Text by Prakriti Panwar, (Intern) Staff Writer
Bored and listless, many of us these days, often resort to aimless scrolling through our Instagram or checking our Facebook from time to time. What we don’t realise is that this is the perfect time for us to get hands-on and learn things we have always wanted to, but never made an effort to. In this era of virtual transaction and shopping, online learning tools are just another asset, which when used wisely, can do wonders.
They not only help gain knowledge via the internet but also assist one to acquire and polish various skills such as painting, dancing, singing and even learning a new language! There exists a whole community of learners on various platforms, to whom we can relate and even learn from their previous experiences. To get you started on the experience of acquiring a new talent (or polishing an old one) we have streamlined a list of top six learn apps and websites that will surely help you achieve what you want.
Quoted as the “best free language learning app” by The Wall Street Journal, this app speaks for itself just by its excellent reviews. Other than teaching users common foreign languages such as German and French, Duolingo also teaches endangered languages such as Hawaiian and Navajo. Combined with an interactive user interface, the app also contains a ‘leader board’ with different levels such as gold, sapphire and ruby, thus encouraging users to constantly do better. There exists a ‘Duolingo Plus’ which is the paid version. It includes benefits such as no advertisements and offline courses at USD$7 a month, which can conveniently be cancelled any time. Avani Poornanand (15) who has been using the app since the last eight months says, “I started using this app after the German classes I took in my locality were cancelled. The teacher recommended Duolingo to me and I tried it out. I was immensely happy with it and my performance. But the app is purely meant for verbal exchange. Duolingo is a great recommendation for people who only need a basic understanding and common phrases and such in a language. But again, to be fully knowledgeable in a language one would need to take exams from known institutions for an official certificate.”
Edx is a non- profit organization which provides free courses on various subjects by well known and reputed institutions such as Harvard, IIT Bombay and Oxford. Apart from courses, the app also allows users to sign up for programs and degrees. It contains elaborate details of the course such as its length and the amount of effort (in hours) to be put into it, thus allowing users to choose the most convenient and appropriate program for themselves. Courses on Edx are free, however in order to obtain an official certificate, some amount of monetary exchange is required, depending on the fee structure of the course. Shreya Panda (15), currently studying Philosophy and Sociology via the app, says, “I have known about the app for about a year and I started using it a month ago. Since it offers courses on a wide range of subjects from reputed institutions, I could trust the app and hence I downloaded it. Edx is a great way to make productive use of time and it feels good to utilize resources like such and educating myself on subjects I actually like.”
3) Khan Academy
Khan Academy is another nonprofit website cum app for learners, teachers and parents. It has a list of well structured, interactive and versatile courses. In addition to a specially designed course coinciding with the Indian syllabus, the app also offers students to study in both-Hindi and English. It also contains a ‘Test Prep’ section which guides students through competitive examinations such as the SAT’s, GMAT, IIT JEE and much more. Teachers can track their pupils’ individual performances and also assign homework and useful videos to them. Recently, Khan Academy designed a ‘daily schedule’ to help students be on track with their studies, owing to the current scenario due to the nationwide lockdown. Apart from academics, one can also take courses on Art History, Storytelling and Music for interest’s sake. Not long ago, Khan Academy introduced its new, extended app called ‘Khan Academy Kids’ for age groups 2 to 6. The app, as well as the website, is probably one of the most used and famous online learning tools used by everyone, from students to teachers, all around the world.
Concurring with its motto, ‘Unleash your inner musician’, this app helps its users to ace an instrument or even their singing skills with just a daily ten-minute practice. It offers a wide range of instruments to pick from, few of them being the bass, piano and the ukulele. While the free version allows users to use the app just for 10 minutes a day, the premium version offers no constraints on time limit, at Rs 600/- per month. It has an engaging method of teaching concepts, for a better understanding and application of knowledge and theory. Moreover, it sends digital certificates on the completion of each level. Antara Pandey (15) has been learning the basics of the guitar through the app. She says, “I have been stuck at home ever since exams got over thanks to the COVID -19 pandemic. In the beginning, I was really frustrated because most of my plans required going outside but I realised that I couldn’t do anything about it and so I thought I should instead learn something. I downloaded an app called YOUSICIAN and I have been using it for almost a month now. I’m using the free version even though it only allows me sessions of only 10 to 15 minutes a day, I don’t mind as I usually don’t have enough time for it because I have to attend my online classes. I used this app specifically because one of my friends recommended it to me. She is an amazing guitarist and YOUSICIAN was one of the reasons for it so I thought I should give it a try. It is a really good app. It’s user friendly, interactive and fun. I’m pretty satisfied with the app’s interface as it has benefitted me in multiple ways.”
Udemy offers a wide variety of free and paid courses, most relevant and helpful to working professionals. Though it has courses on categories such as health and fitness, music and lifestyle, it is known for its contribution to the workplace and official courses. However, there are a few programs such as Photography and coding for kids offered to children, which are available at affordable rates. The app also offers personalised recommendations. While some courses are free, all basic paid courses start at Rs 385/- with a money-back guarantee. Dipti Shah (37) who has been taking various courses on the app for almost a year, says, “There are lots of courses available on the app and they are quite simple to understand. I took the digital marketing course as it helps me at work. I also enrolled myself for an online photography course as I just wanted to know a little more about it. Also, one thing that I liked about this app was that all the courses that you buy are with you for a lifetime. So you can complete the course as and when you want or have time.”
FutureLearn is part free/ part paid website which avails users with a plethora of courses and degrees of varying time lengths. It consists of two paid versions-Upgrade and Unlimited. Since all that the free version offers is accessibility to the course for an extra two weeks, the paid versions are often preferred over it. While the Upgraded version offers lifetime access to the course, course tests and a digital certificate on completion, the Unlimited version offers, in addition to the former, a printable certificate, access to all courses and tests on a yearly basis and the freedom to do the courses flexibly. The website recently introduced ‘Boredom Busting Courses’ to keep users engaged during the current crisis. Its usual categories of courses include some really interesting topics such as Nature and Environment, Literature and Study skills. User reviews too, are positive and range between four to five stars. Though a bit on the expensive side, most users do not mind making an investment, which proves the worth of the organisation’s lectures and education.
7) The Lifestyle Portal’s Online Writing Program
While we have listed numerous online learning tools for you, the most accessible one is a mere click away! The Lifestyle Portal has created an online writing program for students, homemakers and professionals. Our writing course not only offers you an excellent chance to improve your writing at home, but also gets you certified and gives you the opportunity to publish your work with us. Being an apprentice myself, I must say that this program is all that you need to improve your writing skills easily. Assignments, personal guidance and offline support, all of it in our one short and sweet online program, is just an email away. Anusmita Dutta (36) a spoken English tutor/freelance writer and a former student, says, “I Have known Tanya for some years because I have contributed articles to The Lifestyle Portal. When I learnt about her writing program, I was very enthusiastic to do it because I’ve never studied to be a writer. This often made me feel inadequate in terms of knowing the correct techniques of writing. Since Tanya has a journalism background, she knows every technique very well. I joined her basic and advanced courses of writing and felt enriched after doing them. In fact, I look forward to learning more from her. Her courses gave me all the tools required to do well in any type of writing and I’m glad I chose her to be my mentor in both the programs.” You too, can write to us, and get your learning started!
These online learning tools will surely help you pick up those hobbies you always wanted to, in an enjoyable and stress-free manner. Give something a whirl, try something new and explore! Since all the mentioned apps and websites have a huge clique of learners, like yourself, feel free to safely share your success and achievements with the rest of the world. Never inhibit yourself from trying something avant-garde, contemporary or futuristic! Relax, be free and easy and learn at your own pace, at your own convenience.
About our Intern:
Prakriti Panwar is a Grade X student of The Navy Children School, Mumbai. She is a wordsmith and a bookworm. At the age of 14, her short story was selected to be published as part of an ebook after she won a countrywide contest. She loves to weave stories, paint, play the guitar and piano and sing. She plans to pursue her interest in writing by becoming a journalist.
Join our Internship Program:
If you’re just out of school/ college and are looking for some professional hand at writing, we may be the place for you. Send us your CV along with a sample of your work to firstname.lastname@example.org and if we like it, you could be our next Intern at The Lifestyle Portal.