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The rise of new online technologies has reshaped the way people learn. Print reference sources, though still valuable, are no longer the primary gateway to information. Students and other academics have turned to social networks and collaborative learning communities to find research materials and increase their knowledge of various subjects.
There are many free learning networks that have been created specifically for students and academics. The following twelve sites are good examples. These online communities provide access to alternate forms of teaching and learning. They also offer a central place where like-minded people can easily meet and share information.
LearnCentral- LearnCentral combines social networking with live collaboration technology to provide a unique teaching and learning environment. Classrooms can connect with other classrooms, peers can connect with other peers, and groups can conduct online meetings and seminars.
LearnHub - This social learning network is home to a number of experts who can help with standardized tests, college admissions, and other academic pursuits. LearnHub also offers a community space for users who want to contribute educational information and learn from other members.
Sclipo - Sclipo is a social learning network that makes it easy for academics to teach and learn using the site's many built-in applications. Popular apps include a course manager, a document and video library, and a webcam-based classroom that can be used for live teaching and webinars
GCFLearnFree.org - Created and supported by the Goodwill Community Foundation, this global learning network provides free lessons on everything from math and money to careers and computers.
Academia.edu - This unique learning network can be used to find researchers with similar interests. The site's search feature also allows members track the latest developments in their research area and see what other people are researching.
Academici - Academici is a professional social network for academics and scientists. Site members include people from more than 200 countries.
GradeGuru - Designed specifically for college students, this knowledge sharing network makes it easy for students to share course notes and study together online. Members who share notes can earn gift cards, PayPal cash, and other rewards.
Pronetos - Pronetos is a social network for scholars, professors, and their institutions. The site encourages collaboration by allowing members to share papers, find research, post course materials, and share special announcements.
TheApple - TheApple is a learning community and social network for current and future educators. The site offers career resources, lesson plans, education-related quizzes, education news, teacher trivia, inspiring videos, and a community forum where members can chat and learn online.
Livemocha - Livemocha, the world's largest and most active online language learning community, provides a place for language learners to meet and communicate online. The site also offers free courses in 36 different languages and learning tips from native speakers.
LingQ - LingQ is a knowledge sharing network for language learners. Visitors who sign up for the site's free membership can meet other language learners online, take an unlimited number of free language lessons, and join live conversations for extra language practice.
VoxSwap - VoxSwap is another good place for people to learn new languages online. Members work together to teach each other new vocabulary words and language skills.
Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the About.com Guide to Business School. She also writes about online degrees for OnlineDegreePrograms.org.