100 Useful, Free Web Tools for Lifelong Learners

Posted by Staff Writers | Posted in Online Learning, Tips and Tools | Posted on 10-09-2008

Lifelong learners are constantly on the search for new information, and the Internet has made it even easier to track down authoritative journals, libraries and museums around the world, college courses, niche search engines, language tools, and other learners poking around online. This mega list of 100 free web tools and sites will grant you access to courses at Harvard Medical School and MIT, social media sites that connect you to bookworms, videos and podcasts about everything from medical news to politics, government resources, and a lot more. The best part? Everything is free, and there’s no grading involved.

Open Courseware

These open courseware classes can connect you to the same syllabi and assignments being given at top schools like Harvard Medical School and MIT. You won’t get any academic credit for these classes, but if you stick with it, you’ll learn a lot.

  1. MIT Open Courseware: MIT’s collection is one of the most comprehensive open courseware collections online. Take college classes in business, engineering, computer science, history, linguistics and much more.
  2. Open Courseware Consortium: This site is a great place to start your search: you can conduct a keyword search or choose to take courses from schools around the world.
  3. OCW Finder: Click on a keyword, like administration, civil, literary, workshop or writing, and OCW Finder will bring up classes that match your query.
  4. JHSPH Open Courseware: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health offers its distinguished courses online in areas like refugee health, aging, injury prevention and more.
  5. Top 100 Open Courseware Projects: The Online Education Database has put together a list of some of the best open courseware classes out there. Browse by subject.
  6. Tufts Open Courseware: Tufts’ School of Dental Medicine, School of Medicine, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, The Fletcher School, School of Arts and Sciences and Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine have put classes on this open site.
  7. Utah State Open Courseware: Utah State is another popular open courseware school, offering courses in English, anthropology, physics, theatre arts, computer engineering and more.
  8. Take Any College Class for Free: 236 Open Courseware Collections, Podcasts and Videos: Browse this list for more than 200 open classes, resources and lectures.
  9. Harvard Medical School Open Courseware Initiative: Even if you didn’t get in to Harvard Medical School, you can take these classes online for free.
  10. Notre Dame Open Courseware: Take classes in gender studies, philosophy, sociology, theology, Asian studies and more from this famous university.
  11. FETP Open Courseware: The Fulbright Economics Teaching Program offers classes from its two-year Master in Public Policy Program.
  12. The Open University: This British university offers open classes in law, mathematics, statistics, arts and history, education, business and management and more.
  13. iBerry: Use this site’s open courseware directory to find courses according to subject, notes, video, audio, software demonstrations and more.

Books and Open Text

Read books online for free, access hard-to-find historical texts, and organize your research with these tools.

  1. Internet History Sourcebooks Project: Look up historical texts without messy advertising on this site.
  2. ManyBooks.net: This smart site has books that can be viewed on your iPod, PDA or eBook reader, from poetry to romance to biographies.
  3. Project Gutenberg: Access free ebooks on this site.
  4. Internet Text Archive: This open source site has books in American, Canadian and universal libraries.
  5. Google Book Search: View entire books on this site, including non-fiction reference guides, literature, fantasy, poetry and more.
  6. The Online Books Page: The University of Pennsylvania’s book page provides listings for over 30,000 books, including author information and special lists for prize-winners, women authors and more.
  7. Authorama: This public domain books site publishes free books categorized alphabetically by author last name.

Search Engines

When you want to search for something very specific and bring up authoritative information, use these search engines to connect you to the real thing.

  1. Google Scholar: Access only scholarly journals and material when you use this engine.
  2. Research Crawler: Choose to bring up images, maps, journals, news articles and more when you search here.
  3. PubMed: This government-supported site lets you search by topic, author or journal.
  4. Librarians’ Internet Index: Enter your keywords at the top or click on a subject like people, media, government, business, law or health.
  5. BASE: Search academic materials with this tool.
  6. LiteratureClassics.com: Use this directory to find ancient literature, American literature, magazines, online texts, periods and movements and more.
  7. Scirus: This engine is "for scientific information only."
  8. History Crawler: Look up history articles, blogs, forums, academic departments, journals and a lot more on this search engine.
  9. LISZEN: Find library blogs and other library resources with this engine.
  10. Art cyclopedia: Art students can search for artists’ names, museums, movements and titles of individual works.

Public Access Libraries and Research Centers

Even if you don’t live in a major city, you can take advantage of research materials and more from resources like the Library of Congress, Metropolitan Museum of Art and others.

  1. Library of Congress: Browse exhibitions, access educational resources, check out the American Folklife Center, copyright office, braille reading materials and more.
  2. Internet Public Library: Besides the reading room and reference resources, this site also has exhibits, a special collections site, and plenty of information for those interested in business, computers, science, health, government and more.
  3. Metropolitan Museum of Art: Art enthusiasts can access the collection database for information about over 51,000 paintings and works inside the Met.
  4. MIT Libraries: Browse the collections and get information on how to borrow or order materials here.
  5. Musee de Louvre: Check out the collections, exhibitions and other educational resources online from one of the world’s most famous museums.
  6. PublicLibraries.com: Find public libraries in all 50 states by searching this site.
  7. Mayo Clinic: Learn all about diseases, symptoms, health care and more on this site.
  8. LibWeb: Use this tool to get connected to academic libraries, public libraries, national libraries and other centers around the world.
  9. Library Spot: Follow links to libraries and reference sites, or use the Library Spot to look up information, ask the experts, look up genealogy questions and more.
  10. Questia: This online library promises "faster, easier research." Browse by subject category or keyword to access book profiles, journals, magazines, free books and more.


Listen to these podcasts for academic lectures, NPR shows, speeches, interviews and more.

  1. iTunesU: Listen to lectures from professors at Stanford and other colleges using this platform.
  2. University of Cambridge podcasts: This site offers a limited number of podcasts.
  3. "HyperManyMedia" Platform: The WKU distance learning podcasts and videos are offered in poetry, drama, fiction and more.
  4. American University Washington College of Law: If you want to brush up on your understanding of American law and justice, listen to these classes.
  5. The Education Podcast Network: This network has podcasts in the following areas: theatre arts, computer and technical skills, music education, information skills, math, second languages and a lot more.
  6. OpenCulture.com Free podcasts: Check here for free podcasts from universities like Columbia, Georgetown and the London School of Economics.
  7. Podcast Alley: Find podcasts on virtually any subject, from the environment to health, here.
  8. VoIP Free Calls Guide: Use this guide to set-up free voip conferences or interviews to include in your podcast.
  9. Classics Podcasts: Listen to the news, get vocabulary lessons and listen to textbooks in Latin and Greek.
  10. Digital Podcast: Find podcasts on books, music, the news, religion, technology and other subjects on this site.

Social Media and Online Communities

Talk about books, politics, history, science and more with other lifelong learners on these community-driven sites.

  1. Newsvine: This politics social media site offers "an instant reflection of what the world is talking about at the moment."
  2. Tutorialized: This site depends on user content to publish tutorials on Photoshop and Flash.
  3. ARTslant: Meet other artists, learn about exhibits and museums in the New York area and broaden your tastes on this community site.
  4. Chowhound: Talk about and share recipes and local restaurants here.
  5. Book Crossing: Talk about your favorite books and share titles with other bookworms here.
  6. Good-Tutorials: Turn to this site to learn or chat about JavaScript, PHP and other Web design and development techniques.
  7. ConnectviaBooks: ConnectviaBooks is another social site for book lovers.
  8. Daily Strength: Reach out to other patients on this medical site, which also has news and stories about different diseases.
  9. Hugg: Submit and read about environmental news here.
  10. LibraryThing: Import your book lists from Amazon, the Library of Congress and other sites while you meet other people who love to read.

Learning a New Language

If you want to learn a new language, these web tools can help you with pronunciation, vocabulary, and even planning a trip abroad.

  1. StudySpanish.com: Access free resources for Spanish vocabulary, verbs, grammar, pronunciation and more, at three different levels.
  2. Language Homework Help: MSN Encarta’s resource helps you translate, find verb tenses, spell correctly and learn about history.
  3. iLoveLanguages: Find links and resources for dictionaries, translators, language lessons and more.
  4. BBC Languages: This is a great site for learning about different cultures and planning a trip abroad. Get updated news and weather information around the world, as well as vocabulary lessons and other activities in languages like Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Greek and Chinese.
  5. Virtual Language Tutor: Here you can be tutored in any language from Japanese to Texan Spanish to Canadian French to Russian to Swedish.

Government Sites

For authoritative information on science and technology, U.S. history, consumer information and more, visit these government sites.

  1. Consumer.gov: Besides getting consumer alerts and news about recalls, health care and other issues, this website can be studied to gain insight about the U.S. economy.
  2. U.S. Census Bureau: Get economic and cultural information about Americans here.
  3. The National Archives: Find all kinds of educational resources, including a research catalog, online exhibits and U.S. Declaration page, right here.
  4. Science.gov: Browse scientific topics like biology and nature, astronomy and space, earth and ocean sciences, computers and communication, and others.
  5. USGS: Check out the interactive map to learn about the country’s geologic history and more.

Reference Guides and Dictionaries

This list features a medical dictionary, historical references and facts, global information, math help and more.

  1. AMS Books Online: Read math textbooks and theory books on this site.
  2. Free Tech Books: Read computer programming and computer engineering textbooks and lecture notes for free.
  3. The World Factbook: Look up history references, geography, government questions, economics, transportation information and more about every country.
  4. Dictionary.com: This site also includes a thesaurus, encyclopedia and other resources.
  5. Medline Plus Medical Dictionary: Look up confusing medical terms here.
  6. EPodunk: Get information about U.S. cities and states, including city tours, festivals and more.
  7. The Original Farmer’s Almanac: Get information on the seasons, weather, astronomy, gardening and more from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
  8. Meteorology: If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about meteorology, you’ll find lots of helpful guides on this site.
  9. Specialist Online Dictionary: Find all types of resources, dictionaries and reference guides for specialties like computers, the law, religion, philosophy, word games, writing, translation and more.
  10. RefDesk: RefDesk compiles lists of links and references for those who want to look up history, weather, maps and atlases, the news, movie times, lottery numbers and everything else.


Watch these videos for the latest in politics, world news, documentaries, culture and more.

  1. Oxford Internet Institute: View webcasts of lecturers and special speakers from Oxford on the subject of the Internet and online culture.
  2. FreeDocumentaries: Watch political documentaries about Latin America, Russia, assassinations, Israel and more from this site.
  3. Webcast.berkeley: UC-Berkeley’s webcasts include lots of courses, lectures and special guest speakers.
  4. The History Channel Video Guide: Watch TV shows and videos about American history, military history, science and technology and everything else.
  5. CNN Video: Watch news stories unfold from CNN.
  6. Stanford Health Library Video Collection: Videos included in this library cover topics like cancer, health and society, women and health, and more.
  7. LinkTV: LinkTV is "television without borders" and broadcasts news from around the world, documentaries and more.
  8. UN Webcast: Watch meetings and more from the UN.
  9. Video-Tutes.com: Web designers and developers can watch video tutorials on this site.
  10. The Nobel Prize: Watch Nobel Laureates and Prize winners give speeches here.

Reference Sites

Head to these sites when you want to learn more about poetry, the environment, gardening, or scientific research.

  1. Poets.org: Whether you’re an aspiring poet or a poetry enthusiast, listen to poems, learn about writers and more on this site.
  2. Discovery Channel: Watch videos, read articles and play games to learn about history, science, health and more.
  3. The New York Times: Get the latest news, delve into the archives, and gain insight into the world’s culture, economy and politics.
  4. EPA.gov: From acid rain to human health to recycling, educate yourself on environmental issues from the EPA.gov.
  5. PBS: PBS is another fantastic site for catching up on politics, learning about history and culture, and playing educational games.
  6. National Gardening Association: Learn everything there is to know about gardening, from picking seeds to planning around the seasons to pest control right here.
  7. NYSE: Trade and learn about stocks, read about investments, the economy and finance here.
  8. Council for Higher Education Accreditation: Those wanting to go back to school will find this guide to accreditation a great help.
  9. Wikipedia: For a quick reference on anything from bed bugs to Prince William, use Wikipedia.
  10. ScienceDaily: Catch up on "the latest research news" here.

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