speed at which you can access resources can in the long term save hours of time.
UPDATE: Firefox Smart Quicksearch is actually more efficient and faster to add, thanks for the one of the commenters for pointing it out.
Drag and drop these selected links right below into your quick searches folder in firefox, and just input a keyword as shown in the video.
If you open the firefox bookmarks tab (click ctrl+B), there's a folder called quick search. For example, I type the phrase "w mad cow disease" and it will automatically give me the wikipedia entry for mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy).
Thank goodness for internet video sites, which make following those instructions a lot easier. Here's a picture example of google finance.
Remember you can do this with any site you use often, be it myspace, digg, or newscientist. Quick search can save about 3 or 4 clicks per search, which can add up to a lot of time. For example, searching "cats" on youtube. With a quicksearch you just type "y cats" in the address bar. Without the quick search you have to type youtube.com in the address bar, type cats in the search, order by views. Too much effort!!! XD
Answers.com has a great extension that lets you research a word just by alt clicking it.
There are already many online universities, but I hope for something free and accessible by anyone. Most online universities are scams owned by stock holding companies. They want to maxamize profits while spending the minimal on education. Sites like AIU university have their own team of aggressive telemarketers they have the nerve to call "counselors" which work to excite the students into thinking they're prime candidates for the university.
With high speed connection users increasing and streaming video downloads becoming more and more popular, it's very likely that internet based streams and video collections will one day compete with traditional schools. Video competition will eventually lead to more and more efficient and fun ways of learning things. For example many instant messenger programs like MSN and Yahoo! have white board options that people could use already for Math. You can even use an Ajax Whiteboard and invite a friend using only your browser. A whiteboard in combination with a voice messenger like skype and yahoo is an invaluable tutor resource. A search for Education and self learning on google brings up more sites than I can bookmark.
So maybe you won't get the little paper saying you graduated from that University, but is that really the point of college? I anticipate and immidiate grown of "...yes...sfld", but in any case, if you write your notes down and show you've participated in the online courses the classes will be a breeze and the colleges are more likely to accept you when you show them you're hard work, and how you've been able to apply it. Impress them with your talk about current issues from the MIT videos, and your contributions to helping others in wikipedia help desk after you studied the subjects.
If you have any further awesome educational resources, leave a comment. I fixed the broken link about the flash cards. Thanks to the comments from reddit users that helped me make a few corrections and alterations.Best of the Internet