Free Classes Online! (Or, Rethinking Education)

20 August 2011, by A. Cedilla

We’re all going through some really hard times right now. What with the current economy and the job market being flooded, it’s hit and-and-miss-miss-miss when you send out resumes or answer want ads. People are expected to do more work for longer hours at whatever pay they can negotiate for, and nobody can help it, it is what it is.

An article in the New York Times states that an M.A is the new bachelor’s degree. Ph.D’s, M.A’s and B.A holders are competing fiercely over available positions and job openings, and even when you get a foot in the door, you can be turned down for being over-qualified for one job and yet not be qualified enough at another.

What do you do?
For those who can still afford to, one tactic is to go back to school –or stay in school longer — to A) Wait out the flooded job market while getting their degrees or B) Train in another field and get more marketable skills

First Issue: Student loans…

Which lead to the second issue: Little to no money to spare.
If you’re already burdened with any kind of financial obligation, the thought of adding more to it is unthinkable. The phrase “buried in debt” is only the tip of the iceberg.

Hard times do ease up, however, and while you can’t predict the future, you still decide your own fate. You do what you can to keep going, and if that means going for more education, you still have options. Here are some articles to get you thinking about how to approach the issue. They all have numerous links to schools and universities that offer on-line courses, many for free.

Note from the source: “OEDb currently contains reviews of 1,024 programs from 83 accredited online colleges. […] our database only lists accredited online colleges so that you can be sure that these degrees will be respected by potential employers. Our database allows you to sort reviews by program, college, or degree level.”

A side-issue: Little to no time
Many reputable schools and universities have their own version of free online courses (YMMV, of course, check the LifeHacker link). But, as always, TANSTAAFL. In everything you do, you get what you put in. You want an education, and whether it’s free or as cheap as you can get it, you still have to make the time to actually study. No excuses.

You can also get college credits for what you already know. CLEP accreditation ( CLEP stands for College-level Examination Program) is one way of getting accreditation for skills and talents you’re already practicing. Fluent in a second language? Already working? Looking to shift fields? You would be one of many who choose to leverage life experience into educational advancement.

What I hope you take away with from this article is this: You are more than the circumstances in your life and you don’t have to let them define you.

If you’re unsure — you can’t, you don’t have the money, you don’t have the time, etc — then take the time to sit down and think, really think, about the choices you still can make to better yourself, if not change your situation (yet, anyway).

You’re not powerless.

Or worthless.

Assess your situation, see what needs to be done to make it better, and take a good look at the activities that are pulling you down.

Still here?

So, you want to go back to school. What do you want to walk away with? Do you want to save money? Increase your hire-ability by a skills-upgrade? You want to follow your passion?

If all you want is to save money you don’t have to have go back to school to do it. You can just polish your skill-set in the areas of your life where you can save a buck. For example , TooTiredTeacher has a few easy recipes up on YouTube, and she’s just one of many, many people who freely share cooking lessons. Taper off the take-out, learn to cook, and you can save money.

You can also look into acquiring more handy skills like changing the washer in a faucet, or fixing leaks. Check this out: Types of Skills Everyone Should Know (Popular Mechanics).


Passion is great, but it’s not a guarantee you can pay the bills. Cal Newport has quite a few things to say about passion at his blog, StudyHacks. says it best: Formal education is not sustainable for a lifetime, but lifetime learning is essential for surviving today’s volatile job market and tomorrow’s long period of “retirement.”

Go visit the links, read on a bit about how other people are dealing with the situation, and in part two we’ll discuss what practical steps you can take to get the learning you’re after.

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