Free Online Resources For Learning

The education landscape is changing quickly, and everyday there are better resources made available online to learn everything from underwater basket weaving to data science. Education technology is still in its nascent stages and companies and non-profits are still trying to pinpoint target markets and effective business models. While they do this many of their resources remain free.


These are the best places to learn for free online:

Khan Academy

Khan Academy has thousands of high quality videos on a wide variety of subjects. They try to make learning as easy and convenient as possible. Khan Academy aims to make education accessible by everyone, and their recent addition of SAT Prep is helping bridge the education gap.


College costs a lot of money. Many of us are still paying our college loans. Now, thanks to Coursera, many of these college classes are available online for free. Coursera brings together the best courses from some of the best universities, including Yale, Harvard and Johns Hopkins University.


Go to their website, type in the subject you want to study and there will likely be a class available on their aggregated collection of university courses.


Don’t underestimate YouTube as a resource for finding useful lessons. It can be a great complementary resource for a more traditional course to help you learn more specific topics. There are some great channels out there for every subject you want to learn.

iTunes U

This app is available on all Apple devices and includes half a million courses for a wide variety of subjects for all experience levels. There are also quite a lot of social features to facilitate learning with others.

99U and Ted Talks

These sites are honorable mention because there not courses but 99U and Ted have thousands of videos of talks by true thought leaders on specific subjects. Great for finding inspiration.


Interesting Data From MOOC Study


Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs have polarized educators. Many believe they are more efficient and are the future of education. Others, have been outspoken critics and point to the fact that very few students actually complete the courses they sign up for. MOOCs have been around for several years so we can start to see emerging trends for the polarizing classes.

As MOOCs become more popular, more classes are being offered and more data is available. Harvard recently released their findings from a study on intentions, completion rates and more.

Many of the users that are using the MOOCs are educators themselves. Over a third of the users are teachers. Many of them use the content to improve their ability to teach. However, it looks like they might just have an appreciation for learning because over three-fourths of the students that identified as educators were studying subjects they don’t teach.

The demographic of users of these platforms vary but a higher percentage of women and older individuals are registering for courses.

A lot of the talk surrounding MOOCs is whether they will complement or supplant traditional education. Though it is far too early to make any conclusions, they might do both. A look at the survey of students shows that nearly half of participants took classes without the desire to earn a certificate. No follow up has been done to see whether earning a certificate makes any discernible difference in students being able to achieve their goals.

Computer Science has higher participation than any other subject. No conclusions have been made as to what this means but one can imagine between students who are likely early adopters of new technology and the prospect of high-paying jobs this is not surprising.

Though MOOCs have yet to disrupt traditional education further improvements based on comprehensive studies like this will result in it having an important place in the education space.




A Solution to Buffalo Education


Elementary and high schools in Buffalo have been struggling to meet the city’s expectations. The number of students who graduate high school in four years hovers around 50%. Over three quarters of students are eligible for reduced lunch based on their family’s income. One solution that is being considered is public boarding schools and has been successful in other cities.

The philosophy behind this drastic solution is to keep troubled students from abject poverty by giving them more attention and keeping them away from issues at home. One of the biggest predictors of a student’s success in school is their environment at home.

Though this may seem like the perfect option for a number of students in the community it can be very expensive. The cost for one student can reach up to $25,000 a year. This is double the normal subsidy for charter school students by the state of New York, and the state would have to approve the solution.

For many of the students the environment would be much more positive and productive. Students would be provided three meals a day, clothes and even extra-curricular activities. Students at public boarding schools would return home for the weekend. This environment is meant to prepare these students for higher education, something the current school system has not been successful at doing.

The idea of public boarding schools is nothing new. Even as early as 1998, a public boarding school was opened in Washington D.C. to solve similar problems. It has been a resounding success with graduation rates that hover around 90%.

But there are a number of hurdles that these schools must go through to open their doors. Education is highly regulated, and in some states laws had to be written and passed to allow these institutions. That is without mentioning the cost. This will prove to be the biggest hurdle Buffalo will face in cash-strapped New York.



Top Universities In Canada

Right across the river from Buffalo, New York is Fort Erie, Canada. And though Canadian share a lot of similarities with their American counterparts, there are some distinct differences. Canadian universities offer competitive education programs at steep discounts compared to private or out of state universities in the U.S.


If you’re considering this option here is a list of some of the top universities in Canada:

University of Toronto

This university is best known for its contribution to important research. There contributions to stem cell research and insulin have been well documented. They are the most well-funded research university in Canada and is a member of the association of American Universities. In US News and World Report University of Toronto is ranked #14 in the world.

University of British Columbia

Located in Vancouver, British Columbia, this research university has a strong class of alumni with seven Nobel Prize winners and two alumni that went on to become Canadian prime ministers.

McGill University

Ranked 44th best university in the world, McGill University is second of two Canadian universities in the Association of American Universities. It is located in the French-speaking Montreal, Quebec but fluency in French is not required.

University of Montreal

Nearby McGill is University of Montreal which is a French school. It is also a public research university boasting the second most students of Canadian universities with over 55,000 students. It is ranked in the top 100 universities in the world.

University of Alberta

Located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada this university employs over 15,000 people in Alberta making it the fourth largest employer in the area. There best known for their English Language and Literature program.

McMaster University

McMaster is ranked 141st best university in the world by US News. The school is located in Ontario, Canada and its medical school is well known for its expertise in clinical medicine.



Top Colleges in Buffalo, New York

Buffalo, NY is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it sits on the border of Canada and the Niagara River which flows into the breathtaking Niagara Falls. Winters can be tough but the snow laden ground makes for a beautiful scene. If you are looking to move to this city, one of the big advantages is the education. Below are some of the best colleges in the area.

First, we must start with Tom Cannavo’s Alma Maters:


Canisius College

Named after St. Peter Canisius, Canisius College is a storied institution with a rich history. Started in 1870 by Jesuits from Germany, it is one of 28 colleges of its kind in The United States. The college stretches over a mile and is a NCAA Division I college. In 2015 U.S. News ranked the private college as one of the top universities for the price in the region.


State University of New York at Buffalo

In its first 116 years from 1846 to 1962, University at Buffalo (UB) was a private institution until being incorporated into New York’s SUNY system. UB is one of the largest schools by enrollment in the northeast United States and is the largest in the SUNY system. It also features the only law school. U.S. News ranked UB in the top 50 public universities in 2015 in the United States.


Buffalo State College

Often confused with State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo State college is a separate university but also part of the SUNY system so it can be confusing. The school went through seven iterations before deciding on its name. Buffalo State is ranked 17th out of 145 universities in New York by International Colleges and Universities.


A Look At 2015 for Education Technology


Edtech was one of the largest emerging industries in terms of investment in 2014. The landscape of education is changing albeit slower and quieter than other industries. So what are the changes we’re looking at for educational technology in 2015?

As technology and the classroom become increasingly connected, the opportunity for personalized education presents itself. Data will become available to teachers that will allow them to focus on areas where their students are falling behind, and to truly understand which children need a little more help. This combining of technology and education is still very early in its development so there is still a lot of room for new innovation to help even more.

2014 was the year of wearable technology and perhaps 2015 will be the year entrepreneurs and teachers try to find if it has a place in the classroom. Perhaps the most applicable wearable tech to the classroom is Google Glass. It has been adopted by some industries and could lead to quick answers to tough questions. People learn a lot more being immersed in activities so smart watches and smart glasses could prove useful in that respect.

MOOCs started to gain popularity in 2014, look for that to continue into 2015. But two other online learning offerings should gain traction. Online courses and online tutoring should see a boost in users and become more mainstream as money continues to be pushed into these programs. The question is whether 2015 is the year where these programs earn some sort of accreditation.

Perhaps the most interesting thing we’ll see during a 2015 year-in-review will be everyday people sharing. There are so many platforms that facilitate this type of interaction between students teachers. Teachers sharing tips with each other is becoming more common, and pair-based learning has gained a lot of steam after numerous studies highlight the advantages of such techniques.

What changes do you expect?


Bootcamps and Hyper Focused Nanodegrees

Online Courses

Online Courses

The newest trend in education is hyper focused online and in-person bootcamps. The concept originated with coding bootcamps in San Francisco to address the problem of the lack of talent in tech. And even though there was a boom in these programs the demand for these jobs continues.

Because of the success of these early bootcamps many others have sprung up. These four to six months programs have popped up in other industries that have minimal access to talent. Generally the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers are in demand.

Udacity is one of the first and definitely the largest to offer these programs online. They just received $35 million in Series C funding and is hailed as a potential IPO candidate. Other education sites like Lynda and Skillshare teach these in-demand skills as well and have much larger amounts of content, however, Udacity saw there was a demand from students for something tangible like a degree and has found away to offer this.

The degrees Udacity offers are called “nanodegrees” which are highly specialized “degrees” meant to teach the in-demand skills that most students don’t get from a university education.

Because the education space is highly regulated none of these programs are accredited, but getting an accredited degree is often less important to the students of these programs than getting a job upon graduation. And since these programs are specifically for in-demand jobs these individuals are more hirable than recently graduated University students.

These programs are becoming increasingly reputable, Hack Reactor, a Javascript focused coding boot camp out of San Francisco, boasts a 99% placement rate post graduation with $105,000 average starting salary. This is only slightly less impressive when you look at cost of living in San Francisco.

So the question becomes should universities start teaching other, more in-demand positions and are many university degrees going to become replaced?


The Edtech Industry – Which Companies Will Emerge?

Education Technology

Education Technology

Web 2.0 is upon us and it has brought inventive and disruptive social networks to us like Facebook and Twitter, and for social networks the big players have emerged and further disruption is unlikely. Ello, the anti-ad social network, is trying but will, at best, grow and exit to the big boys.

Education technology is still relatively immature albeit older than social networks. Still in 2014, no one knows exactly how things are going to play out. There are a lot of problems facing those brave teams trying to disrupt 200 year old institutions in this nuanced market. But investors and entrepreneurs are sure that the education landscape will change drastically in the near future and that some oligarchs are sure to emerge.

Here is a list of some possible future market titans:

Lynda.com – A lot of edtech conversation focuses on edtech newcomers with new unproven business models but Lynda.com boasts over 2 million subscribers and over $100 million in revenues.

Knewton – Knewton is a very interesting company and quite possibly ahead of their time. Knewton recognizes that the education industry is nuanced and embraces it. They are trying to develop artificial intelligence to give a personalized lesson plan for each of the students.

TutorGroup – Another company that isn’t necessarily doing anything revolutionary or disruptive but has been wildly successful. If investment rounds are a metric you use to decide on a company’s future then this might be the next industry behemoth. TutorGroup just received a $100 round of funding in part from Alibaba.

General Assembly – General Assembly has done well focusing on training students for practical, in demand jobs. They use a hybrid approach with both in class and on-line learning.

Coursera and MOOC’s – Are Massive Open Online Courses the answer to the edtech problem? Maybe. Coursera is the aggregating behemoth for MOOCs and has seen steady growth. What’s great about Coursera is that students can earn certificates.

Where and what are you going to learn?




The Benefits of Physical Education

Basketball Hoop from P.E. Class

Basketball Hoop from P.E. Class

We’ve all been told that it is beneficial for children to have physical education in school, but why? Surely, it is important to exercise but that can be done after or before school. This leaves it up to the parents who don’t always have the time or money to put their children in extra curricular activities. It’s so much more important than just the exercise, just look at the first benefit below:

Children are More Active Outside of School 

Studies have shown that children who have P.E. in their schools are more likely to be active outside of class. This shows it is not necessarily their family environment alone that is affecting their participation in athletics.

Children are More Active Mentally As Well

Having kids move or just walk, even if its for 15 to 30 minutes helps stimulate their muscles and their minds. This has been proven over and over again through bran scans and various studies showing a strong correlation between fitness scores and academic scores.

Teaching Lessons for Life

In an ideal world, we will all remember everything we learn from school. Unfortunately this is not the case. The physical training from P.E. classes is always a part of their day so it becomes habit. Children who take part in P.E. classes are 2x less likely to be inactive later in life. The United States is the second most obese country in the world and just under a half of schools still don’t offer P.E.

Teaches Students to Work With Each other

One of the benefits of having P.E. class is that teachers can have children take part in activities that promote working together. This teaches respect for the other students, how to build peer relationships, work with a team and higher self confidence.


Physical education in schools remains to be a hot topic. Let’s make sure our children have P.E. in school.



The Importance of a Well Rounded Education

Coloured pencils - Tom Cannavo

States are in a budget crisis, and far too often education is the first program to get cut, and when the education budget is cut the schools are forced to lay off employees, which in this case are the educators of our country’s future. When faced with the difficult position of having to choose which programs to cut, the decision makers too often choose the arts.

The study of the arts, whether its drama, music, painting, or pottery help students think in different ways, explore different ideas that cannot be expressed explicitly through the English language or math. No one suggests that students who take the arts are going to become professional poets, painters, dancers, or actors. However, the students that sing, act, dance or paint chorus benefit in many ways. Students learn teamwork, collaboration, and creative problem solving with other students. Often, these students develop skills they didn’t know they had, and  invariably sitting in one of these classrooms is the next Rembrandt.

Schools in low-income neighborhoods are often hit the hardest. In those schools that serve disproportionate numbers of disadvantaged students, those who play in the band are more than twice as likely to perform at the highest levels in math as those who do not play music. In James Catterall’s study, Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art, poor students at high schools that emphasize the arts were more than twice as likely to earn a bachelor of the arts, as poor students at high schools that do not emphasize it. The Center for Fine Arts Education published research showing that students that were involved in fine arts classes earn higher test scores on their SATs and college exams than their counterparts.

Studies have shown that the arts significantly boosts student achievement, reduces disciplinary issues, and students that participate in the arts graduate from college more often. Arts education stimulates creativity and innovation, and these are essential skills for young Americans that will go on to compete in a dynamic job environment. One-dimensional candidates with knowledge but no imagination will not be as competitive in this fluid job market.

Perhaps Albert Einstein said it best, “Imagination is more important than knowledge, because knowledge is limited whereas imagination embraces the entire world.”