Rachel's Team Pick:
Not all of us get a fancy Ivy League education, with professors who are interviewed on NPR every other day and thesis advisors who have formerly served on Presidential cabinets. In fact, many of us don't get a college education at all; it's beyond what we can afford, and as much as we may enjoy learning, we need to work, or care for families, or both. A lot of the time, learning for learning's sake seems like a luxury that only a select few can afford.
A lot of the time, that might be true. But if college coursework is something you're interested in, or you're already in higher education but want to get a little extra without extra tuition payments, you may want to make yourself aware of the many open courseware options available to you. Open courseware is what happens when established colleges, universities or other education institutions choose to make the materials and coursework for an online course publicly accessible, so anyone with an interest can take classes ranging from "Freshman Organic Chemistry" to "African American Studies: Intro to African American Political Thought." Courses can include anything from videos of lectures to PDFs of readings. These are some pretty formidable educational bigwigs, too -- Yale already offers 42 free online classes and just added six more, and MIT's Open Courseware is a really rich and well-curated set of resources for self-directed learning. And just because it's an "institute of technology," don't think it has nothing for you -- the Women's and Gender Studies department at MIT offers classes like "Special Topics in Women & Gender Studies Seminar: Latina Women's Voices" as well as "Sexual and Gender Identities." Yeah, I know, that's your jam.
For a general overview of the resources available to you as a citizen of the Internet, the blog Open Culture has an index of 450 free courses available all over the internet from different universities. The Open Courseware Consortium also offers a way to browse through all the free educational opportunities from universities all over the world. Whether you're trying to learn a new language, think it might be fun to look into that Faulkner guy, or are some sort of crazed educational masochist who's just finishing out their semester but doesn't think they can go a whole summer without taking notes on something, it's worth checking out open courseware. Because while college is an experience that only a few can access, learning about the world around us should be for everyone.