Your Virtual Ph.D.

Want to master a new computer language? Brush up on your calculus? Learn how to fix your car? No sweat. With the vast array of college courses and podcasts available online, the apple of knowledge is ripe for the clicking. Here, we’ve narrowed the options to our favorites—the best of the geeky best, from free podcasts and lectures to accredited distance-learning programs from major universities.

UNIVERSITY EXTENSION PROGRAMS: MIT OpenCourseWare What Is It? Similar in philosophy to open-source software, OpenCourseWare offers anyone free access to course materials for virtually all of MIT’s undergraduate and graduate courses. Once upon a time, you needed at least a library card to get a free education. But with this site, you can get rocket-scientist smart without even paying late fees.

Why’s It Cool? This is a site for people who enjoy the pure pleasure of learning. You won’t get credit for any of the course work—in fact, you won’t even have access to teachers—but if you’re a self-starter and curious, you can dabble in any of the subjects that MIT offers.

Can’t Miss? The sheer volume of subjects available is stunning. The site offers course materials in everything from aeronautics to biological engineering to linguistics.

Harvard Extension School

What Is It? The Harvard Extension School provides access to roughly 100 online courses in art, science, math and technology, all from the comfort of your couch. Upcoming fall courses range from an introduction to Greek literature to a variety of Web-development classes.

Why’s It Cool? These courses bring students right into the classroom with video lectures that are posted along with the other course materials. Bonus: Distance learners are always welcome to drop in on the real lecture if they happen to be passing through campus.

Can’t Miss? For a sneak peek of what these courses are like, a few sample lectures are available online.

To see a review of more course offerings, visit the Popular Mechanics website here:

This is something that I ran across awhile back and wanted to put the information out again in case anybody else was interested in learning for no reason in particular.

I always wanted to take classes at MIT but family, financial resources (lack of), and not wanting to actually LIVE up north where people talk funny and don’t know what grits or boiled peanuts are (shudder) were big obstacles. No, chilluns, when I was a little college student, there were no such things as on-line classes.

If I sign up for any, y’all will be the very first to know how I’m doing. Hopefully the experience won’t consist of me sitting under the desk whimpering and contemplating the zen of wrist slitting.

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