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Student sitting outdoors at a picnic table looking at their computer
May 10, 2022
3 mins read

How to stay academically sharp this summer

After a busy school year, it's natural to ease off on the academics over the summer. However, I find that by the end of the summer I always crave academic stimulus.

Then, when I get back to class, I find it hard to adjust to more concentrated thinking for the first couple of weeks. Luckily, there are some great resources online to help you stay in the academic groove over the summer. Best of all, they don’t cost a cent!

Now, before you accuse me of trying to trick you into doing homework over the summer, hear me out. I’m not suggesting you write a thesis or redo all your WebWorks (unless you’re into that), but rather to explore your academic interests and passions, at your own pace.

It’s learning for love—no marks or grades involved!

6 ways to learn something new this summer

1. Open Collections

UBC’s Open Collections is a broad database of photo archives, educational material, and UBC-related content accessible to everyone.

Take a look at newspapers dating back to 1859, read theses and dissertations written by UBC students, or watch lectures on quantum theory. There’s an indelible wealth of information, and truly something for everyone!

2. Class Central 

Class Central is a collection of self-paced, online courses—many of which are free—offered by UBC and other universities around the world.

Dreaming of writing a novel? There’s a course for that. Have a great idea for an app, but lack the coding credentials? There’s a course for that, too. Class Central has an incredible range of courses related to a variety of fields—check it out.

3. Criterion on Demand

Who said watching movies wasn’t a rigorous academic activity?

Criterion on Demand is a streaming platform much like Netflix, but it’s free for UBC students through UBC Library. There’s all types of content: documentaries, instructional films, classic comedies, and dramas. For the film buffs, much of the coveted Criterion Collection is available on this platform for free—so, take advantage of it!

You can watch anything from more recent hits like Parasite to classics like 8 ½—my personal favourite.   

It’s like a Film Studies course in the palm of your hand!

4. Open Yale Courses

Imagine taking a course on Modern Poetry while sitting on a sunny patio. Yale Online Courses makes this possible.

Hosted by Yale University, the program offers dozens of full courses from Biomedical Engineering to Ancient Greek History, with video recordings of each lecture. The syllabi are published online so you can keep up with the readings.

5. Artstor

While a trip to the Louvre might not be in your summer schedule, Artstor is the next best thing.

This digital library hosts thousands of images of artworks and photographs, from Da Vinci to Damien Hirst, and promises to offer “the most extensive image resource for educational and scholarly use.” Virtually stroll through galleries such as the Baltimore Museum of Art or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or meander through curated collections of work by artists like Andy Warhol.

The website also features blog posts to help keep you up to date with everything happening in the art world. It’s never been so easy to brush up on art history!  

6. Academia.Edu

Academia.Edu is an always-changing, always-fascinating collection of scholarship!  

I originally discovered Academia.edu while researching for a paper. The resource allows users to upload their own academic work, which can then be viewed by other users. It also tailors a reading list and offers suggestions based on previous content that you’ve read.

I subscribed to their mailing list and now I receive fascinating papers that are relevant both to my studies and my interests. Give it a try.  

Learning, no classroom required

These are just 6 ways to stay in the academic game over the summer months. But it’s no sweat—there’s no test at the end of the line. It’s all about exploring your interests and learning something along the way.

With these resources, you can learn philosophy on your patio or botany in your backyard—all for free.

So stay sharp this summer and have fun doing it!

P.S. For even more ways to stay stimulated while staying at home, check out this terrific post from UBC Learning Commons.