How long have you been out of school?
Five years? Ten? Twenty? …Forty?
Writing for The Muse, Melissa Fudor recalls her exultation upon turning in the last paper of her college career. She was sure she’d never have to write another paper or sit for another exam in her entire life — and she couldn’t have been happier about it.
Life had other plans for Melissa. “[O]f course, I was wrong,” she writes. “After entering the workforce, I’ve realized that learning is even more important now than it was back in my dorm room days.”
Like millions of other strivers, Melissa simply wasn’t fully prepared for the rigors of the daily grind. “Humanities 101 definitely didn’t prepare me for the skills I need to further my career,” she says: “[S]kills like how to negotiate my first salary, how to present in front of a large crowd, or even how to budget and invest for the future.”
If you find yourself in the same boat — and you probably do — you need continuing education resources that are actually relevant to your everyday personal and professional experience. Use these seven free or cheap mobile and desktop apps to keep your skills sharp, appetite for knowledge whetted, and downtime full.
- Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone is the premier at-home language education tool for American professionals. Often imitated, never duplicated, it’s designed for people who need to learn a new language quickly for business or immersive travel.
Rosetta Stone is a cut above other language-learning tools for a host of reasons, but one worth calling out is TrueAccent — a proprietary speech recognition technology that teaches precise regional and dialectic pronunciation. Don’t travel abroad without it.
- Bayyinah TV
Bayyinah TV is a religious education app for the rest of us. With thousands of hours of video and audio lectures from leading American scholars of Islam, it’s ideal for devout Muslims and curious non-believers alike. Use it to quench your thirst for knowledge about the teachings of the Quran, the beautiful mysteries of the Arabic language, and answers to age-old questions about the intersection of piety and modernity in an ever-changing world.
- NOVA Elements
Adults of a certain age have fond memories of NOVA, the beloved PBS science program. NOVA Elements dresses NOVA up for the app age, with an all-ages approach to hands-on science education. This app alone won’t earn you a chemistry or engineering degree from a first-rate university, but it’s a great crash course for non-experts starting a new job at which at least some elemental fluency is expected. Plus, it’s a great way to learn along with your kids.
- Khan Academy
Khan Academy is a totally free continuing education resource for kids and professionals alike. Whether you need to bone up on a new programming language, prep for a graduate school entry test, or acquire working familiarity with complex disciplines like macroeconomics, you can turn to Khan Academy.
Every Khan Academy course is created by a credentialed expert — so, while your coursework here won’t lead to an advanced degree, you can rest assured that the material wouldn’t be out of place at an elite university.
- iTunes U
iTunes U is one of Apple’s most underappreciated resources, which is really saying something. It’s a repertoire of free or nearly free courses from some of the world’s top educators. Most are compact enough to tackle on your lunch break or morning workout.
Udemy is more eclectic than the Khan Academies of the world: It has more than 45,000 expert-taught courses in its arsenal, some of which have only tenuous relevance to the modern workplace and others of which are very narrowly tailored. But Udemy’s sheer volume of learning opportunities makes it indispensable for many lifelong learners, and many of its courses are offered at sharp discounts to list price. The only way to know whether it’s right for you is to give it a try.
Soft skills are in demand like never before. While the naysayers crowed about the impossibility of teaching subjective competencies indispensable in today’s polyglot workplace, Alison’s developers quietly built a versatile app that does just that. Its human resource management courses are second to none, for instance.
But Alison is nothing if not versatile — its applied coursework includes language, accounting and finance, and even 3D printing. Alison has more than 800 courses in the rotation, with more coming online every month.
How are you continuing your education without breaking your budget?