Thursday, February 15, 2007

Continue Your Education For Free

As a mentor and professor once said to me- you should never stop learning. In particular, the subject he taught was business, so he recommended getting a subscription to the Wall St. Journal, or some other business magazine so that, once you finished college, you could continue reading "case studies" about how certain businesses approached particular problems or opportunities. Things are constantly on the move in the business world, and the concepts you learn about might not change, but they are applied in new and different ways every day.

I took his advice to heart, and being a naturally curious person by nature anyway, I've tried to keep up with things happening in the world around me, looking for opportunities of my own.

The Wall Street Journal will cost you about $150 for an annual subscription, which includes paper delivery every day (except Sunday), as well as online access.

However, if you don't want to subscribe to the journal, you can always continue your education for free.

Obviously, the first place that comes to mind is the Internet. Many newspapers have websites that let you read some stories for free, and many blogs (such as the one you are currently reading) are worth their weight in gold.

Another place you can hit up is your local public library, where you can often get many magazines and periodicals for free. When I first got out of college, I would try to stop by the library once a week to read some of the more expensive magazines such as the Harvard Business Review, The Journal of Finance (whose forthcoming articles you can read here), Fortune, Forbes, etc... You don't have to read the whole magazine, just pick a few stories that interest you.

My library also offers an extensive online catalogue. Whenever I feel like I need to learn a new skill, or brush up on something, I just head to the database, where I can find pretty much any book that isn't brand new, as well as some of the more recently published titles. If my local branch doesn't have the book in stock, I can simply request it online, and in a week or so, it will be waiting for me to pick up. This is a completely free service that my tax dollars pay for, so I am more than happy to take advantage of it. If I find a book I will want to refer to time and time again, I will usually head over to my favorite category at Amazon.com and pick it up there.

Another new learning tool I've been getting into more lately is the iPod I got for Christmas. Granted, the iPod isn't free, but you can use it to download a ton of free lectures and other course material from some different universities. For example, UC-Berkeley makes quite a bit of lectures, syllabuses, homework assignments etc... available through iTunes. A quick link over to the site shows that they offer info on Arts and Humanities, Computer Science, Chemistry, Biological Sciences, Engineering, Social Sciences, Natural Resources, Physical Sciences, and Information Science. Stanford also offers some course material through iTunes. The best part about them is that they're all free.

A Wall Street Journal article today "Yale on $0 a day" also mentions that Yale University "has announced it will produce digital videos of undergraduate lecture classes and make them available free to the public. This academic year, it is taping seven classes -- from Introduction to the Old Testament to Fundamentals of Physics -- to be posted online this fall." If this catches on, it might give people an even better reason to get their hands on a video iPod.

A final thought on the iPod education... in case you missed the recent coverage, check out this ESPN article on how baseball players are using iPods to study film. I didn't have one for a long time, and I never knew what all of the fuss was all about (I had a generic MP3 player for a while), but the iPod has really become a cultural phenomenon. I have to admit I am a convert, and I don't give much credence to recent stories about iPod/iTunes sales slowing down. Who knows? It still might be a good time to get in on AAPL stock, depending on whether or not you think this product, and other new products from Apple are going to become "must-haves." The value investor in me balks at the 30x trailing P/E ratio and the hype around the company, but when I think about the potential role iPods could end up playing in our daily lives in the coming years, it at least makes me stop and think.

I didn't think I was going to go there with the last paragraph, but I did, so I'm going to slap the "investing in stocks" tag on this one, along with "increase your income," because I believe if you continue to learn, you will make yourself more valuable to your employer (or to another employer) and use that value to increase your income.

2 comments:

Richard said...

FYI - You can get free access to Wall Street Journal and other subscription sites with a netpass from: http://news.congoo.com

This was blogged by Andrew Tobias and Poytner.org, I thought it was a great tip!

MoneyMan said...

I have heard of this site, but I'm a little bit leery given you have to register and it sends your info to the premium content provider whose articles you read.

I think you might also need to install their toolbar, and I'm also leerey of putting another toolbar on my browser.

But if these things don't concern you, looks like congoo would be a great way to get premium content for free.