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Online Classes Offer Free and Easy Lessons

Just log on and learn whatever interests you

The E-Learning Curve

After discovering MIT's free online courses, Stan Peirce soon became a student again. His first stop: linear algebra, as taught by Gilbert Strang, a renowned mathematician and MIT professor. Then came other classes in math, chemistry and physics, all building on the biology degree he earned in 1972 but never put to use.

He's now paying for credited courses at his local community college to become a medical laboratory technician and, at 62, is eager to get back into the workforce.

"I feel like the MIT site has helped me decide what to do with my life for the next few years," he says.

Guide to E-Learning Sites

This sampling of e-learning opportunities is generally limited to video-based content that's meant to be free, without restrictions or catches. Other education and enrichment discoveries are limited only by what your search engine of choice turns up. Or stay on top of new offerings at Open Culture, which scours the Web for free cultural and educational media.

iTunes U. Apple has been building this online "university" and filling it with free content — at last count, more than 100,000 educational video and audio files — from top universities (London School of Economics), NPR stations (Minnesota Public Radio's "Grammar Grater," a weekly podcast about English words, grammar and usage), famous museums and other cultural institutions all over the world.

Academic Earth. Here you'll find thousands of video lectures from the world's top scholars — from Yale's Shelly Kagan on the "Philosophy on Life and Death" to investment banker Stan Christensen and former San Francisco 49er quarterback Steve Young on "Football vs. Business Negotiations."

YouTube. The rapidly expanding default site for user-generated video now includes an education "channel" called YouTube EDU, with content from top universities and other institutions.

ResearchChannel. Where on the Web can you find Milton Masciadri, professor of double bass at the University of Georgia, discuss the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument used in the modern symphony orchestra? Here! A consortium of leading research and academic institutions share with the public more than 3,500 videos produced by its members.

Videolectures.Net. The site offers video lectures presented by distinguished scholars and scientists at conferences, seminars, workshops and the like. A project of the Jožef Stefan Institute in Slovenia, it has a decidedly international feel.

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