by Jayson Clury
Growing up with a laptop, tablet, phone, or some other means of access to the internet in this world— we have learned too well how to waste time on the internet. A Netflix binge or two, maybe a quick couple hours of WoW or DoTA— Hell, we can even find a way to waste an hour on Instagram and Snapchat at least three different times in the day, and EVEN when nobody has posted anything new. Millennial and every generation to follow are damn resourceful when it comes to finding ways to stay satiated on the internet, and if my guesswork is correct many of you probably ended up on this article because you are desperately lookingto find new parts of the internet to entertain and pass the time with.
Isn’t it funny that the internet is seemingly infinite, and yet everybody has only two or three dozen websites that they go to— it’s as bad as me always ending up at Chipotle, even though there are hundreds of other restaurantsor my own kitchen to which I could eat at. We are creatures of habit, and those habit loops keep us from exploring. Not because we do not want to, but because sometimes we just cannot figure out what we want. That is what this list is for, a way to make better use of those times on your phone, tablet, or computer.
Ted Talks are probably the most widely known on the list, and for some it may instantly spark thoughts of classrooms and boredom, but trust me when I saw that a Ted talk from 5 minutes long to 90 minutes long can be incredibly entertaining, inspiring, and eye-opening. You are your own teacher now, so you get to shuffle through the wealth of talks they have aggregated and pick something that matters to you, or something that sounds like you should know a little about it. 90% of the time, when I pick a Ted talk like “What you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s” by Lisa Genova or “A simple birth kit for mothers in the developing world” by Zubaida Bai, I find myself engrossed in a world or problem I never knew existed and I dive deeper into understanding. Sometimes even participating in the solutions.
Want a Ted Talk to get started? Anything Elon Musk is always bound to be fascinating, if you listen long enough.
Are you like me and took two years of Spanish in high school or two years of French in college— just to feel like you are no closer to really speaking and conversing in any language except your native tongue? Well Duolingo might be the solution to that problem and a good way to pass the time. Duolingo is a mobile-focused language learning app that uses gamification to help reward language learning.
The greatest thing about Duolingo is the simplicity and habit forming qualities of the app. It is not hard to start, there is no intimidation to the lessons, as they start at the very beginning and do not embarrass or punish you for learning (looking at you French 2 in college), and as you go through one of the over 20 languages they offer free programs for, you begin to create what they call _Streaks._ Streaks incentivize you to come back and replay early levels of the program, which ultimately strengthen the core of your knowledge of that language. The games are not Super Mario, but they can be fun and quick. Duolingo only needs you on its app for 5-10 minutes a day to develop streaks, and after awhile who knows! Vous pourriez apprendre une autre langue!
Probably one of the top dogs when it comes to amount of content and the respectability of the brand as a whole. Lynda is a LinkedIn property and has thousands of video tutorials on various topics from Graphic Design to Marketing to IT services. It focuses on digital and technology geared jobs and trainings. The videos vary in lengths, like Ted Talks; however, many are no longer than your average YouTube video (God knows I have watched my share of 12 minute long Stephan Colbert videos), and the content itself is really easy to learn from. I have found Lynda an invaluable resource when setting-up many online companies and brands in the past and learning many skills for my past jobs that bosses figured I _should_ know, because I was the youngest person in the office.
The only downside to Lynda is the cost. Starting at $19.99 a month, this can be a little step, especially compared to something more enticing, like a Netflix subscription. However, I’d urge you to give the free trial a chance, especially if you can schedule those free days around answering specific questions about a skill. Lynda’s a great resource, but without focus you can get as lost in it as most other video player sites.
Codecademy and Treehouse
These two are getting paired together, because they both offer incredible resources for coding and backend development, but they offer them in different ways. Codecademy is a free coding program that offers courses from making a website to using Ruby on Rails. You go through courses with projects and quizzes that open instantly upon your enrollment. This is a great way to a la carte your coding education if you are just looking to better understand the backend of your blog or maybe want to impress your boss (jk, literally anyone) with your new knowledge of how the hell API’s actually work.
Treehouse is a little different, and the most important distinction is the paywall. $25 a month for a basic plan or $49 for a premium. The videos remind me more of HubSpot’s quality, which is really accessible, feels friendly, and helps really connect you to the learning itself. The UI is really easy to work with and it is aesthetically fun. Will the perks of membership be enough to overcome the paywall for the casual user? Questionable really.If you’re also looking to possibly be spotted by HR teams from companies or talk to a community of over 230,000 professionals than maybe those networking opportunities are worth it, but otherwise if you want to learn a little coding before your next doctors appointment, then Codecademy is going to be your best bet.
Probably my favorite of all the platforms we are going over here, Masterclass is just killing it. With classes spanning through names like Steve Martin, Aaron Sorkin, James Patterson, Selena Williams, to Christina Aguilera and Kevin Spacey. The list of really noteworthy celebrities that have jumped on board to teach these classes is a really cool experience in and of itself.
The question becomes two-fold though with big names like this: first is it just a ploy for money for Masterclass and the celebrities, and do they really know enough to be proper teachers? For a flat rate of $90 for lifetime access, many Q&A opportunities with the celebrities, and even the occasional contest (Full disclosure, James Patterson did not pick me to co-write a book with him, that son of a bitch). It is not a heavy enough investment to put anyone out, and arguably the quality of the lessons I have seen have all been outstanding. Was the knowledge anything you could not find for free doing a little digging? Not really. However, it was still entertaining and fulfilling to hear someone like James Patterson shoot straight with you about how to make money in the world of books.
Coursera did not make the list because of its unfriendly UI that requires a little more willpower to maneuver through, and its strict enrollment dates. It was far more like taking an actual class, which can have many positives to it and the institutions they have partnered with are incredible (names like Yale University and National Geographic). However, when talking about replacing other habits, this is too much work to be an easy substitution.
Crashcourse almost made the list, but fell short only because of the demographic it is appealing to, which should not be viewed as a problem with the program itself. Crash Course offers beautifully animated and well researched summaries of a wide range of topics one might have studied (or should have studied) in high school. Anything from World History to Chemistry. These are great videos for brushing up on a historical event or quickly learning what the hell the electoral college actually is when everyone at work is bitching about it non-stop. However, the information does not always extend easily to an older demographic, and for that it barely misses our list.
WaitButWhy only misses our list because it is not _technically_ an educational resource. It is a blog, that unfortunately, infrequently posts really thoughtful and insightful write-ups on anything from Space X to How Many Days You Have Left With Your Parents. It’s a brilliant and quick read through that can give you a lot more brain stimulation than 80% of CNN.com. However, it just is not a reliable resource for constant new material. Still worth a subscription sign-up and a read whenever a new article from Tim Urban does appear.
This list does not mean you should expect yourself to adult all the time, changing your habit loops to just these websites— everyone needs a good Parks & Recreation binge once in awhile. However, hopefully you will take some of these sites and explore them more deeply. Even an hour spent on any of them in place of blank staring at your Facebook wall can be time well spent in moving you forward.