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Distance Education

How to Learn Just About Anything Online — for Free

From academic courses to music lessons, you won’t have to spend a nickel on class fees.

Cooking. Tempting sites: “Around the World in 80 Dishes” is a series of video-based cooking classes at Epicurious.com; the Culinary Institute of America, the famous school for chefs in Hyde Park, N.Y., offers classes on its YouTube network and its podcasts on iTunes; the Food Network, allrecipes.com and the Williams-Sonoma Video Library and Look and Taste, have lots more recipes and how-to videos.

Literature. LibriVox’s goal is to make all books in the public domain available as free audiobooks. Volunteers record the books, chapter by chapter, and release the audio files back onto the net.

Jazz profiles. Take the I-Train to the archive of NPR’s Jazz Profiles, a documentary series hosted by singer Nancy Wilson. You can listen to the shows as podcasts, read profiles of the performers featured in the series and download the playlists for each show.

Finding Your Ancestors. The Mormon Church is well known for its repository of genealogy records, so it makes sense that Brigham Young University would offer online courses in how to research your family history.

History. The online counterpart of television’s History Channel, History.com has a video library well worth checking out. 

Computer programming. Maybe you’ve read about Ethan Nicholas, who earned $800,000 by writing an artillery game called “iShoot” for the iPhone. If you want to try your own hand, consider auditing Stanford’s Computer Science 193P: iPhone Application Programming. The 10-week undergraduate course attracted 150 students for only 50 spots when it was introduced on campus last fall. Online viewers see the same lectures as classroom students.

Bill Hogan lives in Falls Church, Va.

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