What Are the Best Free Websites for Learning and Productivity?

WWW...Q: What are some of the best free online resources for education and productivity?

(If you came from the eBook and have a website to suggest, skip ahead to the comments!)

Today, there are tons of fascinating knowledge collections available for free on the open web. You can learn all about a new subject, acquire a new skill, or even take a complete university course from anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection.

Often the trouble is finding these best resources, because for every great knowledge collection there are a dozen mediocre ones. There are also plenty of premium resources that require a hefty payment before the toll gates open.

So what are some examples of these amazing online educational sources and helpful services unique to the social web?

The following is a list of some of my personal favorite websites, spanning categories such as general reference, eBook collections, videos, search engines, services, and more.

18 of the Best Free Websites for Learning and Productivity

The Encyclopedia of Earth: A collaborative encyclopedia all about the Earth written by subject experts and geared towards the general public. It is supported by the Environmental Information Coalition and the National Council for Science and the Environment. http://www.eoearth.org/

Snopes: A site that thoroughly researches urban legends, hoaxes and other types of misinformation, Snopes provides context, history, and supporting references in all of its write-ups. http://snopes.com

HowStuffWorks: An edutainment website owned by Discovery Communications that produces a wealth of how-to content. Has articles, photos, and videos and also produces several high-quality podcasts. http://www.howstuffworks.com/

Google Art Project: This is an online platform run by Google that allows users to view high-resolution images of art held by Google’s partner museums and even tour those institutions virtually. http://www.googleartproject.com/

Forvo: An online pronunciation dictionary with a large library of audio clips of words in many different languages. Users can also record pronunciations of words in their native language and request a particular word to be recorded by a native speaker. A voting system ensures that quality pronunciations are highlighted. http://forvo.com

Coursera: A leading provider of MOOCs (massive online open courses), Coursera has partnered with a number of top universities to offer free online college courses that include video lectures, quizzes, and assignments. Disciplines represented range from Computer Science to Humanities and Social Sciences. http://coursera.org

Open Library: This is a project run by the Internet Archive and features over 1 million freely available e-books. http://openlibrary.org/

Livestation: A website offering free streaming video from a variety of news channels from around the world. http://livestation.com/

Directory of Open Access Journals: A directory of open access scholarly journals, that is, journals that meet high academic standards and are free and fully available online. http://www.doaj.org/

Politifact: A fact-checking project operated by the Tampa Bay Times that critically evaluates statements by members of Congress and other parties of political interest and rates them on their truthfulness. http://www.politifact.com/

Open Culture: This project, edited by a Stanford professor, pulls together free content found legally on the web, including movies, ebooks, audiobooks, foreign language lessons, and more. Draws from a variety of sources including the Internet Archive, LibriVox, Project Gutenberg, iTunes, and Youtube, and makes it easy to browse for content. http://openculture.com

Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL): This resource, run by Purdue University, offers free writing resources and instructional materials spanning such topics as proper grammar and punctuation, research and citation guides, subject-specific writing, English as a Second Language writing, and even job search writing. http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/

TED: TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a series of conferences held all around the world. Its website provides videos of “riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.” http://ted.com/

Readability: Readability is a service that allows you to view online articles in a clean, easy-to-read format without ads and distracting sidebar links, as well as save them for later reading on a variety of devices. http://readability.com

PatientsLikeMe: A health-focused social networking site, PatientsLikeMe allows users to connect with others with similar conditions or symptoms, and give support and learn from each other. It makes its profit from brokering de-identified data about its members to pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers with the goals of “accelerated clinical research, improved treatments and better patient care.” http://www.patientslikeme.com/

Remember the Milk: This web-based service allows you to create multiple lists of tasks, send yourself reminders via email and SMS, organize and map your tasks, and even share collaborative tasks with others. Has apps for web browsers, tablets, and smartphones and can even sync with Gmail and Outlook. http://rememberthemilk.com/

Blekko: Blekko is a search engine that allows users to easily create custom search engines by using “slashtags” that the community helps create. Blekko helps users actively create filters that they select and actively banishes spam and content farms from its results. http://blekko.com

GetHuman: A website that shows you a real customer service phone number for just about any company (8,000 and growing) as well as customer service shortcuts and tips as submitted and voted on by users. http://gethuman.com/

What do you think?

Have you already heard of most of these or are they new to you?

If you’re interested in learning about more similar websites and web services, I put together a free report with nearly 100 of the best websites for learning and productivity.

My goal is to incorporate the opinions of readers and other webmasters and keep an updated list of the most amazing social web knowledge collections. You can grab a free copy by clicking here, or signing up on the form that you will find below this post.

I hope this list was helpful for you and I look forward to hearing your suggestions!

Photo credit: olympusclu

andrew walshAndrew Walsh is the owner and editor of Social Web Q and A. He is a freelance writer, academic librarian and web entrepreneur. Check out his book Savvy for the Social Web.


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  1. Yes Andrew I have already heard about some of the sites listed. TED and Google Art Project are useful.

  2. Great article,great list rally useful , using some of them hoping to more , Thanks for the sharing

  3. Amazing collection of list..
    First i thought you just shared a list only but you have shared the list along with short description about the sites..its very useful to get about the site’s..thanks for sharing..

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