Whether you’ve dreamed of making delicious meals like a professional chef or would like to become fluent in French, this is the year you’ve resolved to make it happen. In the past, you would have had to enroll in a class at your local college, requiring that you accommodate your work or personal commitments around the class time parameters. Today you need only a computer and access to the Internet to dive into the abundance of knowledge available online – in many cases for free if you know where to look.
Start Cooking Like a Pro. We love Epicurious (www.epicurious.com) for their inventive recipes and delicious food ideas, and now they offer online classes in conjunction with The Culinary Institute of America. Learn everything about Italian cooking or how to concoct the perfect dessert. The first class is free, and then you pay about $50 for several hours of video instruction on the topic of your choosing.
Allrecipes (http://allrecipes.com/) is also a good catch-all place for beginners or anyone looking to improve their style. With menu planners and recipes for just about everything, you can hone your skills without leaving home.
Become More Crafty. Always wanted to learn how to knit a sweater? Maybe you’ve thought about baking a unique cake for your son’s 5th birthday party, but don’t know where to begin. Craftsy (www.craftsy.com) offers courses on knitting, baking, jewelry crafting and much more. Costs for full individual classes vary, but there are many free mini-classes you can try, and they offer a money-back guarantee. Watch classes from any device with an internet connection – they even offer an app for iPhones and iPads.
Pinterest (www.pinterest.com) is also a great resource for inspiration and links to craft how-to’s, most are free with photos or videos. Many are geared toward the novice so you can learn from your fellow hobbyists how to tie-dye, create your own candles, decorate adorable cupcakes, and much more.
Become your Own Handyman (or Handywoman). If you feel like your home is falling apart, one leaky faucet at a time, look no further than www.diynetwork.com for everything home-improvement. VideoJug (www.videojug.com) is another great resource for short videos showing you how to complete a bevy of common repairs – they promise to help you “get good at life.” The “DIY & Home” tab gives you a wide selection of tutorial videos on topics like Electrical, Plumbing, Interior Design and much more.
Learn to Play the Guitar. Learn a little about music theory before you get started. Get yourself a music lesson from Ricci Adams’ Music Theory (www.musictheory.net). Choose from two apps for iOS devices, designed to teach you the fundamentals of music and to practice what you’ve learned. Once you’ve mastered the basics, check out Justin Guitar (www.justinguitar.com) for your free guitar lessons. Improve your Internet karma and donate if you can to support the cause.
Wrap your Tongue Around a New Language. Rosetta Stone may be effective, but it’s pretty pricey. The BBC has a nice program for complete learning of upwards of 40 languages (www.bbc.co.uk/languages) with step-by-step courses including pronunciation, grammar and exams. Once you’re beginning to master the language, you can test your knowledge further by listening to BBC World Service broadcasts in the language of your choice.
Anki (http://ankisrs.net/) can help you learn more quickly. It’s a flashcard program that runs on computers and smartphones and is designed to put a large number of words into your long-term memory rapidly while allowing you to “study” anywhere you have a few minutes to spare.
Feed Your Intellect. We all have that class that “got away” while we were attending university, but never fear: there are resources for free online education aplenty. Apple device users should start at iTunesU (www.apple.com/education/itunes-u/). With courses from hundreds of universities, including Stanford, Yale and MIT, you can watch lectures and take entire courses on all subjects from biology to economics. It seamlessly integrates with iBooks in case you want to purchase the textbook for future reference.
Finally, the Open Courseware Consortium (www.ocwconsortium.org) is a worldwide community of institutions that provides free continuing education, complete with notes, memos and examinations. They also have a list of member schools so you can take courses online directly with the university.
About The Author: Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at callnerds.com/andrea/.