I am learning a lot from my online students this semester. So far in our course, which addresses instructional design and web-based learning, they’ve introduced me to a number of resources I wasn’t aware of through an assignment that required them to review websites of their choice. The result was an eclectic collection of tools, many of which featured content for learners from K-12 to post-grad.
According to Pingdom, there were more than 600 million websites in existence at the end of 2012, and we can bet that the number has increased since then. Most of us rely on Google, Bing, or other search engines, to help us separate the wheat from the chaff, which is an ongoing challenge given the rapidly expanding Internet catalog. When looking for specific educational resources, getting a referral can also be a good place to start and a great way to discover sites that may be helpful in the context of your studies, but not widely identified by search algorithms.
Here are some of the sites my students have shared, as well as a few others that recently caught my attention. All are free to use although some do require registering for an account or downloading an application. Take a look at how each one might augment the resources already available through your school to further support your efforts in a variety of ways, including collaboration, research, and skill-building.
- StudyBlue.com: A tool designed exclusively for students, StudyBlue allows you to create your own “high quality digital study tools” and share them with your classmates. Try the online flashcards feature to study for your next test, set a study reminder to keep you on schedule, and explore the free mobile apps that allow you to take your notes with you anywhere.
- Omeka.org: Developed by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, this open source web-publishing platform is the winner of a Digital Humanities Award for 2012′s Best Tool or Suite of Tools. The interactive features and scalability have large group use in mind, but could also be appropriate for program-level student showcases and course resource collections. Other recommended uses for students include digital dissertations and portfolios, and examples are posted on the main site.
- Bamboo DiRT: This site serves as a “registry of digital research tools for scholarly use.” Developed by a group of partner institutions, including University of California – Berkeley and University of Wisconsin – Madison, you’ll find searchable information on topics ranging from annotation and brainstorming to text mining and web development. Review some of the featured resources before moving forward with your next research paper or project.
- World Digital Library: Access “significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world” via this online database from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Browse the collection by topic, language, location, and year for resources that include images, maps, manuscripts and more. You may also want to add this resource to your personal learning network via Twitter.
- DigitalLiteracy.gov: This project led by the U.S. Department of Commerce is a directory of tools focused on education and career topics. Featured resources include basic computing and job skills training, and each one has a user rating on a scale from “poor” to “awesome.” Search the site for your areas of interest and consider how these resources may not only help you prepare for online learning, but also inform your coursework after you enroll.
- GCFLearnFree.org: The Goodwill Community Foundation has developed a series of interactive tutorials designed to “provide quality, innovative online learning opportunities to anyone who wants to improve the technology, literacy, and math skills needed to be successful in both work and life.” This is another helpful resource for preparing for online academic work. Check out the Microsoft Office, Information Savvy, and Google courses. Many are also available in Spanish.
- Processing.org: Do we all need to become computer programmers? No, but a basic understanding of how it all works is becoming a more important qualification in a wide range of learning and working environments. Processing.org is an open source “programming language, development environment, and online community” that originated as a tool for learning the basics of computer programming. Review the options available to learn a little more about coding, or even to create a unique course project.
What are your go-to resources for extra assistance in your online courses? If you have any experience with the sites highlighted above, let us know what you think. And share your additional suggestions to help us expand this list.
Image credit: hdzimmermann, Flickr, CC:BY-NC-SA