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Free Online Courses to Exercise Your Brain this Summer

by relationship management assistant

Hannah Von Bank Blog, sales assistant coordinator

Here at the e-Learning Leadership Blog, we often discuss creative ways to train the brains of our learners so they can excel at what they do—but do we ever forget about ourselves? Studies have shown that spending just 15-30 minutes a day learning a new skill (or practicing a challenging one) allows brain cells to make new connections and produces numerous benefits including: improved memory, increased focus, faster thinking, and even prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Make some time in your busy schedule this summer to pamper your brain! Here are a few cool sites to help you get started.

Khan Academy


I used to dream about being adequate at math. Not “good”—as a self-diagnosed “creative, right-brained person” I had long ago decided that true mathematical aptitude was a physiological impossibility for me—but I did hope that someday maybe I would know what to do when I saw numbers and letters hanging out together. Well folks, today is that day.

Khan Academy is an innovative non-profit whose mission is “to provide free, world class education for anyone, anywhere.” They have lessons in a wide variety of subject areas for nearly every skill level, from pre-K through college, but where they really excel is math.

The “World of Math” program uses game elements that make practicing algebra both fun and a little addictive. Learners begin by taking a very short quiz to assess their skill level and earn (earn what? each time they master a new skill. The learning environment adapts as you progress and it’s exciting to see your score rise as you level up and unlock new skills.

Code Academy

At Code Academy, learners begin by choosing one of 7 tracks (HTML/CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Python, Ruby, PHP, and APIs are the available options) and are immediately immersed in one of many fun, easy 20-30 minute projects. Completing projects unlocks new ones and all your creations are stored on your dashboard for you to show off to your friends. I started the HTML/CSS program with no experience at all and within 20 minutes I had created this nifty animation of my name (I can’t show you here, but the dots move away from your mouse if you try to click them—nothing earthshattering, but I’m pretty excited about it.) 



You’ve likely heard the term “MOOC” bandied about, but if you haven’t, it stands for “Massive Open Online Course.” Basically, a MOOC is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. There are a number of sites that host these types of courses, but Coursera is my personal favorite. They have classes from 80+ Universities worldwide, including many Ivy League schools. So if you’ve always wanted to take a paleontology course from Harvard or a class on Ancient Roman Architecture from Princeton (and I’ve done both), this is the place to go. Classes can be hit or miss depending upon your personal preference for a professor’s teaching style or interest in the subject, but there are many to choose from and likely something out there for everyone. Best of all, learners get to choose how involved they want to be in a class—I usually just listen to lectures while I work but there are also side projects and an optional certificate that can be earned for completing homework, tests, and discussions.

I hope each of your take a few minutes out of your day to challenge your brain. You won’t be disappointed!

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