Free Online Classes and Videos to Sharpen the Mind

Thursday 03 May 2018, 08:41 AM

Michael Briers
Journalist , Freelance

  • Free-Online-Courses-To-Sharpen-The-Mind-Large

From TED Talks to BBC archives, there is plenty of thought-provoking content at your fingertips. 


The Internet is a remarkable thing. Even if Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media tend to suck at our attention span, the World Wide Web effectively curates every digital byte of information so that the vast repositories of human knowledge are at your fingertips. All day, every day. 

It’s the ultimate rabbit hole, really, but not all digital content is created equal. Sure, we’ve all spent hours poring over conspiracy videos on YouTube and binging through Friends… again (hey, it’s back on Netflix!), but what about something a little more thought-provoking? Something to truly stir your curiosity? 

Look no further than TED.com. Formed under the belief that some ideas are worth sharing, TED is a media organisation that assembles the worlds of Technology, Entertainment and Design – hence the TED acronym – in America’s West Coast to tackle topics as timely as global poverty, education and artificial intelligence.

Many of the inspired presentations are made available online for free – thank heavens, as tickets tend to sell for anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 – and TED’s charismatic speakers typically inject each talk with a sense of humour and humanity as they go about inspiring viewers from all over the world. 

That’s because TED’s rich archive features transcripts for over 100 languages, while most talks can be downloaded and viewed offline on your commute. Heck, toss in a cup of coffee and that’s lunch plans sorted. Because if you want to BE the best, sometimes you have to LEARN from the best. 

And here, we’ve selected the crème de la crème – the best of the best – from the world of TED, followed by a cursory introduction to the BBC archives. 


Adam Alter: Why our screens make us less happy

Adam-Alter-TED-Talks

It’s no secret that we, as a society, are spending more and more time staring at screens – be it television, laptop, table, or the ubiquitous smartphone. And in the eyes of expert psychologist Adam Alter, that so-called screen time can actually do more harm than good. 

Initially aired in April of 2017, this is a remarkably informative post about smartphone addiction, and is described as so: “Alter studies how much time screens steal from us and how they're getting away with it. He shares why all those hours you spend staring at your smartphone, tablet or computer might be making you miserable -- and what you can do about it.”


Arianna Huffington: How to succeed? Get more sleep

Arianna-Huffington-Ted-Talks

In this short, sweet and wonderfully heartfelt TED Talk, Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post, argues that the power of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated, and believes that we should be addressing our sleep deficits, not bragging about them. 

Via TED, Huffington “urges us to shut our eyes and see the big picture: We can sleep our way to increased productivity and happiness -- and smarter decision-making.”

Getting a solid eight-hour sleep can help boost concentration and ultimately lead to a better life, which brings us to…


Emily Esfahani Smith: There’s More to Life Than Being Happy

Emily-Esfahani-Smith-TED-Talks

Is there a more fulfilling alternative to happiness? Emily Esfahani Smith certainly believes so, and posits that we, as human beings, should focus our attention on bringing a sense of meaning into our daily life. 

Via TED, Smith suggests that “having meaning in life – serving something beyond yourself and developing the best within you – gives you something to hold onto.”

It’s a must-watch, and will make you rethink the faux happiness and feedback loops associated with social media. 


Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability 

Brene-Brown-Ted-Talks

There’s an inherent strength in vulnerability – a willingness to admit to your friends and family (and perhaps your inner self, too) that you’re struggling to stay on top of things, be it physical trauma or emotional stress. 

In the eyes of Brené Brown, getting knocked down isn’t just a part of life, it’s the secret ingredient to success, and in this 20-minute lecture, she “studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. While also sharing a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.”

Beyond TED Talks, there’s also a smattering of adult learning courses from the BBC to get the brain neurons firing. The online education tool has been archived as of 2014, meaning it’s no longer updated. 

Disappointing though that may be, this is an online treasure trove designed to nurture and expand your general knowledge, with topics ranging from maths to history, gardening to food and catering. The list is endless, really. And the best thing about it? Much like the TED Talks, it’s free! 

2018 has only just begun, meaning there’s still plenty of time to pick up a new interest or deep dive into a course that, for one reason or another, passed you by at school. And remember, you’re never too old to rekindle your curiosity. So what are you waiting for?
 



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